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If I publish some software on my website which can be downloaded and used free of charge, do I still need a disclaimer? I mean, I am not even selling anything, there is no contract, so why should there be an implied warranty?

(Which also makes me wonder why there are disclaimers on things like the MIT license.)

Edit: I am not a US citizen, I am kind of looking for answers as general as possible and as specific as necessary.

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@Anna Lear: Noooo, my "i"s... –  H.B. Dec 13 '11 at 21:48
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What's the harm in having a disclaimer? You have very little to lose in providing one. –  James McLeod Dec 13 '11 at 21:52
    
@JamesMcLeod: Except wasting my time and making my page just a little more ugly as disclaimers usually should be displayed prominently. Yes, i know, i am being picky. –  H.B. Dec 13 '11 at 21:57
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@H.B. You could just include it as a text file distributed with your application and/or embedded in the application. There's no requirement to put it up on a website. –  Anna Lear Dec 13 '11 at 22:04
    
You're worried about not having a disclaimer at all but feel a need to display it prominently if you have one? A link is fine. –  JeffO Dec 13 '11 at 22:16

5 Answers 5

I think it is a lot like those "Swim at your own risk" signs at pools. They don't mean anything, but them might discourage someone from trying to sue you if they reasonably think you have waived your liability.

The cold hard truth is that they could sue you and possibly even win regardless of whether you have that disclaimer in there or not. You just make a stronger case if you include it all for the cost of a few lines in a readme file.

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I'm not sure entirely what kind of disclaimer you have in mind, but the point is typically more to protect you as a developer than to guarantee something for the users.

You basically want to explicitly state somewhere that you're providing the software "as is" and that you should not be held liable if the user misuses it or if the software malfunctions and damages the user's machine or data.

You mentioned that you're using WTFPL, and it suggests the following wording:

 /* This program is free software. It comes without any warranty, to
 * the extent permitted by applicable law. You can redistribute it
 * and/or modify it under the terms of the Do What The Fuck You Want
 * To Public License, Version 2, as published by Sam Hocevar. See
 * http://sam.zoy.org/wtfpl/COPYING for more details. */

With this notice in place, you're not offering any implied warranty.

Do you have to add a notice like this? That depends entirely on where you live, what your laws are, etc. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't see a situation where putting a notice like this in place could hurt you, so I'd add one even for free software. If you think that the app you wrote is worth the hassle, you can also consult a lawyer to make sure you as a developer are fully protected.

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Thanks for the answer, that sounds pretty sane, but the problem of course really is that ultimately the safest thing would be to either include a disclaimer (which i'd like to avoid) or to consult a lawyer... –  H.B. Dec 13 '11 at 22:01
    
@H.B.: There may be implied warranties of merchantability, and even though you don't think you're selling anything, your free software offer may still come under the law. You can not want a disclaimer. However, you may need to provide one in order to avoid a ridiculous liability lawsuit. A lawsuit with no merit can be expensive. –  S.Lott Dec 13 '11 at 22:06

it depends on where you live and the chance of getting sued because your code had a bug, since you aren't in the U.S. there is a pretty good chance you probably don't need one, but a line that says "This code is provided as is, and no guarantee is given that this code will preform in the desired way." isn't a monumental effort.

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You don't HAVE TO do anything, regarding ... anything at all ... if you're giving away your application for free (public domain), waiving rights to it and everything else that entails.

If however, you still wish to hold on to some of those, you might want to attach some legal paragraph to it. Your choice ...

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The rights really are not the issue here, it's more about people shooting themselves in the foot and sueing me. –  H.B. Dec 13 '11 at 21:54
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@h.b. - Then write exactly that. "Use this at your own risk. I'm not responsible for anything you do with it, or for any damage that comes out of using it. Nor do I offer medical assistance for shot feet!" –  ldigas Dec 13 '11 at 21:58
    
Haha, that sounds pretty good. –  H.B. Dec 13 '11 at 22:02

Since all software is copyright protected, it is necessary to attach a license to your code. Regardless if it's free or not. People using it need to know how they can use it. It's all a matter of our (US anyway) legal system.

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Well, i do have a license, in the about of my application, but that license also does not contain a disclaimer (WTFPL). Also i am not a US-citizen, and the site is not hosten in the US, guess i should add that to the question after all.... –  H.B. Dec 13 '11 at 21:46
    
As long as you publish a license along with your app or make it clear on which license your app is using then you do not need a disclaimer. –  Chris Ledet Dec 13 '11 at 21:48

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