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Lobbying Against UCITA: A Practical Guide 200

If you're a regular Slashdot reader, you've heard about UCITA by now. You have probably also gathered that many prominent spokespeople for the open source and free software communities, most notably Richard Stallman, don't like it. UCITA already passed in Virginia, but the governor hasn't yet signed it into law. Here in Maryland, where I live, UCITA is still under consideration. I'm working hard to block it, and I'm not alone. But this story is not as much about Virginia and Maryland as it is about the way UCITA is being "sold" to state legislatures all over the U.S. and how you can work effectively in your state to keep it from becoming the Law of the Land.

Let's start with Virginia. There, UCITA has been passed by the Legislature and is awaiting signature by Governor Jim Gilmore. But all is not yet lost. Skip Lockwood of 4cite.org says, "It is very important that the Governor, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate all hear from dissatisfied consumers. Virginia has really put the 'horse before the cart' with the passage of this law. Call, e-mail and fax so that legislators know what a mistake they have made." And UCITA isn't scheduled to go into force in Virginia until next year, so there may be time to undo the damage. It's worth a try, certainly, even though UCITA is backed heavily both by Microsoft and Virginia's own "star" online business, AOL.

In Maryland, UCITA is is by no means a done deal. As House Bill #19 and Senate Bill #142, it is still being considered by legislative committees. This means UCITA could conceivably still be stopped in Maryland even before it came to a vote, although the forces working to push it through are both mighty and well-financed. One state senator told me this was the first time he'd ever seen actual lobbyists from Microsoft, in person, in Annapolis (Maryland's state capital). Many highly-paid "local" lobbyists are also cruising the legislative halls, busily telling the politicians why UCITA is a must-pass piece of legislation.

But apparently the lobbyists and their masters never told Maryland legislators exactly what UCITA was all about. I called the offices of all 13 members of the House of Delegates who are co-sponsoring Maryland UCITA, House Bill 19, and not one of them or any of their staff members to whom I spoke could tell me honestly that they had read the whole thing. All most of them seem to have read was this synopsis:

Adopting the Maryland Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act; establishing provisions of law applicable to agreements to create, modify, transfer, or distribute computer software, computer data and databases, Internet and online information, and computer information and products; establishing provisions of law applicable to licensing of computer information; etc.

But the bill goes just a little bit beyond this. If you have time (it's about 85 printed pages), here's the entire UCITA text.

Quite a difference, eh? If you actually read all the way through the document, you now know more than most of the Maryland legislators who are tasked with deciding whether or not it should be made into law.

The way things work here in Maryland - and in many other states - is that the heaviest political leaders call lesser politicians to whose campaigns they have donated or for whom they have done other favors and say, "I'm sending you a bill I want passed." If the lesser politician knows what's good for him or her, he or she salutes and follows orders, especially on somthing like UCITA, which is not an issue most ordinary citizens either understand or care about.

In my opinion, the single most politically powerful elected official in the State of Maryland is Casper R. Taylor, Jr., speaker of the House of Delegates. He consistently has one of the largest campaign fund "war chests" in the state and freely shares lucre from it with other legislators who support him. Mr. Taylor has personally assured me that the large sums of money he solicits - and gets - from assorted industry groups and other big donors do not influence his votes or buy his support. (I did not laugh out loud when he said this only because I am a professional journalist and have developed the ability to listen to almost any kind of outrageous statement without showing emotion. Please don't try this at home.)

Wherever you live in the U.S. (or almost anywhere else) there is a primary power broker like Taylor, and it is this person upon whom the Microsofts and AOLs and the Business Software Alliance and the rest of the big-money crowd will concentrate their efforts (and lavish funds). But don't think that people like Taylor are evil. They usually aren't, down deep inside, and if they get enough reasonable citizen input that opposes the lobbyists' desires, they can often be persuaded to do the right thing.

Guys like Casper Taylor actually like hearing from citizens; if they weren't basically gregarious and outgoing they wouldn't have gone into politics in the first place. If you don't believe me, give Casper a friendly call. His office phone number is 410-841-3800. If you don't live in Maryland, consider this a practice call for the UCITA fight that is likely to take place in your state sometime in the next year or two.

There are several things to bear in mind when calling a politician to express your opinion. The first is that yelling and acting nutsy gets you nowhere. Be sane and have *real reasons* handy for your opinion - and no, "because Richard Stallman doesn't like it" is not a good reason, because RMS is not widely-known in political circles. You need facts like the ones on this page. The second is to make sure you don't just say "UCITA." You need to refer to the correct bill number, in this case House Bill 19. Even if you speak to the lowest of Casper's underlings, and they only give you the chance to say, "I just want to ask Speaker Taylor to please withdraw his support for House Bill 19 because it is bad for consumers and will inhibit open source software development," you have done a good and valuable thing. A hundred brief calls can be worth more than $1000 in Microsoft lobbying money even if you feel like you haven't done much or that you were barely listened to.

Note that I mention phone calls, not e-mail. Politicians are generally more receptive to calls than to e-mails. They also like faxes (Taylor's fax number is 410-841-1138), but e-mail is still valid, as long as you only send one or two polite ones to each elected official you want to reach. (If you want to use Casper for a practice e-mail, send it to casper_taylor@house.state.md.us.)

So we've contacted the most powerful guy. Fine. But there are other leaders who should also hear from you. In Maryland, in this case, some of the most important are Governor Parris Glendening, Senate President Mike Miller (to whom you should mention Senate Bill 142, not House Bill 19), and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. All of them have complete contact information on their Web pages, as do almost all public officials everywhere.

If you live in Maryland, besides these people, you'll want to contact the representatives from your district. Find them here. If you live in another state and want to find out if UCITA is about to become a burning issue there, check this page. And, no matter where you live in the U.S., here's a list of state and local government Web sites that can not only help you fight UCITA, but help you find out what your elected officials are up to in general, and who to contact if you have a beef or want to get something done.

Dealing with politics and politicians can often make you feel like you're pushing into a wall of warm fuzz, especially if you spend most of your time dealing with machine-style logic where each specific cause has a specific effect. And I don't know about you, but reading the lawyer jargon in which most proposed laws are written gives me a headache.

But if you and I and a bunch of other people don't take the trouble to go through this headache over UCITA and other legislative actions that directly affect our lives and livings, rest assured that Microsoft and the other companies and industry groups on "the other side" will keep slogging along, making sure their views get heard as loudly and strongly and often as possible.

And when your legislators hear from the industry groups and lobbyists over and over, and hear nothing from you, they will not only pass UCITA and other laws you don't like, but they'll be perfectly justified when they smugly say, afterwards, "Almost everyone I heard from about this matter was in favor of it!"

