The science here isn't really new. We're debating bringing out some software for mechanism design and synthesis. We are using really smart algorithms based on physics in the natural world. No magic, just brilliant use working with the existing laws of nature. One of our concerns is the potential for lawsuits by users of the software. We're not sure if we should share our algorithms openly or if we should seek to profit from them.
For example: Joe Cheap Carnival company invents a new wild ride using our awesome cool mechanism synthesis software. They have Podunk Assembly Company manufacture it with cheapest materials possible with really poor quality control. The ride goes up at a local carnival and oops it fails, and someone gets seriously hurt.
Here are my questions:
- If our software was used by Joe Cheap Carnival's design team to synthesize a mechanism used in the faulty carnival ride, and our software encompassed the use hidden and encoded algorithms, could we be held liable for the failure?
- If our software was absolutely open source (github), with all algorithms and logic flow in full public view, could we be sued? (Does this change the nature of "responsibility"? )
My questions relates to: Can the open source process be used as a legal protection against a potential lawsuit for a software company?
Update (post DaleM response):
I'm not sure I fully understand the "duty of care" description. We make software that tells engineers how machines move. Its a similar function to what you might read in an academic text, albeit in a much easier intuitive form to use. (Drag and drop is much easier than reading a chapter of text then doing mathematical problems, even though exactly the same concepts are being used.) The function of our code is to accurately represent the laws of physics. We don't tell somebody what to design, we tell them if you want this particular output, here are a variety of ways to achieve that output.
Hmmm... Lets say someone wants to design a six bar mechanism to move an object in a 720 degree circle and deliver it as fast as possible we can help with that. Fancy Machine works uses that model to deliver bolts to an assembly line for rapid manufacturing. Max g forces observed on the bolt is 8 G's.
Joe's Cheap Carnival decides to use that exact same mechanism to create an exciting ride for its customers. Its ten times the scale of the bolt delivery machine, but its the same basic mechanism design. Again, Max g forces observed on the customer sitting in the ride is 8 G's.
Is our design unsafe? The bolts seem to get there just fine, people, no so much. We profess no responsibility (same as an academic text book author on mechanism design.) In fact that might be a better question. Have any academic folks been sued for academic publications providing "how-to" instructions?
If Joes Cheap Carnival team designs a unsafe ride with a mechanism design textbook as a reference, can the university who published that textbook be held liable?
Apologies if I'm not using the correct language in the legal arena. And many thanks to you for your responses.