Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How much is an Easter Egg worth?

The New York Times is reporting on the results of a class action lawsuit against Take Two Interactive over a hidden sex scene in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The issue is that the lawyers fees are about $1.3 million, vs. about $30,000 paid to the alleged plaintiffs (because only a tiny fraction of a percent of buyers were upset enough about the hidden scene, which can only be accessed using third party software, to participate in the settlement).

Easter Eggs in software have a long history. Based on my experience with commercial software in several companies, I'd guess that a large fraction of commercial products have easter eggs. Unless software vendors do a thorough scrub (which is pretty rare), it's a given that something put in by a developer will make it into the product, unless it causes some QA failure.

So given the settlement cost, how much would it be worthwhile for vendors to invest in ensuring that there are no obscene Easter Eggs in their software? Unless it's game software, where looking for hidden features is a well-established practice, it's probably not worth anywhere close to a million dollars. That's unfortunate, since looking for Easter Eggs might well help find security flaws, which are a bigger real threat.

Maybe we should encourage Congress to impose huge fines for software that contains Easter Eggs - and use that leverage to improve the security of our products?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home