Imagine the following hypothetical. My firm produces electronic controllers for a variety of products. Let's focus, say, on a commercial washing machine.
We design the electronics and develop the software that controls user interface and washing cycles. In those regards, everything works perfectly.
In this scenario I am a software engineer working in said firm. Being an idealistic follower of the open source philosophy, I publish a tutorial on how to reprogram and customize the washing machine. Important points to note:
- I do this work independently (i.e. the publication is not officially endorsed by my firm).
- I am not disclosing any information that would not be inferable by analyzing the device itself; the original source code and schematics are kept secret.
- I am not in conflict with my firm: they know what I am doing and are not opposed to it - although they don't officially support it.
- I warn in capital letters to be wary of any modification to the original product, specifying that the firm does not encourage it. I don't mention my connection to the firm at all.
Following my instructions, a user successfully reprograms one of our devices. Due to those software modifications the machine malfunctions, causing damage to people and/or property. In the wake of this accident the user decides to sue my firm, claiming that the product is at fault.
The question is: is there any legal ground on which such a claim could stand?
It is my understanding that since the procedure to modify the existing software is not officially endorsed it is basically tampering, and the firm cannot be held responsible.
I live in Europe (Italy), but I am interested in answers from any legal system.