Say I make software and release it under the WTFPL. Then, someone uses it and it causes their computer to catch fire. I did not design my program to catch their computer on fire, and in fact it might be too simple to do so. Still, they bring me to court. Does using the WTFPL (or otherwise placing the product in the public domain) offer any protection? I ask this especially because it seems to often be used as a minimal license where it's not legal to release the product in the public domain, effectively placing it there.

My biggest reasoning is imagining pencils. The design of a pencil (graphite embedded in wood with rubber on top) is in the public domain.[citation needed] If my arm swings into the pointed tip of a pencil, I don't sue the person (or family of that person) who invented the pencil. If anything, I sue the person who sharpened it, who placed it there, or who manufactured that particular pencil.

1 Answer 1


Short answer? No, the WTFPL offers no protection.

A software license is a contract between the software vendor and the end user defining the terms and conditions under which the end user is permitted to use the software.

Often, traditional software licenses contain terms that limit the vendor's liability. For example: "End User accepts the risk that this software will initiate computational conflagrations." It may also limit the end user's right to sue, by requiring binding arbitration, or by requiring them to sue in a particular court in a particular state.

Whether and to what extent these clauses are enforceable is moot here, because the WTFPL doesn't contain them.

Think of it this way. If you sign a contract with me to buy my house, and then you set fire to my car, you can't wave the house contract at me and say, "This is a legally binding contract, and it doesn't say I can't set fire to your car!" It doen't say that you can, either, and so it's not relevant to the lawsuit I'm going to bring against you for the damage to my car.

Contracts are only relevant to a lawsuit if they contain a clause relevant to the subject matter of the lawsuit. The WTFPL contains no clauses in which the end user agrees to do or not to do anything, and therefore cannot be a defense against him or her doing, or not doing, anything at all.

  • I suppose a better question would be: "Does putting my software in the public domain afford me any protection?"
    – Ky -
    May 28, 2015 at 12:55
  • 1
    No--why would it? You can disclaim your rights; you can't disclaim someone else's. Unless they agree not to sue you, they're free to do so no matter what you do.
    – chapka
    May 28, 2015 at 16:10
  • @chapka technically, they can sue you anyway. Then they might lose for any reason, but you can't really prevent them from suing in the first place.
    – o0'.
    Jun 1, 2015 at 13:32

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