Re: Legal Question

Clark, Jeff (
Thu, 26 Apr 2001 05:54:54 -0700 (PDT)


UCITA is the Uniform Computer Information Act. It's a
form of contract law, which began life as an updating of
the commercial code but, when disagreement over its
drafting ensued, broke away and became a separate effort.
It is now undergoing an introduction and ratification
process in all the states.

Only two have enacted it so far--Maryland and Virginia. I
know VA has a few modifications, most beneficial to
libraries, but I'm not sure about MD. And a few states
have already introduced legislation to lock out the
introduction of UCITA altogether. About half the
attorneys-general are opposed to it. Right now, at least.

The idea behind UCITA is to create a uniform law to
benefit commerce in the realm of computer software
products. But it is so heavily weighted in the favor of
publishers and against consumers--including businesses
that consume software--that there's widespread opposition
to it in its present form.

Probably the most visible feature of UCITA is that
it makes shrinkwrap and click-through licenses valid. And
since DVDs are in fact a form of computer info, they
automatically come under its provisions. That means the
"home use only" provision on DVDs (like the one on
videotapes) would *literally* apply, no matter what
copyright law says. One other aspect of UCITA I'll
mention here is that though it deals with "computer
information", there is an option for other forms of
product to opt in under its provisions. That's why I say
our traditional videocassettes could come under its
umbrella, as well as books (and not just e-books).

Proponents of UCITA often argue that the direst nightmare
scenarios like these will never happen. And that UCITA
wouldn't override copyright law. But the case history for
the latter is not reassuring... and as for the former, if
producers' intentions are so pure that they wouldn't
alienate their consuming public, then why not formalize
into UCITA the provision that rights under copyright law,
especially for libraries, would override any
contrary specific provisions under UCITA normally
applicable to all consumers? We essentially tried that in
VA--and it didn't pass muster as an amendment. So we had
to settle for a milder version of some library rights
when acquiring computer products.

One of the major problems with the possibility of living
under an unaltered UCITA for those of us with media
libraries is the nature of our collections under present
marketing structures. Our educational suppliers, dealing
with us as their main market, would be unlikely to
institute unreasonable use restrictions under UCITA. But
product we buy that is more mass market or otherwise
specialized (all those business videos, etc.)--since
their main markets may lie elsewhere, there may be no
attempt to accomodate our own educational and public
service interests. These might have to be negotiated on a
case by case basis, at extra cost.

Right now, though, I have a pretty good feeling that
UCITA won't receive universal adoption without some major
changes by the time it runs the national gauntlet. And by
then, we'll probably end up with the kind of contract law
we should have had in the first place if there'd been
more compromise.

But I could be wrong, of course. ;)


On Wed, 25 Apr 2001 13:32:49 -0700 (PDT) Ben Achtenberg
<> wrote:

> I was hoping somebody else would ask this so I wouldn't have to display my
> ignorance, but...what's UCITA??????
> Ben Achtenberg / Fanlight Productions
> At 08:35 AM 4/25/2001 -0700, you wrote:
> ...That is, unless UCITA gets implemented in all the
> >states...

Jeff Clark
Media Resources (MSC 1701)
James Madison University
540-568-6770 (voice)
540-568-3405 (fax)