January 31, 2001
Industry Leaders, Libraries, Computer Professionals and Consumer Organizations Join Forces to Defeat UCITA
Coalition Aims To Defeat Anti-Business, Anti-Consumer Measure That Will Cost Software Purchasers Billions
(Washington, DC) - Industry leaders, libraries, computer professionals and consumer organizations today announced the formation of AFFECT, Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions, a national coalition dedicated to educating the public and policy makers about the dangers of UCITA, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act. The proposed state legislation, which will negatively impact contract law dealing with computer software purchases, is currently making its way through a number of state legislatures.
A partial list of states currently at the forefront of the UCITA debate includes Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin.
"AFFECT was formed to stop this misguided and dangerous law. But our industries face a motivated, organized and well-funded opponent in this fight," said Randy Roth, Principal Financial Group. "If the large software publishers and internet service providers succeed, purchasers of software -- from large corporations to small businesses, from schools to libraries, from home computer users to the government -- will pay a huge price."
"If this all sounds confusing, America's monopolistic software publishers want it that way," said Miriam Nisbet, American Library Association. "To date, organizations such as Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance have relied on the mind numbing details of commercial law and the Uniform Commercial Code, as well as disingenuous claims that this new law will enhance a state's economic development, to attempt to ram UCITA through the states."
UCITA was originally drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) as an addition to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC.) The UCC is intended to make commercial law uniform in all 50 states, and NCCUSL products are typically non-controversial. However, UCITA is an exception, with serious opposition expressed by more than 20 state Attorneys General, the Federal Trade Commission, leaders of societies of technical professionals such as the IEEE, as well as AFFECT. (For a full coalition list please visit http://www.affect.ucita.com.)
UCITA dramatically shifts the balance of contract law in favor of software sellers and against the businesses and consumers who buy it. Among other things, UCITA will:
Allow software publishers to shut down mission critical software without court approval -- in some cases, even without notice;
Allow software publishers to prohibit public criticism of their products;
Allow software publishers to prohibit companies from transferring software from a terminated employee to a new hire;
Allow software publishers to prohibit the transfer of software from one company to another, even in the course of a merger or acquisition;
Allow software companies to decide where disputes will be heard -- one company's software agreement requires disputes be settled in Ireland;
Allow software publishers to avoid liability for damage caused by defects in their software (even if those defects are known by the seller and undisclosed to the buyer);
Bind companies to licensing agreements made without authorization by their employees;
Bind purchasers to terms disclosed only after the purchaser pays for the software.;
Threaten the kinds of library services now permissible under law, including inter-library loan, distance learning programs, archiving and preservation.
"UCITA allows software publishers to sell brand new software the same way cheap used cars are sold -- 'as is' with no warranty, which consumers will not even find out about until after they have paid for the new software," said Dave McMahon, a representative of national consumer organizations. "There is too much at stake. If the software publishers win, we all pay the price."
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AFFECT, Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions, is a broad-based coalition of industry leaders, libraries and consumer organizations dedicated to educating the public and policy makers about the dangers of UCITA, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act. AFFECT supports improvements in high-quality computer and information technology and the growth of fair and competitive markets in the United States and believes that UCITA is a dangerous, anti-business and anti-consumer measure that will have a devastating impact on the American economy and the development of electronic commerce and new technologies.
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