I'm an independent software developer that's spent the last few months creating software for viewing and searching map data. The software has some navigation functionality as well (mapping, directions,etc). The eventual goal is to sell it in mobile app markets. I use OpenStreetMap as my data source.

I'm concerned about liability for erroneous map data / routing instructions, etc that might result when someone uses the application. There are a lot of stories on the internet where someone gets into an accident or gets stuck or gets lost because of their GPS unit/Google Maps/mapping app... I myself have come across incorrect map data as well in a GPS unit I have in my car.

While I try to make my own software as bug free as possible, no software is truly bug free. And moving beyond what I can control, OpenStreetMap data (and street map data in general) is prone to errors as well.

What steps can I take to clearly inform the user that results from the software aren't always perfect, and to minimize my liability?

  • 2
    Put a limitation of liability in your software license. – Robert Harvey Oct 24 '12 at 21:37
  • I'll definitely have a EULA... but its hard to know if those are just placebos since its hard to find information on what precedents have been set (if any) in this sort of thing. There are people who have filed lawsuits against Google and GPS/map service providers... its never clear what ends up happening in these cases. – phobitor Oct 24 '12 at 21:53
  • 1
    If you're that worried about it, you should hire an attorney. – JeffO Oct 24 '12 at 22:42
  • Put a disclaimer on your software. Log errors and handle errors in graceful way. – EL Yusubov Oct 25 '12 at 2:52

Fairly straightforward steps:

  1. Include boilerplate generic warnings, as you might see in many other pieces of software, and include them as part of a license agreement for users to agree to before they use your software
  2. Add a specific clause to the license agreement, informing users that you are not responsible for the map data that you're providing, and that it should not be used for emergency or other uses that require high availability and correctness
  3. Form a limited liability or other corporation, and publish the software as that entity rather than under your own name.
  • Hey, thank you for the awesome advice. Could you elaborate on 3 a bit? Why would publishing it under another entity be helpful? This is my absolute first software project so I don't really know anything about software business/distribution stuff. – phobitor Oct 24 '12 at 22:02
  • I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know where you live, so don't rely on me for this to be 100% true for you. I think of the company as an added layer of protection - most likely, the owner of the application will get sued. If the owner is a company, then the most damage that can suit can cause is take everything the company owns (which, hopefully, is not the same as taking everything you own). – blueberryfields Oct 24 '12 at 22:10
  • See a lawyer if you are worried - in fact, see a lawyer anyway. Asking programmers for legal advise is not exactly the wisest thing to do, relying on that advise would be, ah.... how do I put this politely.... stupid. Although a company provides some protection, it's still entirely possible to sue directors/managers and owners of companies - especially if they have been negligent. – mattnz Oct 24 '12 at 23:52

If you're really worried - talk to an insurance agent about an 'errors and omissions' policy - I didn't say buy one, just talk to them - you'll probably learn a lot and its cheaper than a lawyer - which, as previous posters observed, you're gonna need

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