I write non fiction books about computer science and security (Zzz) but with the security bits in particular, do I really need to put a disclaimer saying "hey don't go hack the government" on my ebooks?

Could some reader potentially turn around and say "you didn't warn me stealing credit card information is illegal" and try some frivolous lawsuit? - I constantly find myself reading and writing these little "don't use this in the real world" messages and its becoming cumbersome.

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    Considering that in the US a person can sue a coffee vendor because the cup did not bear a disclaimer that the coffee is hot, I would definitely consult a lawyer and not us non-experts, because law ≠ common sense.
    – user5645
    Nov 12, 2014 at 9:17
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    Also, the question is not just disclaimers but wether or not you are allowed to publish those instructions at all. Instructions for criminal acts may not be legal, even if they are hidden in "how to protect from hacking attacks" pretense.
    – user5645
    Nov 12, 2014 at 9:21
  • @what How do you know the OP is in the US? Nov 12, 2014 at 10:58
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    Because only in the US can you avoid being held liable by posting a warning disclaimer ;-)
    – user5645
    Nov 12, 2014 at 11:05
  • @what it's not really criminal acts, it's a valid field of computer security called penetration testing but if you use it without written consent it's called hacking (there are many books on it ;P I'm not the only one writing this stuff)
    – Crizly
    Nov 12, 2014 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


If you really think someone is going to use your book as a how-to, then write a preface which is a single large, comprehensive disclaimer. Put all the "don't do this at home" copy there, and if it's an e-book, throw in the occasional link back to it.

(Also, don't publish genuine secrets, and you may want to have the number of a good lawyer on hand as a backup. Because people are sometimes insane.)

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    "People are sometimes insane" - might use that for the disclaimer chapter title
    – Crizly
    Nov 11, 2014 at 20:58
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    @Crizly: That reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) story of the (UK?) government once considering a warning label for Internet access. Somebody suggested "may contain nuts." Nov 11, 2014 at 21:42
  • @IlmariKaronen haha
    – Crizly
    Nov 11, 2014 at 22:29

A disclaimer will do nothing to legally protect you.

To be indicted as an accessory to a crime as a writer, the prosecution has to prove the following:

(1) You either knew of the planned crime, or had a reasonable expectation that a particular crime would be committed

(2) Your assistance was critical to the commission of the crime

In general, you will only be indicted if you enable the commission of a specific crime. For example, if you write a chapter, "How to Hack a Router", you are fine. If you write a chapter on "How to Hack Verizon's Routers Located at 148.165.73.*", then you could be risking a prosecution (and no amount of disclaimer will make any difference). Do you see the difference between these two examples?

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