Virginia Signs UCITA Into Law

SAN MATEO (03/17/2000) - Virginia this week became the first state to pass a controversial set of regulations designed to make software licensing contracts more uniform.

Supporters successfully shepherding the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) across the desk of Virginia Gov. James Gilmore characterized the bill's passage as a forerunner to new contracting policies for the digital age.

"We think this sets the stage for cases where goods and information never take a tangible form, and contracts are digital items you click on," said Douglas Koelemay, vice president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, a group that rallied lawmakers to pass the bill.

UCITA sets a series of default rules governing commercial software transactions. One of its most controversial provisions allows software vendors to automatically disable software in a contract dispute.

An alliance of consumer groups, insurance companies, library associations, and others has lashed out against the bill, claiming it is too broad and casts uncertainty on the rights to use licensed software.

Technology executives at major companies are often split on the implications for nationwide UCITA laws. "At this point in time we are not too worried about UCITA," said Greg Kinman, a technology official at Sentry Insurance, in Stevens Point, Wis. "Personally, I think a lot of software is pirated so passing legislation to help technology companies is warranted."

But others, such as Eric Kuzmack of Gannett Co., a news and information company in Arlington, Va., said otherwise. "UCITA scares the you-know-what out of me for all of the obvious reasons. All the control is with the software vendor and the customer essentially has no recourse," he said.

Delaware and Maryland are both poised to move forward on UCITA.

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