Licensing law may have national reach

In less than a month, a controversial software licensing measure will become

law for the first time, in Maryland. And it's an event with potential national

implications for all end-user organizations.

After Oct. 1, when Maryland's law takes effect, if information managers

aren't paying attention to the fine print when they buy shrink-wrapped software

or click "I accept" for online agreements, they may be committing their

organizations to contract terms based on Maryland's version of the Uniform

Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA).

Despite that potential, legal experts aren't expecting licensers, in

land-grab style, to begin citing Maryland law in their contracts. UCITA

is still new, complex and legally unsettled. Years of court challenges undoubtedly

lie ahead.

But vendors can still cite Maryland law as their "choice of law" in

a licensing contract, no matter where the vendor and licensee are located,

said Jean Braucher, a University of Arizona law professor and critic of

the measure. "The key point is, you don't need any connection with Maryland,

at least under UCITA," she said.

The Chicago-based National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State

Laws sent UCITA to legislatures of all U.S. states and territories for consideration

last year. It is intended to bring a consistent set of rules to licensing

agreements.

Stephanie Reel, chief information officer at Johns Hopkins University

in Baltimore, said her main concern with UCITA "is the ability of software

vendors to reach in and disable software that they believe is inappropriately

being managed or licensed."

Only Virginia and Maryland have adopted UCITA so far. Maryland has formed

a working group to study UCITA's implementation, and the group may recommend

amendments. Maryland formed the group, in part, to respond to the concerns

of critics that the legislation is flawed.

Virginia has delayed its implementation until July 2001, pending a study

by the state's legislative Joint Commission on Technology and Science.

Distributed by IDG News Service.

RELATED LINKS

"UCITA gets slight modification" [civic.com, Aug. 15, 2000] /civic/articles/2000/0814/web-2ucita-08-15-00.asp

"Gilmore signs UCITA" [civic.com, March 15, 2000] /civic/articles/2000/0313/web-1ucita-03-15-00.asp

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