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Lobbying Against UCITA: A Practical Guide

Comments Filter:
  • Let's face facts; money talks, and has it's way.
  • by JohnMilton ( 136441 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:14AM (#1265917)
    Money DOES talk...but the whole reason politicians want money is to get re-elected. Most politicians will NOT vote for something when a large number of constituants call in opposing it, even when a large company like Microsoft is lobbying hard for it. It doesn't matter how much money they have if no one will vote for them.

    So, we not only have to call and write (I still think with policitians, real mail is much more effective than e-mail) but we have to VOTE. That's the single most important right we have, and people use it far too infrequently.

    Don't just call your state Senator and tell him/her you don't like this bill. Tell him/her that his support (or lack of ) on this bill will heavily influence how you vote. If enough people do this, that's the one thing that politicians will listen to more than money.
  • by 348 ( 124012 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:15AM (#1265918) Homepage
    It the legislature unfortunately it comes down to who has the most money behind the lobbyists. The lobby for whatever side has the ear of the lawmakers, they contribute via PAC's and soft money and the payback is that the legislators listen. The other side to this is, at least at the federal level, one constituent hour equals something like 100 lobby hours. This is one of the strongest ways to get a message out. With the Open Source community, we just can't compete with the big dollar lobby groups and PAC's, so getting in front of the legislators is one of the best avenues we have. Take a look at the Linux Advocacy guide to get the right flavor and tone for either a meeting, a phone call or a mail. It is very important to note that the lawmakers DO NOT respond well to Spam, flames or mail bombing. Please be clear, polite and most important direct and to the point with any written or verbal correspondence. Grass roots efforts like this do have equal muscle with the legislature if they are done properly.
  • Money most certainly does talk. Remember though that the amount of money owned by all a company'ss customers is substantially more than that owned by that company.

    Its just a matter of making a united stand.
  • I personally _really_ hope this doesn't get implemented in any significant fashion - thankfully I'm in the UK, but if it does become law in the US, other countries may use it as a model for similarly silly laws...

    I certainly hope not.

  • Hey, in most states this is an election year. An amazingly small amount of voters reasonably speaking/faxing/emailing/phoning against this legislation will probably be very effective, since most voters won't give a crap about UCITA.
  • ....in a world where most politicans are as corrupt as the decadent senators of the decaying roman empire?

    Money talks, and if you kill UCITA now, they'll just come up with another bill that's just as bad.

    All lobbyists should be shot on sight and corruption should be punisheable by public flogging... ;-(

  • If you don't fight you will certainly lose out to the money. If you fight, you might still lose - but you might win, too.

    The difference between slaves and free citizens is the willingness to fight. I am a free citizen, not a slave, so I will fight.

    People who don't bother to vote and don't bother to make their voices known on important issues have no right to complain when the government does things they don't like.

    - Robin 'roblimo' Miller
  • I mean, this whole UCITA deal. I'm too lazy to go through all that text, but it seems to me that this is all about commercial, closed-source software.
    Could someone please explain, what this means for opensource? I know this takes away a lot of customer rights, but I only see this as a good thing. Eventually, people will get tired of being 'slaves' of big corporations and are willing to turn to free software.
  • Perhaps [privatei.com], then maybe not [rjgeib.com].
  • well reasononed arguments here for using domocracy in a grown up way.
    Focussed lobbying is the way to go, and we should be using these methods whereever necessary, not spamming poor suckers who cant cope with the bandwidth.
  • I disagree. The Roman Senator; Incitatus cetainly had horse sense!
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:25AM (#1265929) Homepage
    face it - there's the iron triangle of business/lobbyists/legislators to deal with - when push comes to shove over personal freedoms/rights vs business and jobs, bb wins everytime because people need jobs and the last thing a politician wants is hordes of the unemployed marching on their office. Maybe when folks were self sufficient farmers who could support themselves, then human rights and freedoms were at the forefront but now that the democratic masses all depend on some business/employer for daily bread, that's the squeeky wheel what gets the funding and protective 'incubator' legislation. These guys just want to create a friendly climate where bazillionair software moguls can setup shop in their tax district too!
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:26AM (#1265930)
    These laws aren't just a case for worry in those states were they are being voted.

    If a state passes a law giving software companies big incentives, there will be a trend for those companies to move there. I don't know if this can be enforced in all cases, but most contracts specify a court where any legal disputes relating to that contract will be tried.

    This means that UCITA is relevant to citizens of Mexico, or Denmark, or Angola, or anywhere there is a person likely to buy software.

    Does anybody have an idea on how an out of state or a foreign citizen can bring pressure on those legislators?

  • Some slaves [hyperhistory.com] do fight back. Not that it got them very far.
  • Gee, I just can't imagine a legislative body of government passing legislation that is counter-productive!!!
    I have been writing code professionally for quite a few years now in the financial community, and the concept of a license agreement that basically say "if you install and something goes wrong, your just screwed" kills me. If my company attempted that, we would be out of business within two quarters.
    The fact that most software vendors (not just Microsoft) have license agreements like they do is a testiment to the fact that the typical computer user is so close to brain dead that it is scary.
  • It's about the U.S. Government trying to decide for you what sites you can and cannot look at (and using some pretty crappy software to do it). It's about a government that may say in the future "We have removed the Anarchists Cookbook [barnesandnoble.com] from all public library's since it has no useful information and may constitute a threat to national security." and the people will say in resounding unison "ok". We can't let this happen! I still want to live in a country, indeed a world, where the citizens (albeit a small portion) can tell the government to STFU and have them listen to us.


    Munky_v2
    "Warning: you are logged into reality as root..."
  • by carlos_benj ( 140796 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:32AM (#1265934) Journal
    "Virginia has really put the 'horse before the cart' with thepassage of this law.",

    Shouldn't somebody tell the spokesman quoted here that this is the proper configuration?

    carlos

  • Does anybody have an idea on how an out of state or a foreign citizen can bring pressure on those legislators? Have any of them been to France recently and used a mobile 'phone?
  • Especially since the Facist US government is going to try to force it down our throats with the helps of the WTO. ;-(

    Actually this is a good point (the WTO one, not the fascist one). The USofA are very powerful when it comes to software rules and we in Europe might have to fight the same stupid laws that our American friends are now fighting. We must be very careful.

  • All these stories of basic rights being worn away are fascinating, truly. But can someone explain whether they affect the rest of the world now, or will laws have to be implemented in our countries first?

    Being English, and having my government firmly lodged up America's arse, it's worrying. But no one has explained whether I'm paranoid, or will Jack Straw have to pass some more surreptitious laws before my free software gets me in trouble?

    And then there's other countries not completely dependant on America. Though I can't think of many offhand... Cuba, I suppose. Will we all have to go there for freedom?
  • Exactly.
    Vote, vote and vote.

    As messed up as 'the system' may be, it is still pretty functional. The problem is most people are so afraid, untrusting of it...that they dont even use it. And then it all spirals downward from there. The politicians think the people don't care so they do what they want, the people think the politicians are completely corrupt and on and on.

