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I originally asked this question in Open Source, but was redirected here :)

I've written my first app, to process images (user photos) on the phone. It writes to the jpegs on the phone, and maybe I'll add functionality to delete selected images.

Do I need to protect myself somehow against any liability, if someone experiences unintentional loss of data, say due to some software bug/error?

As I understand it (from the Open Source site), a software licence only deals with the source code per se, and not potential damage incurred by the binary (application itself). Is some form of waiver/disclaimer sufficient "protection"? Now, I am aware that this is perhaps taking things way too serious, but I still think it's an interesting and important question.

Seems everybody's putting apps on Google Play and the App Store... Is everybody taking all this into consideration, or is this really only a concern/worry if the app is a serious, full-time endeavor?

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I think that there are probably general concepts related to product liability worth looking into here. I know this site is intended to ask legal questions--but honestly if you are concerned about such a specific issue related to your software, I would recommend a brief chat with a lawyer.

I can say that on our website, BlueLine, where we distribute a tool to help lawyers automate certain legal writing tasks, we use a general disclaimer: that reads "You agree to hold TJG and all of its directors, officers, employees and agents harmless for the following:...Any damages caused in the course of relying on BlueLine to produce work product, including but not limited to loss of documents or delays caused by bugs or outages in BlueLine’s services."

Whether or not the contractual term would be upheld is a question you would have to get specific legal advice on. But I thought this was a useful example of how at least one other company dealt with this issue.

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Disclaiming liability might offer some protection, but there's no general immunity from being sued. You might do what many large companies do and assert a mandatory arbitration clause in your license. (Many argue that such clauses actually form a larger barrier to being pursued for liability, especially when damages are small.)

You don't need to insure yourself unless required to by some contract. (E.g., it's conceivable that some app store will require that all apps be published by entities that carry some level of liability insurance, but I don't actually know of any such cases (yet).)

You can, however, choose to buy professional insurance policies that cover claims against you and/or your business resulting from unintentional harm.

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    Worth noting that mandatory arbitration clauses are considered unfair terms in consumer contracts in many jurisdictions and are void for that reason. Using them may also expose you to liability for deceptive and misleading conduct. An app may be subject to one of those jurisdictions. – Dale M Dec 7 '15 at 1:53
  • Good point @DaleM. I should probably instead say, "You might ... but please don't" ;) – feetwet Dec 7 '15 at 2:27

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