These comments are my personal opinion, of course, and do not represent Gartner’s official position (except we wrote about something related to it years ago…)
The Times of London has a story today about a vendor demanding that its customer sign an agreement to not say anything, to anyone, anywhere and anytime about the fact that the vendor’s product blew up. Never mind that the customer was only asking for their money back. Not a million dollars compensation for injuries or anything like that.
And this isn’t about that one vendor (in this case, Apple). It’s really about all the major equipment and software vendors which try to block their customers from talking about the performance of their products. The UCITA "fiasco" was an instance of this.
Imagine your auto manufacturer forcing you to sign a license agreement before you could buy their car, wherein you would agree to never report to anyone if the brakes failed or the engine compartment caught fire. Silly? If the auto manufacturers acted like some software and electronic manufacturers, that’s what you’d see.
The companies, of course, claim they have the right to demand conformance (or they’ll either sue or not deliver the product in the first place). And, of course, customers (or potential customers) have the right to refuse.
But in most cases, what we see is corporate bullying. Big software companies bullying big customers who are locked into their products. And big device manufacturers bullying their customers (often after the ‘click-wrap’ or ‘shrink-wrap’ license has be ‘accepted’).
There’s something important about freedom of speech that we are losing sight of. People (and companies) should not be able to sign away their right to disclose a problem that could materially affect someone else’s future purchase decisions. There’s something deeply important about this, at least to me — and, I suspect to the millions of consumers (and companies) adversely affected by forced withholding of key information.
There oughtta be a law…
- How many of you are willing to sign away your right to disclose, in the future, defects not apparent at the time of purchase?
- How many of you (or your companies) have been burned because others may have known of the problems you faced but failed to make it public?
This is a moral problem very much like the Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons. If we sell out our right to disclose widely problems we may discover in the future, we are implicitly injuring all those who would have benefited from transparency and disclosure.
Do we really want our legal system to support that?
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