Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. Please contact an attorney with any questions regarding your specific situation or concerns.
What’s the difference between a disclaimer and a disclosure? How are they similar or different? When should you use one or the other?
On a meta level, you can see that there’s a disclaimer at the top of this post itself, as there is for any post where I discuss anything related to legal aspects, such as licensing, agreements or contracts.
Simply put, a disclaimer is:
[…] any statement intended to specify or delimit the scope of rights and obligations that may be exercised and enforced by parties in a legally recognized relationship.
At the top of this post, you can see that I disclaim any legal liability by stating clearly up-front that I am not a lawyer, and this post is not legal advice.
Other frequent disclaimers you will find in a contract or license terms are warranty disclaimers:
A warranty disclaimer is a statement or written document that informs a buyer that the seller is not bound by any warranty guarantees or promises regarding the product.
Popular open-source license agreements include such clauses, e.g., Apache 2.0 (emphasis in the original):
7. Disclaimer of Warranty. Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, Licensor provides the Work (and each Contributor provides its Contributions) on an “AS IS” BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, […]
Or the 3-clause BSD license (emphasis mine):
THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. […]
Note that these licenses use the terms “disclaimer” and “disclaimed” explicitly, while another license might disclaim the warranty without using the word at all, e.g., see the MIT license:
THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. […]
So then what’s a disclosure?
The acknowledgment of facts that one might prefer not to mention, especially risks and conflicts of interest
Thus, before making a comment on current developments in the industry, where your affiliation (with the company being discussed, or a competitor) might be relevant to your take on the situation, you might want to state that up front:
Disclosure: I own ABC and XYZ stock.
You will typically see this type of a disclosure at the end of many articles on investing and finance. A more common example in tech might be:
Disclosure: I work for XYZ Inc.
The most common mistake that I’ve seen (and have made myself, unfortunately1) is using “disclaimer” to document their affiliations, where “disclosure” would’ve been the correct term.
Now you know the difference and will be able to confidently choose the correct term in the future.
Yes, that parenthetical statement itself is a disclosure! ↩︎