Texans face off over UCITA bill

By Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworld |  Government

Giving vendors the right to unilaterally shut off software in the midst of a dispute "is an absolutely unacceptable situation," Rigsbee said. Phillips hasn't prepared a UCITA cost estimate similar to the one done at Nationwide, "but we know it's bad," he said.

The NCCUSL, which attempts to establish uniform state laws, drafted and approved UCITA two years ago. The proposed law has been sent to all 50 states for adoption. UCITA proponents are pushing for adoption in another four or five states this year in an attempt to give the law some momentum.

UCITA has garnered opposition from a broad range of groups, including libraries and consumer organizations as well as numerous state attorneys general. It has little chance of "passing around the country unless some of these groups start dropping their opposition," Perkins said. "And the only way that's going to happen is if we can work out some compromises with them."

UCITA would give more teeth to software licenses and set a series of default rules that would apply to the contracts between users and vendors. Opponents say those default rules would put users at a disadvantage, while supporters contend that companies would still be free to contract with software vendors as they see fit.

Irene Kosturakis, senior intellectual property counsel at Compaq, said the concerns about UCITA are overstated and asserted that the measure would add more safeguards in areas where vendors already have rights under existing laws, including remote software disabling.

"Compaq believes that it is better to have a consistent set of rules . . . and that's what UCITA provides," Kosturakis said. But compromises will likely be needed to win widespread approval of the licensing law, she acknowledged, adding that Compaq executives "are willing to do that" if necessary.

UCITA has also been introduced in the Maine and Arizona legislatures and is expected to be taken up soon in Florida. Opponents plan to attack in every state. "We're not taking any state for granted. Having UCITA passed in any state is not acceptable," said Matt McGarty, a spokesman for Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions in Sacramento, Calif.

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