Users launch last-ditch fight against software laws



US IT directors have stepped up their campaign to thwart controversial software licensing laws that could give suppliers overwhelming power over...



US IT directors have stepped up their campaign to thwart controversial software licensing laws that could give suppliers overwhelming power over users.

The laws, known as the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), have been driven through despite users' protests. UCITA is championed by a coalition of suppliers led by the Software and Information Industry Association, a Washington-based pressure group that has insisted software licensing regulations need overhauling.

Legislators in Virginia are ready to vote on the proposals - which, if adopted, could see a string of suppliers adopting Virginia law as the basis for their licences.

Although other states would have to ratify the law, if it is passed in Virginia it would probably only be a matter of time before UK users of US-originated software have to comply with licensing rules based on UCITA.

Chief information officer at Reynolds Metals in Virginia, John Rudin, has now launched a last-ditch fight to prevent UCITA being passed against users' interests.

He has already won a concession that implementation of UCITA will be delayed until July 2001 after a study committee consisting of users and suppliers has reviewed the law.

One of the critical elements in the UCITA legislation gives suppliers the right to threaten disruption of users' systems through a software time-bomb if the two parties are at odds over software licensing costs.

UCITA backers say large companies should be able to negotiate separate deals with suppliers to protect and exclude clauses they do not want.

The backers add that the proposed Act offers uniformity and predictability when dealing with software licensing.

But users such as Principal Financial group in Iowa have insisted that their room for manoeuvre with companies such as Microsoft is limited, pointing out that, because of the software's common usage, "Microsoft basically owns our desktops".

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