Soctech brainstorming

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Possible CSE590 Topics

!!! The impact of vendor liability upon the open source development model.

Currently, software vendors are not liable for damages caused by faults in the software they build and sell. The societal cost of defective software (e.g. computer security defects) is currently high (some estimate in excess of $15 billion annually). Moreover, we can predict that the cost will continue to grow, as society becomes increasingly reliant on computers, and computers become increasingly pervasive. The current absence of legal liability allows software vendors to externalize the costs of low-quality software in a manner analagous to environmental polluters.

Hypothesis: Imposing liability on vendors will force vendors to bear the cost of low quality software, thereby providing incentives to improve software quality.

There are many issues under this topic. Generally, what are the costs and benefits of the status quo versus a world with vendor liability? Assumming we want to improve software quality, are there other approaches that would work just as well or better? What are the costs of imposing/enforcing liability? How would this impact the open source movement? Specifically, would this unduly "chill" open source development if developers have to fear that software they write might become subject to legal liability in case it contains "damaging" flaws?