Virginia passes controversial software licensing law

Power to the shrink-wrap

Virginia Governor James Gilmore (Republican) signed America's first comprehensive set of regulations governing electronic commerce into law Tuesday during an Internet summit at George Mason University. The Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) swiftly passed the Virginia General Assembly in spite of objections from consumer rights advocates. The law will not become effective until July 2001, pending further debate and possible amendment. "If there's any sense that things may not be quite right, there is plenty of time for people to come in under Virginia's approach and have a chance to do some amendments," Gilmore said. The Commonwealth plans to seat a committee to examine the issues raised by the law's opponents. One of Virginia's best-known e-commerce leaders, AOL Chairman Steve Case, was at the Governor's side at the signing. "UCITA provides clarity to contract law....which will make it easier for consumers and industries to conduct transactions via the Internet. This increase in electronic transactions will perpetuate the Internet revolution, promote e-commerce and foster the growth of Virginia's technology and manufacturing economies," the Governor said. Consumer groups warn that UCITA will give software companies controversial new power to disable their products if they believe the licensing agreement is being violated. Many expressed disappointment that buyers still won't always know the contents of a licensing agreement until after making a purchase. It might be to Virginia's advantage not to see the law adopted universally across the US. "If Virginia remains the only state that adopts this, then I believe that....would attract additional businesses into the Commonwealth," Gilmore observed slyly. ®

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