From Sat Mar 15 14:20:39 1997
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 21:07:01 -0700
From: Wilkes Walker
Subject: UCC Article 2B

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Dear Sirs,

I would like to know what protections are being provided to the individual consumer in UCC Article 2B? It appears that the current direction of Article 2B is completely one sided on behalf of the software manufacturer. The manufacturer would have you believe that their software is "good" and it sometimes has problems with compatibility with other software and that is where the problems come from. If you look into the history of the industry you'll find many examples where the software package all by itself caused errors. An example would be a calculation in Microsoft Excel yielding incorrect results or Quicken Turbo Tax miscalculating tax returns. These type errors could cause anything from a small addition error to a atomic reactor going meltdown to an error in missile trajectory to an IRS audit. It appears that your current approach would deem this acceptable because software is inherently complex thus making it imperfect. My example is extreme, but these type errors have already occurred and the consumers should have recourse with the manufacturer when their software does not perform the task it is advertised for. Would you allow an airplane manufacturer to be exempt from a defect that caused their plane to crash because an airplane is a highly complex thing? I would hope not! If you allow the Article, as it is currently proposed, you should require the software manufacturer to provide a warning that there could be errors in their product that in extreme cases could cause death, injury or even IRS audits. This would be much the same as the "Surgeon General's Warning" on tobacco products. This warning should be provided in plain sight on the outside of the package to alert the prospective purchaser in advance that there is a risk in purchasing, installing and using the software product. It should also state that other software products installed on the computer and/or this product could have incompatibilities that could render all or some of the software products unusable after this software product is installed.

Much of the above discussed incompatibility between software products is the result of the way operating system manufacturers have designed for applications to be added to those operating systems. There is a lack of standards around this whole area. They are mostly related to .DLL (Dynamic Link Libraries) files. These are files that contain instructions to carry out common functions like the "Open File Dialog" that an application presents when you want to load a file into the application. When the software product is installed it may place these files in the same directory as the same named file provided by the operating system (overlaying them), yet is not the same DLL provided by the operating system. This could even cause the operating system to fail rendering the entire computer unusable.

If there were standards that software manufacturers were required to adhere to in the areas of installation, it would be much easier to identify whether a given error is a compatibility problem or an actual product defect. Without these standards the consumer is at risk. The software manufacturers appear to be trying to skirt this issue and say they are not responsible for the errors their software may cause. The above proposed external warning would do much to facilitate the standards I've mentioned and result in higher quality software. This in turn would result in fewer consumers seeking recourse against software manufacturers.

In closing, I'd like to state, business in general has significantly greater resource to defend their product than the individual consumer has to recover damages caused be an "imperfect" product. Please insure that whatever you do with Article 2B provides equal protection for both the software manufacturer and the consumer.

Wilkes Walker