Should there be consistent nationwide laws dealing with software, software licensing, and digital transactions? The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) is a group that creates recommendations for "uniform" laws that states can adopt so that certain legal issues are handled consistently from one state to another. There's a great deal of controversy over a nationwide model law they are reviewing now in Arizona, between the NCCUSL and states and consumer advocacy groups and software manufacturers.
An example of a model law from NCCUSL that works well and has been adopted in most, if not all states, is the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses from Without a State. A Delaware subpoena doesn't have the power to compel someone in Maryland to attend a criminal case in Delaware. Under the Uniform Act, a Delaware attorney would get a Maryland attorney to file in a Maryland Court a certification signed by a Delaware Judge that testimony from a Maryland resident was material to a case in Delaware. The certification would be accompanied by a request to have the Maryland resident come into the Maryland Court, and explain to a Maryland Judge why he or she shouldn't be compelled to go to Delaware and testify in the Delaware trial. The Maryland Judge can then order that the Maryland resident go to Delaware to testify. This model rule works well because it allows the states to work together, and it safeguards the citizens of each state by allowing a hearing within their own state.
The uniform model law that NCCUSL is looking at in Arizona this week, and trying to amend is the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). The proposed law originally came out three years ago, but most states, including Delaware haven't adopted it:
UCITA (pronounced you-see-ta) has met with fierce criticism since its introduction three years ago. Consumer groups, legal associations and library organizations have excoriated the proposed act for the freedom it would grant software makers to restrict the use of software and dictate the settlement terms for conflicts.A vote, possibly tomorrow, by the Commissioners will decide whether a number of amendments to the model law will be accepted by the organization. Regardless of whether the amendments are brought into UCITA or not, it will still be up to each state to decide if they want to take the model rule and make it part of their laws. Neither the software manufacturers nor the consumer groups appear to like the amendments, which were attempts at a compromise between them. Getting the states to accept them under that cloud of disagreement is asking a great deal.
About half of the U.S. state attorneys general have come out in opposition to the law, joining the Consumer Project on Technology, the Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation