Liability For Unused Software Content
So Rockstar games has decided to proactively take action to appease lawmakers. They are pulling GTA from the shelves and replacing it with a version that cannot be modded to reveal the extra content. Alternatively, they will be supplying “Adults Only” stickers to retailers that want to continue to carry the current boxes. And in the most ridiculous aspect of the whole incident, they will be providing a downloadable modification that will remove the already-inaccessible content. Like who is going to download that? For what purpose? Do you have a split personality and don’t trust your other half to not install the mod that revelas the content? Do you take such an active role in your child’s video game playing that you will install this mod, but yet still let your child play this game? Give me a break.
What is interesting here is that there is an implied responsibility for software content that was intentionally left inaccessible by the developers. Inaccessible content is left in software all the time. Anyone using Director that does a “Save” instead of a “Save and Compact” is possibly leaving behind content. Other developers will leave behind content or code because it is easier and safer to do so rather than risk removing something used by a part of the product that is still available. And what about things like variable or procedure names? Comments? Object properties? These are all hidden from the software user. But what if a variable name is something that is inappropriate for a child? And what if someone comes up with a mod that reveals this variable in some way. Far-fetched, I know, but possible. Some OSS programmers, for instance, often use crude variable names for humorous effect when viewed by other developers on the same project. Similar things have happened even in large, professional development companies.
The point is that we now have to be responsible for the behind-the-scenes content of our software, in addition to the expected end-user experience. That’s sorta scary.