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Uniform Law for Computer Info Transactions is Offered National Law Journal, August 30, 1999.

After more than 10 years of proposals, revisions and re-revisions, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) at long last voted to adopt the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) on July 29. Like its better known cousin, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), this act is intended to promote uniformity in the area of computer information transactions.

"What are computer information transactions?" you ask? Under the language of the model act, they would include any "commercial agreements to create, modify, transfer or distribute computer software, multimedia interactive products, computer data and databases [and] Internet and online information." Members of the NCCUSL have been concerned about the lack of clear, consistent rules governing such transactions in this rapidly expanding part of our national economy (which now accounts for more than a third of the nation's economic growth). Contracts for computer information may be valid in one state while not in others, or terms within such contracts may or may not be enforced, thus creating uncertainty and risk which both sides to such contracts would prefer to avoid.

Five basic themes underlie many of the provisions of the UCITA. They are the following:

Computer information transactions involve licenses, not sales.

Small companies play a more significant role in the computer information industry than many other industries.

Computer information transactions implicate fundamental free speech issues.

Freedom to contract and practical commercial context of the transactions are important.

The law should facilitate continued expansion of e-commerce and be technologically neutral.
Like the UCC, the UCITA will remain as a model act until it has been presented to each state's legislature and until it is adopted as part of the state's statutory law. That could be its biggest hurdle yet. Several well-funded information industry groups remain opposed to some of the terms contained in the model act's language. Many consumer advocates would also like to see more protection for consumers be added. Because these groups may have more sway over legislatures in some states than others, the result may be a uniform act that differs from state to state. Does that sound unusual? Its not—remember that UCITA's distant cousin, the UCC, also varies from state to state.

Write a 1-2 page paper answering the following questions:

Before the UCC and the UCITA, what was one of the first, and most significant, of the U.S. government's attempts to promote uniformity in commercial laws from state to state? (Hint: think of "commerce" and Constitution).

Based on the information presented above, what do you see as the major differences between Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code and UCITA?

What is the legal distinction between selling a product and licensing it?

Many of the provisions in the UCITA were first proposed as a modification to Article 2 of the UCC. Why do you think the drafters decided to propose it as a separate and distinct uniform act?

What are your thoughts about these questions? If you post your ideas, we'll be glad to discuss them with you.

  • Business Law -

    The Uniform Law for Computer Information Transactions (UCITA) and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) are compared. It also discusses the government's earlier attempts to promote uniformity in commercial laws from state to state. and why there was a need for two separate and distinct laws. It then explores the legal distinction between selling a product and licensing it. Supplemented with information on the two acts.

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