Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) Guide to Web Resources

prepared by Shaun Esposito, Head of Public Services

Originally proposed as a joint effort by the American Law Institute (ALI) and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) as a new Article 2B of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) emerged as a proposed model law endorsed by NCCUSL when the ALI withdrew its support for Article 2B. As with all model laws, UCITA is now up for consideration by legislatures on a state-by-state basis. To date, two states, Maryland and Virginia, have adopted versions of UCITA, with each state adopting amendments to the text of the original proposal.

Proposed UCC Article 2B and its current incarnation, UCITA, have generated a firestorm of controversy with various industry, consumer, library and academic groups lining up on either side of the debate. Large software producers and information content providers tend to favor UCITA, claiming that it provides balanced protections for both software producers and consumers. Consumer groups worry that it displaces current consumer protection laws related to the sale of goods. Librarians and other concerned with information access contend that UCITA subverts the delicate balancing of rights achieved by traditional copyright law and will hinder the free expression and exchange of ideas. This annotated guide will provide links to major sources of UCITA information on the web.

UCITA History and Text

For a brief explanation of the ALI's decision to withdraw support for UCC Article 2B, see the Institute's web site. Further background may be obtained by using the search engine on the ALI's web site to find the term "2B". The University of Pennsylvania's Biddle Law Library's site contains the text of various drafts and commentaries of both UCC Article 2B and UCITA. The final version of UCITA, adopted in August 2000, is also available directly at the Biddle Law Library's site.

The text of the final enrolled version of House Bill 19, adopted in Maryland as "MUCITA" is available in rich text format on the Maryland Legislature's page. Similarly, the final text of Virginia Senate Bill 372, that state's adopted version of UCITA, is available on the Virginia General Assembly's web site.

Web Sites Discussing UCITA

One of the best sites outlining the arguments in favor of those supporting UCITA is UCITA Online, created and maintained by an attorney specializing in the high-tech area. In particular, that section of the State Legislator's Home Page portion of that web site provides links to the text of detailed defenses of the act written by its drafters. A related site contains an extensive list of links to online articles on UCC 2B and UCITA.

For an explanation of UCITA by the chair of its drafting committee, Carlyle C. Ring, see the August 30, 1999 edition of the National Law Journal, reprinted on the Hazel & Thomas law firm web site. The Business Software Alliance web site also contains articles strongly advocating the adoption of UCITA. The Information Technology Association of America, another strong UCITA supporter, provides a detailed PowerPoint presentation explaining and supporting the act on its web site.

While some software developer's groups support UCITA, others strongly oppose it. The The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which counts software and computer engineers among its membership, has issued a position paper opposing UCITA. Business and consumer software user groups also oppose UCITA. Major library groups including the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) also oppose UCITA.

Below is a table providing links to sites discussing UCITA and summarizing the information found on them.

WEB SITE SUMMARY
Extending UCITA To Printed Books? A SlashDot discussion about whether UCITA provisions might be applied to printed materials
UCITA Fact Sheet Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility site providing background on UCITA
UCITA Links Page Association for Research Libraries page providing a variety of letters and documents outlining UCITA opposition
Why We Must Fight UCITA Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) page explaining UCITA opposition
Click Here or Else ZDNet Smart Business article pointing out problems with UCITA
The UCITA Car Humorous look at what happens if UCITA is applied to automobiles
The UCITA Page InfoWorld page with links to articles about UCITA
SHARE Opposes UCITA Voluntary information technology user group outlines opposition to UCITA
UCITA Discussion List Provides instructions for joining UCITA discussion list
Berkeley Technology Law Journal Symposium Symposium issue with multiple articles on UCC 2B
Letter to FTC on UCITA Letter to FTC on behalf of library organizations pointing out problems with UCITA
IP Property Professors Letter Letter from numerous law professors to Maryland legislature opposing adoption of UCITA
ABA Working Group on Consumer Protection Letter to NCCUSL Letter drafted by two law professors (including University of Arizona Professor Jean Braucher) opposing UCITA on consumer protection
UCITA: Objections From The Consumer Perspective Article by University of Arizona law professor detailing problems with UCITA and outlining major myths about UCITA
The Gripe Line InfoWorld's Ed Foster reports on legislative activity in Maryland and Iowa

Future Activity

The UCITA Online site's "What's Happening to UCITA in the States" page provides up to date information on UCITA activity at the state legislative level. From November 6-20, 2000, the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy will offer an e-mail tutorial entitled UCITA:  A Critical Primer. On December 13, 2000, several library organizations including the ALA and AALL will sponsor "UCITA:  A Guide to Understanding and Action: A Satellite Teleconference."

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