Want to sue over buggy code?

Wednesday, 24 September 2003, 9:43 AM EST

These past few weeks have been rough on anyone responsible for managing computers -- whether a home network of a couple of PCs or an enterprise with thousands of machines. Given the damage done by the Blaster worm and the flood of junk e-mail generated by the SoBig.F virus -- even for those who avoided infection -- nearly everyone has been left looking for someone to blame. And, in the best American tradition, people are suggesting that businesses that incur costs because of defects in software should be able to recover damages from the publisher -- Microsoft, in the cases of Blaster and SoBig.F.

Appealing as the prospect of hauling Bill Gates into court may be, legal vengeance isn't going to solve the problem of buggy, insecure software. For one thing, I have yet to see a problem for which more lawsuits is a good solution. Furthermore, the notion of using product-liability law as a route to better software is based on a misunderstanding of how the law works.

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