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Liability of Open Source radios

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Barrie Lever06/04/2020 10:35:07
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A serious question here, particularly for the Open Source experts.

When there is catastrophic accident (fatality type) with an Open source system or a mix and match 2.4ghz setup, where does the responsibility lie assuming that the reason for the accident cannot be traced to pilot error or other clear causes?

I would have thought a lawyer would really tear into the user when it might not have been the users fault apart from running the mix and match/open source setup?

This is not particularly a concern for me as I am strictly Multiplex or Futaba but it interests me what the position regarding the above is?

Regards

B.

Denis Watkins06/04/2020 10:47:03
4649 forum posts
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There is only one driver, with only one registration number; that is the Pilot Barrie.

Sorry, my Wi-Fi went weak. 

No matter what gear is used, the Pilot decides it is ok to make the flight.

Edited By Denis Watkins on 06/04/2020 11:16:27

Barrie Lever06/04/2020 11:50:16
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Dennis

Yes you are right there is only one pilot.

So you are saying the pilot takes sole responsibility for the flight, there are no extenuating circumstances that causes the crash out of the pilots reasonable control?

If so that answers my question, if not it is a bit open ended.

B.

Mike T06/04/2020 12:44:52
572 forum posts
35 photos

To backtrack from what Denis says, once you have satisfied that your radio is OK to make the flight, any operator error in the use of the programming is as much a 'dumb thumb' as pulling 'up' when inverted. So it's a honest mistake which insurance would cover.

Re use of mix 'n match modules, same applies - as long as you satisfy yourself it's ok, then you're covered. As it's the transmission frequency and power that is covered by the various regulations, then as long as your module carries a CE mark confirming compliance, then you're covered. It is not for you to worry about whether that mark is genuine or not (unless you import it directly, which opens up a whole new can of peas...)

Barrie Lever06/04/2020 13:02:20
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Mike and Denis

To be clear I was meaning a software programming error in the open source software that under some undetermined set of parameters caused a loss of control, so which of the open source contributors was responsible?

In the case of a complete system bought from one manufacturer the assumption is that that company has done full testing and stands by their product.

CE marking says nothing about how the system has been tested with regard to its operating software.

You both seem very happy that the onus is on the pilot so that answers my question.

Thanks

Barrie

Edited By Barrie Lever on 06/04/2020 13:04:10

Edited By Barrie Lever on 06/04/2020 13:05:11

Mike T06/04/2020 13:21:51
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Posted by Barrie Lever on 06/04/2020 13:02:20:

To be clear I was meaning a software programming error in the open source software that under some undetermined set of parameters caused a loss of control, so which of the open source contributors was responsible?

Barrie, in the circumstances you describe above, IMO the pilot would be responsible, but I don't think, in the legal sense, that they would be held to be 'negligent'.

I'm way beyond my knowledge here, so I hope one of the OS gurus steps in to help, but if, for example, you were to make your own changes to the OS code without them being reviewed/cleared by the OS community, then that might be construed as 'negligent'.

flight106/04/2020 13:34:04
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There has been software/ hardware failure causing crashes in the past with well established makes. But has that led to anything? it be very hard to prove and proberly cost prohibitive.

i reccon that open source is the the basis of a few manufacturs operating system and then there is the transmission chips and coding? could be at blame too and these chips are used across different manufactures like Texas Instruments CC2500 RF Chip used by JR DMSS, HiTec, Corona, FrSky, Tactic, Futaba S-FHSS, Skyartec, futaba and FrSky use the same chip

All very muddy waters so its down to the operator/pilot to verify that it is all safe to fly.

as for the CE mark thats just to confirm the rf side of things confirm to UE regulations not any of the software

Edited By flight1 on 06/04/2020 13:35:09

Edited By flight1 on 06/04/2020 13:36:00

Nigel R06/04/2020 13:36:19
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Posted by Barrie Lever on 06/04/2020 13:02:20:

the assumption is that that company has done full testing

There is testing... and then there is testing.

Mike

Perhaps that depends on whether you are competent, by some defintion. Such as one of the regular development team adding features, perhaps. Or maybe you have extensive prior software authoring experience.

I'm not sure the common open source licenses cover liability, beyond state "no liability is assumed by the author" or something like that - onus be on the operator.

Barrie Lever06/04/2020 13:42:01
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342 forum posts
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Good answers, thanks.

B.

Gary Manuel06/04/2020 13:52:12
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2305 forum posts
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Extract from page 1 of the OpenTX manual - in highlighted print reads:

"It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure that the setting up of their transmitter functions as expected on the model."

