Liability for a server crash

by Andy Oram

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Liability for software problems is an increasingly hot topic. Just look at the pressure on Microsoft to fix buffer overflows and other flaws. Every few years, a call comes up to make programmers or their companies liable for bugs. This court case will get people arguing for a long time who's liable.

Most of us believe that scanning a mail server to make sure it's a spam relay is normal usage. Who would expect to be sued, much less arrested, for this bit of Internet hygeine? Who's really responsible, the person doing the scanning or the company that produced software that crashed during the scan? What will this case do to search engines and other robots? Are they protected as normal practice?