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Legal aspects of testing are concerned with the application of the legal system to the computing field. It includes intellectual property law such as patents, copyright, trademarks, and trade secrets. Patents provide legal protection for intellectual ideas; copyright law protects the expression of an idea, and trademarks provide legal protection of names or symbols. There are potential legal impacts to an organization if the software has been inadequately tested, and if the quality of the testing is deemed to be negligent. Software testers are professionals and need to behave professionally and ethically at all times during testing.
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The concept of accountability for actions dates back thousands of years. The ancient Babylonians employed a code of laws c. 1750 B.C. known as “The Hammarabi Code”. This included a law that if a house collapsed and killed the owner then the builder of the house would be executed.
However, it is unlikely that an individual programmer would be subject to litigation in the case of a flaw in a program causing damage or loss of life. Most software products are accompanied by a comprehensive disclaimer of responsibility for problems (rather than a guarantee of quality).
Parnas applied this professional responsibility faithfully when he argued against the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), as he believed that the public (i.e. taxpayers) were being misled and that the goals of the project were not achievable.
These are core values of most mature software companies and many companies today have a code of ethics that employees are required to adhere to.
Barquin RC (1992) In pursuit of a ‘ten commandments’ for computer ethics. Computer Ethics Institute, Washington, D.C.
Levy S (1984) Hackers: heroes of the computer revolution. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol
O’Regan G (2015) Pillars of computing. Springer, Berlin CrossRef
Sommerville I (2011) Software engineering, 9th edn. Pearson, London
- Legal, Ethical, and Professional Aspects of Testing
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