The Maryland Legislature has passed the most anti-consumer legislation in many years. It’s called UCITA, the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act, and it’s going to cause users of software and online services more woe than they can possible imagine.
UCITA is bad for businesses, too, as Ed Foster notes in this week’s Infoworld column.
The sheer greed and arrogance of the forces behind this outrageous law is stunning. Some of the proponents have actually had the gall to claim that the law actually strengthens customers’ rights overall, when it does precisely the opposite.
UCITA is just one more land grab by the people who own what’s known as “intellectual property” — a move to establish total rights for the owners and no rights for the users. This is happening in a variety of arenas, including copyright, trademark and patent law. The old balance, which gave the users of intellectual property some leverage in the process, is disappearing.
Won’t the marketplace take care of this? No, it won’t. Those who say markets fix everything ignore the fact that our economic system depends on the laws that protect as well as promote competition — including intellectual property laws. Consumer protection is part of the equation. It’s why we have a Securities and Exchange Commission, to prevent sleazy financial dealings that undermine confidence in markets.
By rewriting the laws to protect big companies on one side of transactions, leaving no power at all to the people on the other side, we are tilting things in a way that ultimately will ruin confidence in the fairness and efficiency of markets. In the end, the marketplace will be harmed by all these intellectual property land grabs. But the grabbers aren’t in the business of caring about the damage they cause.
4Cite, which stands for “For a Competitive Information and Technology Economy,” is an eloquent opponent of UCITA. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) created UCITA even after its supposed partner in uniform state laws, the American Law Institute, pulled out of UCITA in protest. Here’s NCCUSL’s Web site, which glosses over the anti-consumer provisions in its description of the statute.