    Our government has problems, but our government is the people...and you need to be taking action if you want something to change.
  • by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:43AM (#1265940) Homepage Journal
    First, if you're one of the many adult Americans who doesn't bother to vote, you have no one to blame but yourself for letting corrupt politicians get into office and stay there. And even more important than voting is getting involved in party politics in between elections, which is where and when future candidates and policies are picked. So few people get involved at this level that your single voice can make a *huge* difference, and I mean a bigger difference than 100 lobbyists with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes... excuse me, I meant to say campaign contributions ... available to them.

    Second, you are absolutely right. "They" will keep coming up with Bad Things. It's a "political process," not a single "political project."

    Think software development. And think what would have happened with Linux if Linus had said, "We have kernel 1.0, so we're finished now."

    Now apply the same thinking to politics. Messing with politicians is not nearly as much fun or as rewarding as messing with software, but sometimes it's a necessary evil, especially if you want to go on messing with your computer without the government telling you how to do it.

    - Robin "free citizen" Miller
  • Taking away customer rights is NOT a good thing. I want open source software to succeed, but not if I have to lose some rights for it to happen.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:48AM (#1265942)
    I always think of a line from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest whenever I hear a "but what good will it do?" type answer/argument;

    "At least I tried, dammit, at least I tried."

    Roblimo is right - if people don't fight now, then they have little right to complain later if/when they get bitten by it.

    Also, don't forget that the rest of the world's software associations are more than likely going to be watching this with a great deal of interest. If it is widely adopted in the US, then the rest of the world's governments may well come under heavy pressure to follow suit. It may not just be your freedom that you fight for...

    Cheers,

    Tim
  • by Mr_Ceebs ( 60709 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:56AM (#1265944)
    Thank god for the sale of goods act and the high court in the UK.
    A couple of years ago the high court came to the conclusion that this sort of act would be illegal as it goes against the already established principles of fair trade. So if something like this act was bought up here the software companies would be most wary of taking it to court.

    In my opinion the best approach to fighting this type of act in the US would be to let them enact the powers contained in the act. the moment they take the first individuals software off their computer. or wreck the first persons business. then they have instantly provided the open source movement with a billion dollars of free tv advertising. all we have to do is let the news media in on the event and whatever large software company tries it gets ripped apart. you shut down a business and straight away youre facing a pile of angry voters who'll yell for repeal and the destruction of the copyright system for software.
    Whatever happens we win
  • by Prof_Dagoski ( 142697 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:56AM (#1265945) Homepage

    The reason that money has such a loud voice in American politics is that by and large the citizens do not particpate. Money and those who hold it simply fill a void. If you actually take the time to write well thought out and crafted letters, those make a big difference. Heck you might even get invited to be part of the offical's policy advisory group. Granted my rep in hte house is a lot more progressive than most. The cynicism of the American citizen kinda dooms the whole process. A lot of us look at the state of affairs and take it as a given, thus losing the fight before the battle is even engaged.

    You want to see an example of a successful grassroots campaign that did not have financial power? Look at the whole Christian politcal movement of the past two decades--Christian coalition etc... Love 'em or hate 'em you can't argue that they have been effective in pushing their policy. And, until the last half of the decade here, that haven't had all that much finanicial swing--and still don't compared to others. What they do is: 1) turn out to vote, and 2) communicate with their reps. And 3), they run for office. With or without money, the basic premise of American government, no matter which state you live in, is that the government is of the people, by the people and for the people. If the people don't participate, they don't get the government they want. So, look who's participating in government right now. Its the monied interests and the small organized groups with well defined objecttives. They're setting the policy the rest of us will live with.

  • by carlos_benj ( 140796 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @04:01AM (#1265947) Journal
    "I still think with policitians, real mail is much more effective than e-mail"

    The lawmakers I've spoken with are all pretty much in agreement. Although we may find e-mail a great tool, it is all but ignored by politicians. When e-mail is considered, staff members just tally up the for and the against numbers and your well written, carefully considered e-mail is reduced to the same value as, "It's a commie plot I tell ya!" In other words, e-mail ranks at the same level as an unscientific poll.

    Here's how the politicians I've talked with weigh constituent contacts (from least effective to most).

    1. Petitions, e-mails, form letters, polls (unless commissioned)

    2. Personal letters, phone calls and faxes. (Many consider personal letters slightly more effective than phone calls and faxes because they take more effort and stand a better chance of being evaluated as 'representative commentary' instead of tallied as a yea or nay)

    3. The number one attention grabber is a small group of well-spoken individuals paying a personal visit.

    carlos

  • I am a professional journalist

    Last week, I wouldn't have believed it, but now that Roblimo is using words like "lucre" I may have to change my mind.

    You go, girl!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This kind of HOW-TO is what we need more of on /. (and on Technocrat, for that matter). We need to be informed on the issues, but we also need to be informed on how to act together to affect political/business decisions.

    Thanks.
  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @04:07AM (#1265950) Homepage
    There, UCITA has been passed by the Legislature and is awaiting signature by Governor Jim Gilmore.

    Only the Legislature has passed the bill. The Senate is still reviewing it. You can find bills and amendments at this site [state.va.us] by searching for UCITA. The bill in the Senate has been referred to a committee which is to report back no later than December 1, 2000 (as of Valentine's Day). IANAL, but my understanding of Virginian law from reading the VA constitution is that both houses (the Legislature and the Senate) must pass the bill before it can become law, and they must always go through a committee before they can be voted on.

    This doesn't change the need for calm activism against UCITA, but the situation is not as dire as it appears to be. Please, please, check your facts before posting a story.
  • Have you considered getting Ed Foster on here to answer questions/offer an opinion?

    Mr. Foster has been fighting this battle over the UTICA for years. He can offer a unique presepctive on how to fight this.
  • Can people/organisations outside of the US have an impact on this? Are there organisations
    in Latin America or the EU that are working on this? Seems to me that once again we've
    got US political bodies attempting to control the rest of the world to the advantage of the US.
  • And even more important than voting is getting involved in party politics in between elections, which is where and when future candidates and policies are picked

    Well, there is a problem here. Democrats make me gag and Republicans make me throw up. Or maybe vice versa, depends which one I meet first :-( I kinda tend to be sympathetic to liberarians, but, to face the truth, politically they are just a bunch of guys playing with themselves. They have no political power and not likely to get any soon.

    Now, I am of two minds regarding the "work with the system to change the system" positions. I can see both situations where it is a reasonable thing to do, and where it turns out to be a sellout, pure and simple (and yes, I have friends who found themselves in both situations).

    So I am quite doubtful about the wisdom of getting actively involved with politics. Besides, politics do change a person for the worse. One of my friends spend a few years in Washington working inside the political machinery there. It did change him for the worse, noticeably.

