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UK licence experts echo Ucita warning

David Bicknell


UK software licensing specialists have taken up the campaign to warn users of the threat to their licensing contracts posed by a new US law.

The Federation Against Software Theft (Fast) has echoed warnings from Computer Weekly 18 months ago that users should learn about the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (Ucita) proposals, before it is too late to influence the debate. Although the legislation is still being hotly debated in the US, it has already been adopted by the US State legislatures in Virginia and Maryland, with a proviso that the Act's implications have to be monitored.

The Act is already being opposed by a string of users in the US, led by the Society for Information Management, construction plant giant Caterpillar, and the US film industry's pressure group, the Motion Picture Association of America.

Fast's regional investigator, Laurie Westwood, last week warned that under the proposed Act, software contracts will become more enforceable because a licence to use software would allow the supplier to limit or control how licensees use software.

"Where a contract exists, the Act essentially gives the licensor freedom to access a person's hard drive to search for and disable any software being used unlawfully," said Westwood.

The Act's advocates claim it will facilitate computer information transactions in cyberspace, and clarify the law over licensing.

Ucita, for example, prevents licence transfers from one party to another without supplier approval, allows the suppliers to disclaim warranties, and makes shrink-wrap licensing terms more enforceable.

Fast warned companies purchasing software in the US to study the Act carefully in conjunction with any licence being drafted. "It is crucial that organisations in the UK are aware of the changing face of software licensing on the other side of the Atlantic," the organisation warned.


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