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Software development and liability - legal and ethical issues

For Software Engineering SENG 4921


The following presentation was for a guest lecture for Software Engineering course SENG 4921, at UNSW in May 2005.

See slides http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/2005/ethics/legal.ppt [Powerpoint format]

Hypotheticals were posed.


David Vaile
Executive Director
Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre

T: (02) 9385 3589
F: (02) 9385 1778

E: d.vaile [at] unsw.edu.au


Consumer Protection

Warnings ASIC gives consumers over financial software which claims to offer financial rewards to users by formulation of a profitable strategy of share trading. Needless to say, these are usually empty promises!


Extracted here in pdf


The anti-trust case between Microsoft and the US Department of Justice:


See the overview published by the Department of Justice here in pdf

Product Liability

 An example of the general principle on the non-software world is the Ford Explorer and Firestone tires case. (recently Mitsuibishi had a similar problem in Japan)


Ford Australia recently had a recall with software problems controlling the cruise control component of their Ford Explorers.  

Professional Liability - Privacy

A few years ago, the crimenet.com.au website came online offering to provide criminal records of any person in Australia for a fee. The site had a search engine accessable after payment, and it promised to provide criminal convictions of serious offences.


There was a backlash to it; see the following article from the ABC


E-business patents

The hypertext patent was one that lead to some debat into patent law. British Telecom asserted that it owned the patent to the hypertext, and needless to say wants to make some cash out of it. See below,

SMH article on the hypertext patent saga PDF


Shrinkwrap licences

(Accessible from UNSW)

'Into contract's undiscovered country: in defense of shrinkwrap licences', 39 San Diego L. Rev. 1363

Alces, Peter, 'W(h)ither Warranty: the B(l)oom in products liability theory in cases of deficient software design', 87 Cal. L. Rev. 269

Sharretts, Toni, 'Can a software developer escape liability for a known design defect? Yes, when hiding behind legal theory: Hou-Tex, Inc. v. Landmark Graphics, 26 S.W.3d 103 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, No Pet.)', 42 S. Tex. L. Rev. 947


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URL: http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/2005/ethics/index.htm - Updated 25 May 2005