UCITA backers offer changes to licensing law

Drafters of the controversial software licensing law, UCITA, approved a series of changes this week, including the removal of a...

Drafters of the controversial software licensing law, UCITA, approved a series of changes this week, including the removal of a contentious "self-help" provision that would allow vendors to disable software remotely.

The amendments to the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act were made by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) at its annual general meeting.

The group's efforts to push through the vendor-backed law have encountered strong opposition from a diverse coalition of corporations, consumer and library groups.

"This is a much more user-friendly act than it was before," said John McCabe, NCCUSL's legislative director. "There was a serious effort on the part of the [drafting] committee to deal with their complaints."

The group also amended the law to ensure that its provisions would be trumped by a state's consumer laws; make unenforceable any contract provision that prohibits criticism of a product; allow reverse engineering for interoperability; and protect open-source software from the terms of the act.

Critics remain unappeased. "We don't think these amendments do the trick, and we still think it's a flawed law," said Miriam Nisbet, legislative counsel at the American Law Association.

Indeed, critics point to an American Bar Association (ABA) committee review of the measure earlier this year that called it confusing and said the law should be reworked.

Those issues, as well as UCITA's shift of liability to vendors, will make software purchasing far more complicated, said Randy Roth, formerly purchasing director at Principal Financial Group and now a consultant at Corporate Contracts.

"It will make negotiating a contract much harder over time," he said.

The NCCUSL intends to submit the revised UCITA to the ABA for another review and many of the amendments are the result of input from the bar association committee. However, ABA backing is not critical, and UCITA's supporters intend to resume their legislative efforts next year.

Among those who have voiced complaints about the law are 32 state attorneys general, consumer groups and some large companies, including Boeing and Caterpillar.

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