Countering the No One to Sue Argument against Open Source...

There is no one to sue if the software has a bug and endangers our business?
This is my favorite reason that I have heard against Linux and FLOSS.  The reason is because they are right.  There is no one to sue.  People use this statement when they want you to believe that they have the companies best interest at heart, but do not understand the nature of the software industry as a whole.  Why do we say this?  The reason is simple and it's spelled EULA.  If you have ever suffered through a EULA, or End User License Agreement, you will understand why it is so tough for people to understand.  They are written by lawyers, they protect the people writing the software and almost never do anything to protect you.  In almost every EULA I have scanned there is a clause that is actually understandable releasing the software maker from any liability or from any damages done to you or your company in the use of the software.  Microsoft, for instance, in most of it's EULA's, state that you do not really own the software.  Microsoft has the right to remove it from your computer without cause or a reason at any time.  Part of the reason for this is to limit their liability when the software fails to function properly for the rare user that might sue.  There are also large sections of the EULA that explain why you cannot sue the company.  Do not think they are alone in this practice.  Every company that creates even freeware and shareware has to have these kind of statements in their EULA's to stay in business. 

So then what do we do to argue against this?

I find that the people offering this reason are generally not comfortable with the question of open source and Linux itself.  They tend to use this argument because it seems so obvious.  So to counter it, do not start arguing.  To counter it, I normally start asking questions about the last time the company sued a vendor, any vendor.  The reality is that if you ask most companies, they do not have an example.  Generally the ones that do have an example, only sued because the company was customizing a piece of software,  missed a date or just failed to deliver at all.  If you get lucky and this is an example they present, then start to break down the argument by asking if you could not do the same for an open source consulting company.  When I was a consultant I carried insurance for just such a case.  If I messed up to the point I couldn't or was not allowed to fix it and they wanted to sue this insurance would have paid them and protected my assets.  In this case I would have had to actually do harm to the business that wanted to sue me and not anyone producing the software I was configuring.  That company would have been able to blame me.  So if given the opportunity to talk about the case ask them which software vendors they sued with the company providing the services.  I have never seen or heard of a case where suing the software maker was attempted let alone successful.  So again the question for the person making the case that there is no one to sue is still when has it happened before either within or outside of the company.

This is one of the situations where I often see opponents of Linux and FLOSS software take extremely seriously.  It's also one that once challenged calmly and after giving the person time to reflect on the question of when it's happens often goes away on it's own.  If they start getting defensive at any point drop the subject and bring it up again later.  If you walk away without letting the discussion degrade, it will very often result in new questions and reasons not to use Linux.  Those questions will be much more challenging to answer simply but will have actionable items that can be addressed.  It sounds counter productive to our point right?  Not really because the goal should be to turn a cynic into an Evangelist.  The interesting thing about Evangelists is that the loudest and most convincing of them evolve from being critics of Linux.  Once you change their mind about a topic like Linux, the momentum starts.  Much like a snow ball it will build and start sucking in other people.  In several cases I have witnessed companies turning away from their previous OS's and moving to fast too Linux.

What other arguments do you have against Linux or FLOSS? 

We have faced a lot of them over the years let us know what you are having trouble with and we will help you to solve it.  Then, changing the names to protect those involved, we will post the method and results for others to learn from.

Brian Wagner

Brian started working with *nix in while a student at Kent State University in the early 90's. In 1995, as an E-Mail Administrator for Caliber Technology (now part of Fedex) he was tasked with administering Sendmail on both Slackware Linux and Solaris Systems. His first home install of Linux was MkLinux DR1 in 1996 on his 60 Mhz PowerMac. Since then Brian has been working and consulting on Linux and it's uses in the Enterprise to support everything from E-Mail, Firewalls, Web and File serving to custom cluster solutions and grid solutions. Brian has had the opportunity to work in both Fortune 500 companies and small 2 person organizations. This has given him the unique insight into the differences every size business faces.