A New Law of Software Quality
Quality cost analysis 3 is a key tool in a quality improvement effort. A company spends money on:
prevention: of problems, for example by training programmers to use defensive programming techniques;
appraisal: such as testing or code inspection;
internal failure costs: such as cost of bug fixes or lost time due to bugs found before the product ships;
external failure costs: such as tech support costs, lost customer goodwill, and warranty costs.
Quality engineers work to minimize the sum of quality-related costs. It is cheaper to prevent, search for, and fix problems than to deal with the consequences of shipping a defective product to customers.
Article 2B contains some useful customer protections but it changes the balance of rights that the original UCC struck between customers and sellers. In my view, it will substantially reduce a seller's legal and competitive exposure for shipping bad software. Therefore the balance of the quality-cost equation changes. Therefore, companies should, and in many cases will, spend less than they spend today to prevent, find, and fix bugs because it will now cost them less when they ship defective products to customers.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE UCC
The Uniform Commercial Code is the dominant source of American commercial law. All 50 States have enacted all or most of the UCC. It is written and maintained under the auspices of NCCUSL and ALI, rather than by a government body. The private, non-partisan drafting and review process for updating or rewriting a Uniform Law (such as the UCC) stretches over several years. Hearings are open. Competing viewpoints can be heard and considered calmly.
Article 2A (Leases) and proposed Article 2B ( Licenses) are outgrowths of Article 2 (Sales). Article 2 is also under revision. Drafts of the proposed revisions to Article 2, with authors' commentary, are on the Web, at www.kentlaw.edu/ulc/uniform/uccart2. If this address changes, check www.kentlaw.edu/ulc or look on www.kentlaw.edu for a pointer to Uniform Laws.
The Reporter of the Article 2B drafting committee, and thus the primary author of Article 2B, is Professor Raymond T. Nimmer, of the University of Houston Law Center. He is also the author of The Law of Computer Technology: Rights, Licenses, Liabilities4 , which is the leading treatise on computer-related law. The Article 2B drafts reflect Nimmer's encyclopedic knowledge of the field and his clear writing style.
The Uniform Commercial Code Article 2B Revision Home Page is at the University of Houston, at www.law.uh.edu/ucc2b. Along with the most recent two drafts, the site includes some useful commentary. And you can send comments on the proposed revisions to Professor Nimmer from a mail link at that page. To see previous drafts of Article 2B, go to www.law.upenn.edu/library/ulc.
The Article 2B proposal is just that, at this point - a proposal. The current draft has not been reviewed or approved by NCCUSL or ALI. It may be significantly revised before ALI and NCCUSL accept it and forward it to the State legislatures for adoption (perhaps in August 1997).
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