    Kaa
  • I called my reps this morning, and found out that each county has a receptionist for the entire county's delegation (Montgomery County in my case), and this person will take your comments to EACH delegate with just one phone call.

    Delegate Cryor and Senator Roesser in particular have backgrounds in publishing/journalism and should be particularly receptive.
  • OK, I admit to not knowing everything involving the UCITA issue, but, from what I remember, sometime ago some politician/gov't employee mentioned that since most of the Internet passes through Fairfax, Virginia, they could press charges on anyone for violating Virginia law, even if he's in, say, Egypt.

    My question is this: If the governor of Virginia signs UCITA into law, could that same law be used to prosecute non-Virginians?

    btw, you have my permission to moderate this down for redundency if it is redundant.
  • Where are the major players. And with major players I do not mean the ones that lobby to support UCITA.

    What is Red Hat doing to raise awareness and fight this? VA Linux? Troll Tech? The Mozilla team? Anyone?

    You would think that any company relying on or dealing with open source would have some sort of statement on this. They must oppose this or they wouldn't be in this business. They must realize that this is bad for them, too.

    We should not only fight this by contacting our representatives [something I could not even do at the moment being a European citizen], but we should also ask or maybe demand from the major players in the community to take a stand. As user, customer *and* developer.

    So go ahead and ask the distributor of your favourite software packages or distribution for their statement. I did, and am eagerly waiting a reply.

  • <rant>
    I've been thinking about this for a while. For a long time, there have been foreign aid groups to help protect the dignity and rights of people in countries ruled by oppressive governments (viz. Albania, Chechnia (sp?), et cetera). Generally, this aid has come from the US, which has been traditionally considered the "bastion of justice and freedom in the civilised world".

    However, if this trend towards big-brotherism in the US (and other places) continues to reinforce itself, it may come to the point where people will need protection from the oppressive US government and corporations. Furthermore, I think the first group to feel this in their skins is the American hacker community - the thousands of very misunderstood, freedom-loving tech workers, CS researchers and independent programmers who live and work in the US. The way of life of these people is at high risk, and it may come to a point where the only way to protect them from the grip of Big Brother will be mass evacuation to a country without extradition treaties.

    Considering this, I propose the creation of Hacker Aid, a not-for-profit, privately funded NGO dedicated to the protection of the hacker class worldwide, by any means necessary. If the situation in the US (or in any other country) comes to the point described in the above paragraph, the members of Hacker Aid in other countries will organise the mass relocation of the oppressed hackers to other places in the world where they will be able to live and work freely. This may mean paying for the refugees' air fare, providing shelter and food, and helping them find jobs. In the extreme case that the US goes postal and decides to officially, once and for all, become the One World Government, Hacker Aid will be charged with the task of stopping them; and then we shall see if the corporate Powers That Be can stand up to a legion of techies.
    </rant>

    Comments, criticism and suggestions are welcome, and can be sent to the email above.

    (Notes: (1) I'm only half-joking, and will do my part if necessary; (2) as made painfully clear by my email address, I'm in Brazil.)
  • When I saw that people on slashdot were saying the UCITA had passed in Virginia, I got scared, so I checked it out myself. I work here in VA, and of course such a bill would have direct impact on my job... By the way: UCITA HAS NOT PASSED IN VIRGINIA. It has only passed the State Senate, and not in the House of Reps. (in case you don't know...it must pass both before actually law) Several RESOLUTIONS were passed to further study the effects of what UCITA will be on this great Commonwealth, and to not pass the bill completely, but to give findings of the study by December 1st. So there is still time to fight this bill. If you live in VA please get in contact with your senator and delegate NOW! To actually see the bill and resolutions: Click Here [state.va.us].
  • With a concise email concerning my objections to UCITA and a lengthy list of articles and sites on the net explaining how it will adversely affect consumers. Hope it helps.
  • At least, have the decency to wait a little bit longer between your messages, to keep it plausible.
  • It may be my lack of a legal background so bear with me here, but I think that it's safe to assume that Red Hat and any Linux Company/reseller will be packaging their bundles with a "shrink wrap" type licence with a line included to the effect that "use at your own risk". It's the "little guy" developer putting out the small bits of software taht will be getting screwed. According to the proposed law, if Nvidia puts out a driver for my new Geforce with a license they're off the hook. If I write my own, post it and it has ONE bug in it, I'm slapped with a liability suit. I am thinking that Red Hat and other companies that rely on the individual for contributions will loose ALL of their support if this law passes. I hope they realize this.
  • My understanding is that this really affects business in each of the states... the fact that it is a Uniform Act means that there are certain provisions that would need to apply to the whole country, once every state has passed a similar law... so right now, if VA does pass it completely, it cannot be used to prosocute non-VA people, just the businesses that are in VA working with anyone anywhere....
  • Perhaps I'm wrong but:

    Sourcecode isn't executable. You need to compile it. So, does this law only have effect on executables or also on sourcecode in particular? because if so, you can include in your source a popup screen that pops up when you start the compiled code and that is the actually shrinkwrap/clickwrap license overruler

    opensource that is distributed as executables, like RedHat's linux, can be protected with a shrinkwrap license, that only is effective on the EXECUTABLES, not on the source. The source is then protected by the thing mentioned above.

    Furthermore: perhaps it's a good thing for The US of A to think before they vote for a new president this year. As a European citizen I can only laugh how american's generally respond to open-door remarks by politicians. perhaps you all should do something about that too?
  • Note to all non-Americans: The rest of the world tends to follow USA in such things. If you live in EU and want to prevent this kind of madness there, *now* is the time to write your MEP and national legislature representative about it. I'm pretty sure the lobbyists of Micro$oft et al have already begun to work for a similar directive in the EU. Likewise elsewhere, write to or call your MP/senator/whatever. *Now*.
  • The very fact that this bill is being seriously considered despite the fact that it will significantly hurt the freedoms of anyone who's a consumer in the computer area(which is pretty much everyone these days), is just one more big black mark against the US' founding principles.

    The US prides itself on being many things, but at the top of anyones list would be Freedom, Justice, stuff like that. However, looking at the way things are going, Capitalism is by far the driving force here. Now capitalism isn't a horrible thing, infact, I think it works fairly well, but any state that would pass a set of laws like this is confused on how things should be.

    This country was not formed because the founding fathers wanted to be capitalists, they wanted a government that truely had the populace's best interests in mind. Over time, "best interests" has become equated with money. I like money as much as the next person, but these laws are going to only help already rich companies become even richer, at the expense of the populace.

    Fortunately, small pieces of this country's beginning still remain, we still have free speech and elected officials, so be sure to make your opinion heard.Enough voices may be able to lead our lawmakers out of the blinding storm of money and capitalism that corporations are attacking with.