Mike T06/04/2020 14:31:55
572 forum posts
35 photos

Thanks Nigel/Gary.

Looks like use of an OS system falls into the legal category of "Son, you're on your own..." laugh

Peter Christy06/04/2020 14:53:32
1901 forum posts

I'm not sure what the difference is between Open Source and proprietary code in this case. I can't think of a single instance being reported where Futaba, Jr or any other manufacturer has been held responsible for an accident involving RC gear.

Hardware failure is a far more likely scenario than software failure, and in the past its proven almost impossible to claim for incurred losses even when a demonstrable hardware failure has occurred. When such cases have occurred, the manufacturer has offered to repair the radio gear (usually FOC), but the loss of the model or any other damages is down to the owner and his/her insurance where appropriate.

One of the beauties of open source is that far many more eyes are examining the code than is the case with proprietary software, and when faults are found, they are usually fixed much more rapidly.

--

Pete

Martin Harris06/04/2020 15:03:05
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9532 forum posts
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I can't claim any legal expertise but the guiding principle seems to be what a reasonable person could be expected to do. While flying with a known problem could be held to be negligent, an unintended consequence of mixing and matching or home built/programmed equipment which has been tested reasonably before flight shouldn't lead to any accusations of negligence or culpability as far as I can see.

Barrie Lever06/04/2020 15:09:08
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342 forum posts
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Peter

I guess my concerns are unfounded and thanks to all of you for the answers.

I suppose the difference is like looking at a bunch of thugs who have broken a shop window, who done it? and they all look at each other, however if there is just one then you are a lot closer to finding the suspect.

Thanks

Barrie

Mike Blandford06/04/2020 15:26:04
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The open source software is released under the GNU General Public License.

V2: **LINK**

V3: **LINK**

Extract from the V2 version, the V3 version is similar:

NO WARRANTY

11. BECAUSE THE PROGRAM IS LICENSED FREE OF CHARGE, THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU. SHOULD THE PROGRAM PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION.

12. IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDER, OR ANY OTHER PARTY WHO MAY MODIFY AND/OR REDISTRIBUTE THE PROGRAM AS PERMITTED ABOVE, BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF SUCH HOLDER OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

Mike

Phil Green06/04/2020 16:34:55
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1657 forum posts
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Posted by flight1 on 06/04/2020 13:34:04:

.. these chips are used across different manufactures like Texas Instruments CC2500 RF Chip used by JR DMSS, HiTec, Corona, FrSky, Tactic, Futaba S-FHSS, Skyartec, futaba and FrSky use the same chip

Sorry thats not true. JR DMSS is ZigBee 802.15.4 its not the cc2500

Andy Stephenson06/04/2020 17:41:04
240 forum posts
40 photos

I heard of a case where it is possible to adjust the TX output power on open source radios by reprogramming the RF chip. If the power is increased by tinkering with the code and this consequently causes interference to other users who then is liable. More to the point how would you ever prove it.

A.

flight106/04/2020 21:04:02
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745 forum posts
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Posted by Phil Green on 06/04/2020 16:34:55:
Posted by flight1 on 06/04/2020 13:34:04:

.. these chips are used across different manufactures like Texas Instruments CC2500 RF Chip used by JR DMSS, HiTec, Corona, FrSky, Tactic, Futaba S-FHSS, Skyartec, futaba and FrSky use the same chip

Sorry thats not true. JR DMSS is ZigBee 802.15.4 its not the cc2500

the most widely deployed enhancement to the 802.15.4 standard is ZigBee standard , which is a standard of the ZigBee Alliance. The organization maintains, supports, and develops more sophisticated protocols for advanced applications. So Zigbee 802.15.4 is not a RF chip it is something it uses... so what chip does it use then?

Andy4806/04/2020 21:29:37
1561 forum posts
1 photos
Posted by Andy Stephenson on 06/04/2020 17:41:04:

I heard of a case where it is possible to adjust the TX output power on open source radios by reprogramming the RF chip. If the power is increased by tinkering with the code and this consequently causes interference to other users who then is liable. More to the point how would you ever prove it.

A.

Since the programming for the RF chip is not open source but manufacturer's software, then I cannot see any worse problem than with any other make of transmitter.

Mike Blandford06/04/2020 22:17:42
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653 forum posts
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The multi-protocol module firmware is open source (started as a hardware and software DIY project), and this controls the RF chip(s) directly. They all have an output power setting controlled by the firmware.

Mike

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