Licensing showdown looming

By Patrick Thibodeau, InfoWorld |  Business

Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) proponents will push for adoption of the controversial software licensing law in four or five states in 2001, but they will face opposition from some end-user companies along with warnings that the measure could significantly increase IT costs.

Nationwide Insurance estimated that UCITA could boost its costs by a minimum of $20 million. The insurer cited security problems created by the law, which would give software vendors the ability to remotely disable systems through "self-help" as it is called in UCITA, as well as increased contracting and negotiation costs.

Moreover, UCITA's liability-limiting provisions would increase Nationwide's software quality assurance costs because the measure would act as a deterrent for vendors to deliver a working product, said Bruce Barnes, vice president of technology strategy and planning at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide.

"The best that we can do is to make people aware of the implications associated with the proposed act -- in raw, baseline, quantifiable terms -- on one's business," Barnes said.

But Nationwide's estimates were met with questions by UCITA proponents, who said they would like to see the company's study.

"I'm doubtful about that estimate being attributable to anything in UCITA," said Carlyle Ring, who headed the UCITA drafting committee at the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), which drafts laws for state adoption.

UCITA may face a decisive showdown in 2001, as the Digital Commerce Coalition (DCC), which represents vendors, seeks to create momentum for its adoption by winning approval in a handful of states. The DCC has not said which states it is targeting, but they could include Texas, Oregon, and Washington, according to some familiar with the issue. UCITA has been adopted in Maryland and Virginia.

The year 2001 "is pretty critical. If we can keep the DCC from getting any new states to accept this or pass it, I think that would be a critical blow to them," said Randy Roth, director of corporate purchasing at The Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa.

Dan Duncan, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based DCC, said he disagreed. "If we don't get UCITA passed in four to five states this year, it doesn't put a death knell on UCITA," he said. But the group would need to educate legislators "so that they can be prepared in the following years to pass UCITA," he added.

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