  • This article is likely wrong on one point. As of last night, UCITA has not been passed by the Virginia Senate and insiders there give it very little chance of passage. It passed easily in the House of Delegates because they know it won't pass in the Senate and can look good to their corporate constituents by voting for it.

    Members of the Senate and the Governor all recognize that the bill is flawed and likely wouldn't withstand a court challenge. So if you want to affect the passage, pester the senators, not the governor. It's not his problem yet.
  • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @04:49AM (#1265967) Homepage
    I'm too lazy to go through all that text, but it seems to me that this is all about commercial, closed-source software. Could someone please explain, what this means for opensource?

    Actually, this is not about open or closed-source software at all. It's about making a distinction between shrink-wrapped distributed software and otherwise distributed software.

    It does not even change a lot for shrink-wrapped software: most EULA's already waiver all liability and have odd clauses. The damning part of the UCITA is that liability is default and without a shrink-wrapped distribution you cannot dismiss that liability and distribute "as is".

    Perhaps you should not be so lazy and read the text, or Richard M. Stallman's reaction [linuxtoday.com] to the UCITA.

    This will take away consumer *and* developer rights. And there will be no turning to free software because the UCITA could possibly make some of the foundations of the bazaar model or open source idealism impossible or illegal.

  • I feel like the most important member of the /. community today. I wrote emails to my governor
    and to my local representative stating that I feel that UCITA is wrong, and that they should review
    it carefully before making it law. Why don't more of you go out and do the same?
  • You have it backwards. It passed in the House of Delegates, but not in the Senate. It may actually end up dying in conference and never make it to a floor vote.
  • I have already emailed my Va state senator about UCITA, and am encouraging others to do the same. Personally, I don't see much hope for us opponents. HOWEVER, in the long run, we should be okay. Let's presume for a sec that a challenge to the law once passed makes it to the US Supreme Court. The supreme court, as it stands now, is a very cautious body. They are not inclined to use their decisions to set sweeping precendents. Even better, they are not inclined to accept sweeping legislation that is challenged as unconstitutional. Rememeber they struck down the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and the Communications Decency Act as well (same thing?? memory foggy). So, when UCITA inevitably comes before the supreme court, If the Court keeps to the same path, UCITA doesn't stand a chance. This Court has been tough on first-amendment infringements and is conservative in the best sense of the word. The fear is of course that the next president will get to appoint up to five new Justices, which could change everything. UCITA must be fought now if we are to be successful later in striking it down. (Clearly, I'm pretty sure it's gonna become law. The remarks earlier about lobbyists (AOfxxinL)are right on the mark.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @04:54AM (#1265971) Homepage
    "AOL grants to you a non-exclusive, limited license to use the Software, pursuant to the terms hereof, to connect to the Service only, and you may not modify, reverse-engineer, decompile, or disassemble the Software."

    "The laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, excluding its conflicts-of-law rules, govern the Agreement and your registration, and you expressly agree that exclusive jurisdiction for any claim or dispute arising from the use of the Service or Software resides in the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia."

    Rob wrote that UCITA is supported by, and I quote, "Virginia's own "star" online business, AOL."

    Thanks, Rob! I can't believe I didn't find out about this 'till now!

    According to the AOL Instant Messenger page, "45 Million People Can't Be Wrong." Looks to me like 45 Million People Are About To Be Wronged, and AOL is *lying* to their legislators to do it.

    Yep, you heard me. Lying. How much you wanna bet those lobbyists that AOL is paying all sorts of money to are mentioning any of the "pork"(the term isn't really applicable; pork refers to extra stuff slagged on, not the true intention of the bill masked in Happy E-Commerce Friendly Language) that this bill will implement?

    Lemme tell you something. The moment that the company that's about to buy Time Warner, A.K.A. one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world, exposes a significant portion of the populaiton of this country to tremendous, unnegotiated, and unconscionable breach of contract liability, and doesn't mention this to the legislators they've communicated with, AOL's got a huge local problem.

    Because lemme tell you something else: If UCITA passes in Virginia, I'm donating cash money to any party that promises to get it repealed. Remember Taxation without Representation? Pass a law without even going so far as to analyze the national implications of such a drastic overhaul of basic commerce law(which, incidentally, traces back long before the birth of this country), and this California geek is gonna Represent.

    It's simple, really: If Virginia is going to expose me to tremendous risk from any Virginian software I use, I'm going to boycott Virginian software. And I'm gonna start with AOL, because they're doing their damndest to get this passed.

    After all, why should I trust a company that's trying to make it illegal for me to complain about their service?

    You best not say how many times AOL net service broke down on you; that's a prohibited unauthorized benchmark. You talk, you walk--to another ISP because your AOL has just been terminated...better hope you can get DSL, by the way, because the AOL Road Runner cable modem service you depend upon is being terminating. They'll be sending you a bill, by the way, for that early termination of your service. Incidentally, don't expect to find anyone else able to give you cable modem service--isn't that convenient, AOL has all their lobbyists working on UCITA, and just took everyone away from that "Open Access" push. So, if you can't get DSL, better enjoy going back to 56K. Complain about service, will ya?

    You better not talk to anyone about privacy, or even look into it for that matter. If you start accessing a bunch of sports sites just to determine whether AOL is selling your browsing interests to outside companies to spam you...guess what, you're making an unauthorized attempt to reverse engineer propietary backend routing code, and your service is terminated and you're getting sued for breach of contract. I wonder what will cost more...your lawyers, or your flight to Virginia...

    But don't worry, you have nothing to worry about in terms of security, because they've already chilled any speech or research that might cause you to be scared that your AOL Instant Messenger might pose a risk to your home, your work, or your data. "Accidental buffer overflows that let anyone on the Internet take over your computer" hidden within AOL's software will be unheard of, because the force of Virginia's Expressly Agreed To Laws will make it Expressly Illegal to exercise electronic self-defense by making sure there's no time bomb ticking within your computer or the computers of millions of others.

    Heh, at least the next time Yahoo gets taken down, you can get the warm and fuzzy feeling that your box might have had something to do with it, but you don't have the right to find out.

    Any Self-Defense is just another one of those stupid little Magna Carta era common law things we can throw away. You know, kind of like "The product you're being sold should do what it says it does.", which UCITA also removes. It's the Thousands, folks. Who needs those crufty consumer protection truth in advertising lemon law product liability rules anyway?

    Boy, I'd really be worried about this UCITA thing if it didn't expose so many very large non-computer related corporations to so much financial risk, like the fact that they won't be able to get untainted evidence about which products to buy or even to pull their data out of a remotely disabled database(disabled, of course, because one of their employees breached dared breach the company's contract with the software supplier by stating that the present software solution was costing too much money for way too little speed)[ http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=00/02/14/22212 03&cid=201 ]. It's a good thing that companies throughout the country will be contributing to the campaign funds of opposition legislators throughout the country, because that's the mandate of their shareholders [ http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=00/02/14/22212 03&cid=192 ].

