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I've been thinking about creating some free/open source websites and publishing some free/open source mobile apps to the Google Play Store. The aim of the websites/apps are to provide things/information/tools etc. for helping others (perhaps like Wikipedia, but probably on a much smaller scaler).

Of course I hope anything published would only be beneficial to users (and not cause harm), but I recognise nothing's perfect and mistakes happen, so was wondering what mechanisms are available to a person who (in the friendliest way possible) wants to disclaim liability or have users waive their ability to sue you etc.?

I'm a little familiar with open-source licensing (I believe these are designed to help people to distribute their code without any legal risks/implications for users and creators - indeed there are some very simple licenses) so not sure if I could use one of these for this purpose.

Many thanks for any help! :)

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At least under UK law, the general consensus is that you don't need this kind of disclaimer: mistakes are not actionable unless grossly negligent, and that is a very high bar. Other jurisdictions may vary, you will need to talk to a legal professional if this is of serious concern to you.

That said, just about every open source license beyond the ultra-short ones like the WTFPL contains language designed to do what you want; for example, the MIT License states:

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

Similar language exists in all of the BSD family of licenses, the Apache 2 license and the GPL family of licenses. These will possibly give you extra protection over something like the WTFPL. Honestly, I'd say your concern should be more over how you want your code to be used than the incredibly remote possibility that someone tries to sue you.

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  • This is really helpful, many thanks @philip-kendall. Would the MIT License also apply to the content/information of a website? I ask as perhaps the information on a website would not be considered "software", so perhaps the MIT License could be adapted to something like "THE SOFTWARE AND CONTENT/INFORMATION IS PROVIDED..." (or perhaps another license is more applicable when providing users information).
    – andyandy
    Nov 6, 2022 at 20:23
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    While the MIT license can be used for things other than code, you're probably better off using one of the Creative Commons licenses for non-code content. They again have very similar "lack of warranty" etc wordings. (IANAL, advice you get from randoms on the Internet is worth less than what you paid for it) Nov 6, 2022 at 21:35

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