3

The core text of the WTFPL (Do What The Fuck You Want to Public License) is short:

0. You just DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO.

This is in sharp contrast with another open license such as MIT (and then all the other I saw), which includes capitalized wording such as

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, (...)

This is similar to giving a hammer and needing to state to one is not responsible if the taker uses it to hit their head with.

My question is: are the no-warranty disclaimers actually useful, or is it just a historical artifact? Were there cases when someone actually sued an open source software author for misusing their freely acquired code?

(if the question requires to be localized, I am interested in the EU and US)

2

This is similar to giving a hammer and needing to state to one is not responsible if the taker uses it to hit their head with.

I believe this is the wrong analogy to use here. It would be more like giving somebody a hammer and saying you are not responsible if the head flies off and injures you.

There is a concept in "things" you obtain called "fitness for purpose", so if you download open-source software like a registry cleaner, and it deletes your entire registry, the "WTFPL" doesn't absolve the authors of liability. Explicitly denying any kind of "fitness for purpose" or warranty helps shield the author from legal claims (even if they are meritless) because it kills it out of the gate. It's possible that the WTFPL license granter/author could still be sued and have to defend themselves in court because it isn't explicitly stated that there is no warranty or fitness for purpose.

Open source does not mean that it's "use at your own risk", which is why there are so many types of licenses and disclaimers.


From comments:

Thank you for this very clear answer. Does the fact that someone willingly retrieves free code with no control of the provider changes anything? (vs a software vendor which provides code suitable for A and B, in exchange for money) I think closer to your hammer analogy where I would sue the producer of hammer XXX, a hammer I found on the street or which was given to me without involvement of vendor XXX.

No, this doesn't change anything. The software vendor here is the person who writes the code, even if they don't charge for it. They are the ones who license the software and they are the ones who take some level of responsibility for it. In this case, the software author is the "hammer producer" that you would sue...

If you buy "Registry Cleaner XL" from Best Buy and it bricks your computer, you don't sue Best Buy, you sue the person who authored the software. In pretty much every case, the author is the responsible party, not the vendor, and it is the author who licenses it, not the vendor (the vendor just acts as an intermediary).

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  • +1. The issue is not that the item may be misused, it's that the item may be defective or even unsuitable for the very purpose for which it is specifically intended. – David Schwartz Jul 10 at 15:38
  • Thank you for this very clear answer. Does the fact that someone willingly retrieves free code with no control of the provider changes anything? (vs a software vendor which provides code suitable for A and B, in exchange for money) I think closer to your hammer analogy where I would sue the producer of hammer XXX, a hammer I found on the street or which was given to me without involvement of vendor XXX. – WoJ Jul 10 at 16:13
  • @WoJ I addressed your comment in an edit. – Ron Beyer Jul 10 at 16:39
  • Thank you for the edit.One last question "they are the ones who take some level of responsibility for it" → even if they just make it available without asking anyone to use it? If I say on my blog "jumping from a window allow you to fly", it doe snot mean that I am forcing someone to do it, or paying to do it - this is merely my public opinion (not sure if that analogy is not too harsh but I want to convey the idea of something "available, I do not block you form taking it") – WoJ Jul 10 at 16:48
  • Again, it's not about use, it's fitness for purpose. If you said "my home made parachutes will allow you to fly, they are free" then people die, you will be responsible. It would be different if you said "free home made parachutes no guarantees" – Ron Beyer Jul 10 at 17:01

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