Tech Industry

The new software controversy

newsmakers A proposal to enforce uniform treatment of software licensing has people up in arms. Proponents say the rules are long overdue; opponents say they open the door to shoddy software. How will you be affected?

Learn more about UCITA
newsmakers Who knew that software licensing would ever turn into such hotly contested territory?

A proposed law designed to streamline the way states treat software licensing has drawn fire from a number of parties, from librarians to chief information officers, software developers to consumer groups.

They believe that the proposal in question, the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA), favors the interests of corporations over consumers. What's more, they say, the measure would let software companies dictate settlement terms in conflicts and potentially slow the development of better software applications.

Laws, however, have not caught up to the PC era, according to the proposal's backers. The same litigation guidelines that apply to laundry machines, cars and televisions govern litigation over software. This is why the business software industry is backing UCITA, believing that it will modernize laws regarding commercial interstate transactions to make them specifically applicable to software.

Three years ago, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a legal body of hundreds of law professors, retired judges and attorneys, drafted this measure to update commercial laws. The battle, despite updates, has raged ever since.

CNET asked two experts with very different positions on UCITA to explain the benefits and drawbacks of the proposed law. Stephen Cross, director of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, believes that the statute is flawed. Joel Wolfson, who headed the UCITA committee at the Software and Information Industry Association, explains why he thinks the new law will bring about fair regulation to software licensing.

Click on the links below to read the viewpoints.

Pro: Why UCITA is a no-brainer
Attorney Joel Wolfson explains why the proposed legislation will bring laws governing the software industry into the 21st century.

Con: Why software users will lose
Carnegie Mellon University professor Stephen Cross says a green light for UCITA would result in a market flooded with low-quality software products.