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I'm working on a crypto wallet for a top 50 cryptocurrency. I'm part of the core team and we were discussing potential liability around the app we're building.

It's released as-is and under a BSD-2 Simplified License. Before the user can use the app, they agree to a disclaimer, a EULA and a privacy policy that state that software is offered as-is, they waive any liability the project may be under, and they're essentially on their own here. Additionally, the user is educated and warned about the importance of Wallet Seeds and Private Keys and the must continue through an alert where they confirm that they have backed up their Wallet Seed for further wallet use in the future.

The user always has their wallet seed and/or private keys (presumably), so they should always control their funds and that data is never transmitted off the device. We have no idea who has how much, nor could we access those funds if we wanted to (which of course we never would).

With crypto being the hot thing right now and it "combining all the things you don't understand about money with all the things you don't understand about computers," to quote John Oliver, apps, protocols, etc. will be a target for law suits.

Since our app is free, open source, presumably will have multiple contributors, a few maintainers, and the user agrees to use the app "as-is," are there any legal rulings around similar pieces of software?

I've been looking around for prior cases or rulings that have to do with lawsuits going after open source projects for something. A lot of what I've found has to do with patents, or suits over licensing, which my question does not.

Short of actual negligence on the part of an engineer, it seems that a combination of the BSD2 license and the disclaimer, EULA, PP, should be enough to insulate the project itself from liability should something go wrong with the app or the user tried to sue after losing their Wallet Seed.

Are there any famous/landmark cases where someone sued an open source project for anything (non-patent related) that I could read more about? My guess would be that if someone sued Red Hat, for example, if Red Hat (or the computer) crashed and the person lost all of their stuff, that the ruling would likely absolve Red Hat of responsibility. Obviously with crypto/money things are a bit different. I'm more looking for foundational legal/open-source rulings.

Thanks!

  • Crypto currencies are not money, they are property so normal property law applies. – Dale M Mar 30 '18 at 21:31
  • I'm not sure it's quite that clear due to the nature of software and open source – Ken Griffey Mar 30 '18 at 22:28
  • Note that this question has already been asked on opensource.SE. That doesn't by any means prevent law from coming up with a better answer, I just thought it might be helpful for you to know! – MadHatter Mar 31 '18 at 10:51

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