Technological advancements have shown that software is the future of business processes. Through software, businesses, organizations, and individuals get to automate repetitive functions and processes. This gets to ensure that processes run smoothly and functions can be executed faster.
Software development as a career has shown significant growth over the past years. However, it has become evident that most people in it are not aware of the legal risks tied to the process of software development.
It is important to be aware that there are high chances of encountering lawsuits during software development. The knowledge of this fact will help you as a software engineer to steer clear of the various factors that can lead to getting a lawsuit.
The unauthorized use of any intellectual property that you do not have the legal rights to use can lead to an expensive lawsuit. In software development, copyright infringement is an easy offence to find yourself involved in.
Copyright infringement in software development can include:
Using copied code from the internet.
Use of unowned graphics i.e., videos or photos.
The use of copyrighted content in software development faces severe punishment. The punishment is enforced by the intellectual property rights in any country.
In most countries, copyright infringement fines or settlement funding are determined based on the purpose of the software in development. If the software in development was to be commercial, the settlement funding will be much higher than if it was non-commercial software.
For non-commercial copyright infringement cases, one can be fined around $100 to $5,000 per copyright infringement. If the software in development was meant to be commercialized, the fines can go up to $250,000 for each offence.
As a developer, once you realize that you have flouted any copyright law, it is better to seek a hearing with the owner of the copyright. At the hearing, seek to come to an agreement and settle on a settlement amount rather than going to court. While discussing the settlement, it is advisable to consult a legal funding group to guide you and offer the necessary funding.
Contrary to what most people think, software development is not about coding the system only. Software development also entails the maintenance of the software after it has been developed and implemented.
Most software is sold with a contract stating that the developer will offer maintenance of the software for a specific period. If the software client feels that you are not giving the stated maintenance, they can initiate a lawsuit.
An example of this is the recent case against Slack, the collaborative platform. They were sued by their client due to system downtime.
In the lawsuit, the client stated that the developer agreed to offer maintenance and prevent system downtime 99.99% of the time. The client, however, did not feel that the software developer was living to their end of this clause in the purchase contract.
Maintenance also entails fixing code errors and making any necessary improvements to the software. As a software developer, you have to ensure that you offer your clients what you promise them upon purchase. This will help you avoid having lawsuits against you. But if you don’t, prepare cash for lawsuits because it will definitely happen.
Breach of Contract
Most of the lawsuits encountered during software development are about the developer breaching their contract with the client. As a software developer, one never seeks to intentionally breach their contract and et a lawsuit for that.
However, some factors outside the control of the developer can cause a breach of contract. If, for instance, a critical member of the development team falls ill, this might cause a delay in the delivery schedule of the software.
Any possibilities of contract breaches should be communicated to the client to ensure that they are aware. Keeping the client aware of this will hold them back from initiating a lawsuit.
An example of such a lawsuit is the Accenture lawsuit made by one of their clients. The company was sued by its client due to a delay in the expected delivery dates for a website and application that they were contracted to develop. In this lawsuit, the client sued Accenture for $32 million.
The figures in the Accenture case show how much a breach of contract lawsuit can dent a software developer financially. Breach of contract can also happen by going against a non-compete clause stated in the contract between a developer and the client. Before signing a contract with any possible client, it is important to keenly analyze the contents of the contract.
Developing enterprise software is often a heavy task that requires a team to work on and deliver collaboratively. This, therefore, means that the developer will have to hire the team members. The process of hiring and firing workers is always a tricky endeavor.
This is because the process allows either of your workers or applicants to sue you for a myriad of reasons. Unsuccessful applicants can sue you claiming that you discriminated against them and failed to consider their application because of various factors. They can quote factors such as gender, age, race, disabilities, etc.
When you fire a person from the development team, they can also come up with reasons to sue you. As a software developer hiring a team, you should always be aware of the fact that your team can sue you at any time.
It is, therefore, important to be wary of the decisions you make regarding your team. As a precautionary measure, you should document every decision you make and the reasons. This will come in handy in the event of any lawsuit against you.
Though it might seem expensive, it is important to keep in mind that legal settlements should be your first go-to in the event of any lawsuit. A settlement will allow you to solve the issue directly with the aggrieved party without going public. In the long run, this will help preserve your reputation as a software developer.
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