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Tech Industry

AEA seeks support for Y2K bill

The high-tech trade group urges support for a bill that would allow businesses to share information on the Y2K bug and protect them from related litigation.

One of the largest high-tech trade groups is calling on President Clinton and congressional leaders to back legislation in Congress that would allow businesses to share information on the Year 2000 technology problem and protect them from litigation related to the issue.

The American Electronics Association called on the Clinton administration to support a bipartisan bill that would allow businesses to share information on the Year 2000 computer problem and protect them from antitrust lawsuits at the same time. The Year 2000 Disclosure Act would limit legal liability for companies that share information on fixing the massive software bug.

The act was authored by Representatives David Dreier (R-California) and Anna Eshoo (D-California).

"The Dreier-Eshoo bill is certainly a positive first step to encourage more disclosure and it should be passed this year," William Archey, president and CEO of the American Electronics Association, said in a statement. "In addition to this bill, however, AEA strongly believes that Congress must address the broader liability consequences of the Y2K problem as well. We have less than 500 days until the year 2000. In the time remaining, it is imperative that Congress consider legislation to address legitimate liability concerns so that Y2K problems can be rectified before time runs out."

Although the language in the Dreier-Eshoo bill is similar to legislation outlined by the White House earlier this summer, the two differ on one point. In the White House bill, information related to Year 2000 readiness is admissible in any litigation, meaning no protection is offered to encourage full and accurate disclosure of Y2K-related information. The Dreier-Eshoo legislation, however, says that information is not admissible in any Y2K civil litigation, providing a safe harbor for information to encourage full and accurate disclosure, the bill's backers claim.

American Electronics Association members said they are backing the Dreier-Eshoo bill because it encourages companies to exchange Y2K information without the fear of antitrust litigation. The American Electronics Association said it is committing itself to work at the federal and state levels that supports similar initiatives.

Along with this bill, there is another one related to the Y2K that was introduced last session, before summer recess. The other bill before Congress is partly based on the California proposal and looks to restrict most Year 2000 disputes to contract actions if defendants meet goals for avoiding Y2K failures. Such a bill would protect companies from having to pay out huge court awards for Year 2000-related problems.