Here’s the problem. “You could download Comma.ai’s new open-source Python code from Github, grab the necessary hardware, and follow the company’s instructions to add semi-autonomous capabilities to specific Acura and Honda model cars (with more vehicles to follow),” writes IEEE Spectrum. But then who’s legally responsible if there’s an accident?
While many legal experts agree OSS is “buyer beware” and that Comma.ai and its CEO Georg Hotz would not be liable, it’s a gray area in the law. The software is release under the MIT OSS license and the Read Me contains the disclaimer “This is alpha-quality software for research purposes only… You are responsible for complying with local laws and regulatons.” The U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of court cases in the 1990s, ruled open source code as free speech protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The question is does that release the author(s) from liability. The EU has no EU wide rules on liability in such cases. One open question is even if the person who used the software could not sue, a third party injured by it might be able to since they are not a party to the license agreement.
An EFF attorney told HotHardware “Prosecutors and plaintiffs often urge courts to disregard traditional First Amendment protections in the case of software.” But not everyone agrees. “Most legal experts that spoke with IEEE Spectrum — and Hotz himself — believe that if you use the company’s code and something goes wrong, then it isn’t liable for damages. You are.”