    For once, companies are screwed just as much as the average citizen is going to be. [ http://slashdot.org/yro/00/02/01/211222.shtml#36 ] So really, I have no reason to be concerned.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • at infoworld
    http://www.infoworld.com/ucita [infoworld.com]

    Almost like that great upstate NY city Utica, but I don't think people are protesting against them.

  • by rlkoppenhaver ( 101366 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @04:56AM (#1265973) Homepage
    Well, to sum up the "bad to OSS" side of things:
    1. UCITA makes the authors of software legally liable if it doesn't work right.
    2. Consumers can be forced to waive this right as part of a shrink use have shrink wrap licenses.
    See the problem?
  • I am thinking that Red Hat and other companies that rely on the individual for contributions will loose ALL of their support if this law passes. I hope they realize this.

    Which is exactly why they should care and why I wonder why they haven't shown any awareness yet. Red Hat and others rely on open source developers and therefore it's in their own best interest to help us fight the UCITA.

    If we are getting screwed, they will be too.

  • As it would stand if it becomes law, UCITA would not be usable to prosecute Non-Virginians. However, it is a bill regulating (hence "uniform") interstate trade. The very title means it's drafted with the intent of making it simple for other states to adopt, and, since sooooo many software companies are based here in Northern VA, the law would immediately apply to all transactions with those companies. Yeesh. Please correct if my interpretation of interstate commerce law is messy.
  • There is actually another way to defeat UCITA, although it's probably best for a back-up plan. UCITA expressly states that any Federal law which contradicts UCITA shall have precedence. (It doesn't really need to state this, since UCITA is a state law, and that's true anyways.)

    So if Congress passes something saying that the right to reverse engineer (for example) cannot be abrogated, then that bit of UCITA goes out the window.

    The only problem is getting Congress to do such a thing...
    Yeah, maybe you just better forget I mentioned this.

  • This idea, while grand would never work. This generation is a self-service generation. Look at the kevin-mitnick defense fund, or the DeCSS defense fund. Both had maybe 100bucks donated and that is it. Geeks, are loud and obnoxious about what we believe in but we dont do a damn thing. (NOTE: there are some that actually do and they will be CEO's/CIO's etc...) your fund idea will have probably $30.00 in it total with tens of thousands sounding a resounding "YES" online but are too damn lazy/cheap to send in 10 bucks.

    Rally the troops - we'll sit at our monitors and eat our chips and bitch about it... but that's all we'll do.
  • Not that I'm in any way trying to take away from Maryland/Virginia's problems, but I'd like to know if anyone has any information about any other states aside from Maryland and Virginia. My biggest problem with opposing these bills is not the actual actions necessary to oppose them, but finding out when my state's bill is coming up. Any suggestions as to where this information would be for the other 48 states?
  • Oh and windows has????

    It's true, we use Windows NT here because the PIII pc's here were way too dang fast.. we had to slow them down somehow.


  • I'd like to formally urge you to oppose the passage of
    House Bill 19, Entitled: Maryland Uniform Computer
    Information Transactions Act, casually known as UCITA.

    First and foremost, the bill is entirely unnecessary. The
    overwhelming majority of the protections offerred by this
    bill are already covered sufficiently under current
    copyright law.

    This bill serves no purpose but to make it harder for
    software consumers to seek retribution and due compensation
    from the purveyors of sub-standard software. Specifically,
    the explicit enforcability of "shrink-wrap" use licenses,
    whose restrictions are not even known until software is
    purchased, taken home, and the box opened. These licenses
    are usually printed in extremely small type, and are full
    of legal verbage the average consumer would have difficulty
    understanding. Assuming the consumer would take the time
    to read the license in the first place. Typically their
    content can be summed up in the sentence, "I waive all
    privileges of fair use of the software if I break the
    seal on the disc." Copyright law sufficiently protects
    the publisher of such works from piracy. There is no need
    to add the enforcability of such restrictions to the law.

    Also, the prohibitions on reverse-engineering are an
    affront to the entire computer industry. The burgeoning
    software empires today would never have existed had not
    Compaq engineers had the ability and legal right to
    reverse engineer the details of the original IBM PC.
    By being allowed the means to make similar machines for
    the purposes of interoperability, and doing so at a
    cheaper price, the "home PC" has turned into a real market.

    Many other consumer oriented groups, intellectual property
    lawyers, and media publishers have expressed disapproval of
    this bill. I can't come close to reproducing the totality
    of the complaints against this bill. However, I urge you
    to take a few minutes and scan some of the specific letters
    of disapproval from them, archived at the following address:

    http://www.nwu.org/pic/uccorgs.htm

    As a summary, the bill has obtained rejections by such
    diverse orgainizations as: 50 intellectual property law
    professors, Consumer Project on Technology Ralph Nader,
    Consumers Union, Motion Picture Association of America,
    National Cable Television Association, National Writers
    Union, Newspaper Association of America, Recording
    Industry Association of America, and the Software
    Engineering Institute hard copy letter on file.

    Sincerely,
  • You have one and only one vote.

    Suppose that, of the two or more candidates avaliable to you, the only one who is against UCITA is also against your beliefs regarding abortion, or gun control, or whatever else you feel strongly about.

    What will your vote be?

    That's why the "Christian" political movements are so successful. They stand with the issues about which people feel most strongly.

    I think it's time to reform democracy; this "representation" system became obsolete in the internet age.

    How about this: a representative has as many votes as were cast in his or her district in the election. The representative must cast all these votes in the same side on each issue voted in the assembly. But any voting citizen may go in person and cast a vote on any issue. Each vote cast by an individual citizen will be deducted from the total votes cast by the representative elected by that district.

    In that way, for example, if you are anti-UCITA, pro-abortion, and anti-gun control you can go and vote in exactly that way on each issue, even if your elected representative is anti-UCITA, anti-abortion, and pro-gun control. If you don't care too much about an issue, just let your representative vote for you, exactly as it is now.

  • Thank you all.
    I read Richard Stallman's "Why We Must Fight UCITA" and it (in addition of your answers) made things a lot clearer. Before that, I had a problem understanding how many things UCITA actually would affect.
  • Depends on whether you are using a compiled language or an interpreted language. C++ has to be compiled and run as separate steps, but scripting languages (perl, etc.) or database interface languages ([PL/]SQL, etc.) are fed to an interpreter which executes the commands directly.

    What this all means in the context of the UCITA, I have no idea...
  • Okay, so you find both of the big political parties repugnant and don't think the libertarians have a chance, so you're going to sit there and let the people you don't like go on running things.

    Maybe, just maybe *you* might change things for the better. Not much, just a little bit. But while you waffle and come up with reasons NOT to get involved, the people who make you gag and throw up are making the policies and laws under which you live.

