The Senate Judiciary Committee today sent to the Senate a revised bill to shield industries from some litigation regarding their Year 2000 computer bug remediation efforts.
The legislation, S.2392, is meant to force businesses to disclose their plans to fix computer systems to be Year 2000 complaint.
The measure, approved by the Judiciary Committee by unanimous vote, came as a result of earlier testimony before a special Congressional panel on the Year 2000 issue, which revealed that there was a reluctance to share information for fear of litigation.
"We want to encourage organizations to be candid about the status of their Year 2000 efforts, and this bill will help them to communicate more openly about their Y2K readiness with the public and with each other, providing customers and business partners with useful information about the progress of efforts to battle the millennium bug," said John Koskinen, the chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, in a statement. "The bill will also encourage companies to provide the President's Council with assessment information on their progress."
What the bill would not do is protect companies from lawsuits for failures that may arise from Year 2000 problems. Nor does the bill remove liability for selling products or services that do not work.
The Y2K bug is rooted in the way dates are recorded and computed. For the past several decades, systems programmers have typically used two digits to represent the year in order to conserve memory. With this two-digit format, however, the year 2000 is indistinguishable from 1900, or 2001 from 1901.
The bill was crafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and ranking Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and was praised by colleagues on both sides of the isle.
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem and sponsor of S.2392, thanked Hatch and Leahy for their "resolute leadership and the uncompromising attention they have given this matter at a time when potential distractions abound. As leaders of the Judiciary Committee, they have recognized the necessity and utility of this legislation. Both committees have worked closely with John Koskinen, and the industry to ensure that S.2392 facilitates the exchange of accurate Y2K information needed by industry and in government."