Bad Software is Copyrighted
by Cem Kaner and David L. Pels.
CONTENTS AND STRUCTURE
This book covers a wide range
of problems and situations. Some of what we say will apply to
you and some won't. We've tried to present the material in an
order that lets you deal with your problem and quit reading. Our
ordering won't be perfect for everyone, though, so here's a suggestion.
Don't worry about reading everything in order. If you get to a
section that doesn't seem useful, skip it. If you realize later
that it will be useful, read it then.
The first chapters of this
book are written to help you in your negotiations with the sales
or support staff of the software publisher and the company that
sold you the software. Most people will be able to resolve most
disputes at this level.
Chapter 1: Read This
First. You can
get a refund right away if you've just bought the
software and already discovered that it is defective or doesn't
live up to its claims.
Chapter 2: Introduction.
Don't let yourself be intimidated
if you can't make the program work. Publishers make tradeoffs
as a normal way of doing business. This includes deciding not
to fix known bugs. Those tradeoffs make the product highly satisfactory
for some customers, but unsuitable for others. You shouldn't
have to accept the burden of the publisher's tradeoffs. Be reasonable
about demanding satisfaction, but not shy.
Chapter 3: Preparing
to Make the Call. Before
you call for technical support, you usually have to collect some
information. Here are tips on what to dig up, that will help
you or the technician solve the problem or that will help you
ask for better support.
Chapter 4: Knowing
What to Ask For. When
you complain to a publisher, you enter into a negotiation. If
you didn't pay much for the program and it hasn't caused you
much harm or loss, then the negotiation should be fairly easy.
If the program is defective and its failure cost you a lot of
time or money, you might want some compensation. This chapter
will help you decide what is fair to ask of the publisher and
how to explain your position to the publisher's staff.
Chapter 5: Making
the Call. Practical
tips for making your call for support an effective one. This
chapter starts with our twelve best tips for success, then provides
additional discussion of specific types of call-related issues.
What if the publisher won't
help you? Remember the old saying that the best way to accomplish
your goals is to speak softly and carry a big stick. Chapters
1-5 were about the soft speaking. The next chapters supply you
with sticks, starting with one that is quick, cheap, and easy
Chapter 6: Consumer
Protection Agencies. Many organizations in
the USA will help consumers resolve disputes with businesses.
Some of them can bring charges against companies that make a
practice of consumer fraud. Most complaints to consumer protection
agencies are resolved quickly, but not necessarily in the way
that you want (or that is most fair to you). This chapter will
help you decide whether to complain to a consumer protection
agency, which one to complain to, and how to do it.
You can go bring legal pressure to bear on a publisher or
retailer who won't work with you. We say "legal pressure"
rather than "sue" because we think that you don't want
to sue. Lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, aggravating, and
(for most people) not the least bit fun. But, lawsuits are how
you ultimately enforce the law, if you have to. If you know your
rights and you know your options and you have a good strategy,
and if you're in the right, you can often convince the other side
to back down without a lawsuit. Almost all legal disputes are
settled out of court, but sometimes you have to file a lawsuit
to bring the other side to the bargaining table.
Chapter 7: Software Quality and the Law. This
chapter explains your rights as a software consumer, under current
American law. We discuss contracts (mainly warranties and implied
warranties), remedies (what you can ask the court to give you),
misrepresentation (such as fraud), and unfair and deceptive practices.
We wrote and structured this chapter at three levels, for the
reader who just wants a quick overview, for the reader who wants
to understand the legal analysis but doesn't want to be bogged
down in detail, and for the reader who wants that detail.
Chapter 8: Overview of a Lawsuit.
This chapter is a simple road map that briefly looks at the typical
stages of a lawsuit.
Chapter 9: Lawyers. Lawyers provide
legal services. Our main goal in this chapter is to help
you to be a better consumer of the legal services that you might
need. Your main goal might be to figure out how to pay
the minimum (preferably nothing) for legal services. We try to
help you with that, too.
Chapter 10: Small Claims Court.
If you've decided to sue the publisher, your best option might
be to sue in Small Claims Court. This chapter provides an overview
but doesn't teach you how to bring this lawsuit. We point to
other excellent books on Small Claims Court and supplement them
with questions and suggestions that are specific to the problems
of defective software.
Getting bad software and bad support are no fun. You might
prefer to shop more effectively next time and avoid or reduce
Chapter 11: Safe Shopping. You can shop more
effectively. The law gives consumers the right to find out what
warranties companies offer with their products. Independently
of that law, there are easy ways to increase your warranty rights,
to reduce your chances of being defrauded, to buy the right thing
(or at least something that isn't obviously the wrong thing)
in the first place, and to make it easier to get a refund if
you need one. You can shop more safely in stores, by mail, and
over the Internet.
We conclude with a look at a serious effort underway to
change the law.
Appendix: A New Threat to Customers' Rights--Proposed
Revisions to the Uniform Commercial Code. As a customer
(whether you are a big customer or a small customer), you have
many rights under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC's
Article 2 defines the American law of sales. A proposed new addition
to the UCC called "Article 2B", is to govern all software-related
contracts and many other kinds of contracts involving information.
Scheduled to be introduced in state legislatures in 1999, we
expect Article 2B to involve state-by-state battles through 2002
or 2003. Article 2B will seriously reduce your rights as a customer.
We urge you to read about it and to write your governor to oppose
Our goal in this book was to help customers deal more effectively
with software companies. If you're in the right, this book is
your roadmap to relief. But you might not always be in the right,
and we also try to help you understand some limits on what you
can expect. This is a book about reasonable expectations, fair
play, honest conduct, and how those are reflected in American
business practice and American law.
The articles at this web site are not legal advice. They do
not establish a lawyer/client relationship between me and you.
I took care to ensure that they were well researched at the time
that I wrote them, but the law changes quickly. By the time you
read this material, it may be out of date. Also, the laws of the
different States are not the same. These discussions might not
apply to your circumstances. Please do not take legal action on
the basis of what you read here, without consulting your own attorney.
Questions or problems regarding this web site should be directed
to Cem Kaner, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: Sunday October 26, 1997. Copyright © 1997,
Cem Kaner. All rights reserved.