    Y'know, if most of the smart and honest people in the U.S. opted out of politics, our country would end up with an inept, unresponsive government.

    If you think this has already happened, turn the situation around. What if a whole bunch of smart, computer-hip, honest people decided they *could* make a difference, and went to those off-season political caucuses and took over the party machinery?

    - Robin
  • According to this [washtech.com] article, the Virginia Senate has passed it unanimously.
  • IANAL, I couldn't decipher all that legal text, and RMS's speech is down. All I can find about this is wild accusations and no real explanations of EXACTLY what this bill is. I propose two things:
    1) Somebody explain this CLEARLY so I can understand it.
    2) somebody get it moderated to the top so people will read it and make posts that sound more grounded in reality.
  • My state senator's office responded to my email concerning UCITA as follows:

    "SB 372, as amended, passed the Senate today. If you have not seen the amendments, you can access them via http://leg1.state.va.us"

    The bill is not law yet. Both the state house and senate have to agree on a final form and study is continuing. It is not too late to halt this in Virginia. I plan on shifting to telephone and snail mail myself as it seems to make more of an impression **sigh**

    One question I have is this and I hope someone knows the answer: I was under the impression that UCITA was presented to the state legislatures where it was to be voted on, but could not be amended. Now it appears that the state senate has amended it. Does this mean that the state is modifying UCITA or that each state is determining how their courts are to interpret it?

  • Actually if you check the bills on the site referred to in the original article you'll find that both the house and senate have passed the bill - they're just under different numbers.

    The Tick - "Spoon!"
  • ... The difference with the Christian Coalition is that they've replaced monetarily purchased advertising with the efforts of the religious. Unfortunately, hordes of well-meaning religious leaders have gone along with them, advancing their platforms and making it a de facto sin (in the minds of many) to not vote for them. Many churches today mention "hot-button" issues in sermons and post or pass out candidate lists at the behest of this group. The weaker-minded among the faithful don't give it a second thought and honestly believe that God wants them to vote for Candidate Jones.

    Please don't get me wrong - I am not trying to be anti-religious here. Rather, I think religion can be a very good thing - a positive force in the lives of many. It's just that it saddens me greatly to see it perverted like this for political power. My more cycical side wants to say that maybe Karl Marx was right... I dearly hope it's wrong, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    bp

  • First, I live in MD. That out of the way here is how my call to the Speaker's office went;

    1) Real nice. And any question I asked was answered.

    2) I expressed; please do not allow this bill to pass because as a consumer the bill is not protecting me, I needed a lawyer when I go to Best Buy or CompUSA for software and that is not realistic.

    3)I should follow any e-mail with a regular mail (USPS-snail) as that is important.

    4) That sending the e-mail/regular mail letter to all sponsors and the chair is a good thing to do.

    I have been working on two kinds of letters, one is a consumer style and one is more tech. The consumer level letter I think is the best for e-mail/mail and the tech points letter (long) should be hand delivered. Tricky for me but I will try.

    I have some MD info at; RTF and TXT HB19 & SB142 [charm.net] and others. I am also indexing HB19 so the paragraphs are somewhat easier to find.

    -d

  • No, you have it backwards, there is no house of delegates..... follow the link I posted.
  • Okay, none of the above were really slaves in the most literal sense, but it shows that sometimes fighting back does work. Especially if you can make it look like the oppressors ARE oppressors.
  • Those links are in the story, including ones to pages that will help you find contact information for government officials in all U.S. States and territories.

    - Robin
  • The Maryland General Assembly is considerably more liberal than their counterparts in Virginia. What does this mean? Well, it can mean a lot of things; in this case, it means the opinion of the American Library Association [ala.org] (a member of 4cite [4cite.org]) probably carries more weight in Maryland.

    I don't know much about the Senate bill, but the sponsors of House Bill 19 [state.md.us] are the members of the House leadership. Few of them know much about the bill yet. There are a few exceptions: Delegate Sandy Rosenberg [aol.com] and Delegate Nancy Kopp [cpcug.org] are both members of the House leadership who did not sign on to the bill -- they apparently have some vague idea of some disconcerting going on.

    Bob Kopp
    (Yes, I am related to one of the above.)

  • My correction. After some searching, it looks like another bill was passed by the Senate just the other day, so maybe I need to further check some facts.

    Eh, well, I'm human. If I could, I'd moderate this down a bit. :)
  • READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE!!!

    If you follow the links and actually LOOK for the bill you'll find out that it HAS passed in both places. It is just under different bill numbers and is not easily locatable. If necessary I will find the link and post it here.

    The Tick - "Spoon!"
  • Again! It HAS Passed!
    See :
    HERE [slashdot.org]

    The Tick - "Spoon!"
  • The 4cite URL listed above (http://www.4cite.org/states.html [4cite.org]) lists the status of UCITA introduction in each state. A number of states (including New York, where I live) are listed as "Will not introduce".

    Does anyone know exactly what this means? In particular, how strong is the "will not"?

    -y

  • Very unfortunately, what you said is true. So what about this - we put up an online enrollment form, with a bunch of checkboxes, so that each geek will only have to do what he feels like doing to contribute to the cause. ("Are you willing to allow a refugee hacker from another country to sleep on your couch for an undetermined length of time? _ Yes _ No", "Are you willing to participate in a stealth mission to the tyrannical United States of America to rescue the subversive Richard Stallman from prison? _ Yes _ No", and so on.)
  • The above poster is correct!

    Roblimo, and other posters: Sorry, but just because someone reported it as passed, doesn't mean it passed.

    The UCITA has not passed the Virginia Senate yet

    Here go the links to back me up:

    This is VA's website to check the status of bills: http://leg1.state.va.us/001/bil.htm

    The senate version of the act was numbered SB372. People are getting confused because SB372E passed. What they are not seeing is that SB372E is not the same as SB372. SB372E has an amendment added to the bill which stops it from becoming law. (sneaky state senators).

    These are the amendments to SB372:

    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?001+am d+SB372AS

    If you scroll down to the bottom of the page and read the last amendment you see that what actually happened what this bill got sent to a subcomitee. It is expected to be in subcommitee until December. The Senate will not actually vote on it until after then.

    ROBLIMO: Please correct the wrong information in your article
    --
    Be insightful. If you can't be insightful, be informative.
    If you can't be informative, use my name

  • Please keep up with this type of coverage. For those of us that don't lobby full-time (because we aren't paid to) having a single resource (or at least pointers to them) for contacts and information is a great boon.

    --
  • Okay, so you find both of the big political parties repugnant and don't think the libertarians have a chance, so you're going to sit there and let the people you don't like go on running things.

    Yes.

    There are many things about this world that I don't like. The US political system is not the biggest of them. I happen to have a life and I am not willing to sacrifice it in order to "maybe, just maybe" being able to make a bit of a difference to the current political mess.

