What is a Software Disclaimer?

Daphne Mallory

A software disclaimer is the software developer’s denial of any and all liability for any damages that arise out of using the software application or program. Companies selling or manufacturing software use the disclaimer to deny any claims that they are offering an error-free product or that it will meet the requirements of all its users. In addition to damages, companies often disclaim economic and other loss and expenses in a standard software disclaimer, whether due to use of the software or as a result of inability to use the software. The types of lawsuits that are disclaimed also include copyright and patent infringement and unfair competition. The disclaimer is often a few paragraphs that are included in the package of the software, as well as on the software company website.

Consumers who purchase software often expect for it to work as promised on the package.
Consumers who purchase software often expect for it to work as promised on the package.

Consumers who purchase software often expect it to work as promised on the package, in advertisements, or in other publications. They don’t anticipate errors in the software itself or to have interruptions while using it. Software developers cannot guarantee that they won’t produce bad software that ends up in the marketplace, but in some instances, companies have shipped software with known errors. For example, Microsoft Windows 3.1 had 5,000 known errors, and it was still offered for sale. Whether it’s due to negligence or some other factor, bad software is out there, and companies use a software disclaimer to absolve themselves of any liability.

Employees, distributors, and anyone in the chain of bringing the software to consumers are also covered by a software disclaimer. When a company goes to write a software disclaimer, it has to include everyone so that those who had nothing to do with developing it are also protected in a lawsuit and to avoid being included in a lawsuit. For example, if a consumer files a lawsuit against a retailer, that retailer will often in turn sue the software company. A disclaimer in which the retailer also denies any liability may prevent the need for the retailer to bring the software developer into a lawsuit. The specific retailer and others are often not named in the disclaimer, but instead general terms are used to describe them.

When a software disclaimer is included with software, the consumer has a choice to make. He or she can decide not to buy it, return the software, or take the risk of using it. The consumer bears a risk because the disclaimer denies all liability on the part of the software developer and other businesses it associates with. Consumers are often encouraged to check software reviews and troubleshooting problems prior to purchase.

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