    If the situation significantly changes (for example the looking-less-ridiculous-by-the-day RMS prediction of debuggers becoming illegal), I might change my mind about this. Right now, however, I have more important things to do.

    Y'know, if most of the smart and honest people in the U.S. opted out of politics, our country would end up with an inept, unresponsive government.

    That already happend, it is a fact of current life in the US. And it is getting worse, since running for election means a pack of bloodthirsty hounds will rip through your private life trying to find dirt. Given the erosion of privacy we have, there will be a lot to rip through (for "normal", non-paranoid people anyway). I happen to think that this is a huge deterrent to smart and honest people entering politics.

    What if a whole bunch of smart, computer-hip, honest people decided they *could* make a difference, and went to those off-season political caucuses and took over the party machinery?

    You know, there is a recurring theme in mythology: a hero goes off to fight a bad evil dude who rules the county, defeats him and takes his place. In a very short time the hero turns into exactly the same monster he defeated, and the next hero is arising to battle him...

    It seems like a good metaphor to me.

    Kaa

  • "I feel like the most important member of the /. community today. I wrote emails to my governor
    and to my local representative stating that I feel that UCITA is wrong, and that they should review
    it carefully before making it law."

    Yes! And you are now important far beyond the /. community. Such a tiny percentage of Americans exercise their right to speak out and inform or even pressure our government into doing what we want that you are now now An Important Citizen!

    Realize that if I had written the above article in
    [insert favorite dictator-run country here] I'd be in jail by now, and your e-mail would probably have the nasties at *your* door by tomorrow.

    It took a bloody revolution to get us the right to redress our government. It's easy to forget that plenty of people *died* to give us the right to tell our government what to do.

    Never forget, for one second, that if you are an American, you are one of this country's owners, not a serf subject to the will of a king. But the flip side of freedom is that no one will make you stand up and be counted. You have to do it for yourself.

    Or, if you prefer, you can let Bill Gates and his hirelings do all the talking for you. It's your choice.

    I hereby bestow upon little_alfalfa the Official Slashdot Medal for Americanism, which has no monetary value but gives a great warm feeling inside.

    [Instrumental version of "America the Beautiful" plays in background. FADE from close shot of little_alfalfa's proud face to montage of revolutionary soldiers, amber waves of grain, purple mountains majesty, the twelve-stripe /. version of Old Glory waving, moms baking apple pie, etc. etc.)

    I think I read too many Heinlein books when I was growing up. Oh, well. ;-)

    - Robin

  • You have to use terms that these guys understand. They don't understand that if people can't write ``open source software'' or ``shareware'' that it's a bad thing.

    However, try this: Test their web pages and mail system. For instance, www.mdarchives.state.md.us (the archives of the state of Maryland) uses Apache. Ask them to ask their web gurus how much it would cost to switch WindowsNT/IIS in terms of labor cost and stuff. Tell them that over half of the web sites out there and over half of the email systems out there use open source products -- products that would have to be discontinued if this bill passes due to liability to the developers. Then tell them that the next time they open a product from a computer store -- something with a shrink-wrap license on it -- that it could be an empty box and they wouldn't have any legal recourse against the company.

    Use those scenarios, they will understand much better. They understand half of the companies in the US being inconvienience, they understand being able to be ripped off. They don't understand development models.

  • I'm a member of the Virginia Piedmont Technology Council [vptc.org], a group of tech business owners interested in making an impact on law and business methods in Central Virginia and Virginia as a whole. There's something like half a dozen other tech councils in the state.

    You'd think that an organization like the VPTC would be all about fighting a law like UCITA. Lots of small companies, like mine [munkandphyber.com], have no reason to be for UCITA. And the VPTC is made up primarily of small companies.

    But, nope. The VPTC has made no moves to oppose UCITA and, in fact, I've been told that the tech council is in favour of it. But no official stance has been made.

    Naturally, the other tech councils, from northern Virginia, are all for UCITA. (Their members include AOL [aol.com] & such.)

    So, why isn't VPTC yelling like crazy? Because it's a social game. Why would VPTC oppose a law that, in their (our?) eyes, will almost certainly pass? Then they'd alienate the other tech councils, and be looked down upon by them. Also, VA's Secretary of Technology [state.va.us] (the only position like it in the US) is all for UCITA, naturally, because he probably gets political donations for his party (read as: kickbacks), which primarily come from big companies like UUNet [uu.net] and AOL.

    So, yeah, it'll pass. Because only the consumers are willing to make a big deal about this. But the people that we have to make a big deal at just aren't interested in hearing about it.

    Yep, it's lame. And I intend to let the VPTC know about how I feel. (I'd be surprised if anybody on the board reads /.) But that's politics.

    Ugly, huh?
  • Someone commented a few days ago that people are taking information sources for granted... PLEASE take time to confirm your facts.

    According to the Virginia government website at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm [state.va.us], UCITA has been passed by the house, but after that was sent to the state senate where it is in committee as of 2/16/00.

    Status from http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi -bin/legp504.exe?001+sum+HB561 [state.va.us]

    02/15/00 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (95-Y 2-N 1-A)
    02/15/00 House: Communicated to Senate
    02/16/00 Senate: Received
    02/16/00 Senate: Constitutional reading dispensed
    02/16/00 Senate: Referred to Committee on General Laws

    Corresponding official sources for MD UCITA (House Bill 19, Senate Bill 142) are http://mlis.state.md.us/2000rs/bil lfile/HB0019.htm [state.md.us] and http://mlis.state.md.us/2000rs/bil lfile/sb0142.htm [state.md.us]
  • by teraflop user ( 58792 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @06:24AM (#1266036)
    How does UCITA affect active components in web pages?

    Consider, a Java or JavaScript program is downloaded to your computer, may be cached several times on your hard-drive, is loaded and executed. Furthermore, it may be stored and redistributed by proxies and web caches.

    So presumably such programs are considered public domain. Does UCITA create license conditions for public domain software? Does it force a warrenty on such software? If so, then you could be liable for a bug in your java applet, unless you want to claim that the fault was with the VM security.

    Plugins and ActiveX are even more problematic. I believe IE will download these automatically (but I haven't tried this), in which cases there is no opertunity to agree to a license.

    What about interpreted languages? Who is liable, the author of the interpreter or the author of the interpreted code?

    What about programs which use libraries?

    Despite not being a US citizen (and only rarely paying US taxes) I have relicensed all my scientific software so that its use is illegal if the `No Warrenty' clause is invalidated by local legislation. I've contacted MA and VA officials with this information.
  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @06:29AM (#1266039)

    The cynicism of the American citizen kinda dooms the whole process. A lot of us look at the state of affairs and take it as a given, thus losing the fight before the battle is even engaged.

    Thank you so much for writing this. I read the 'analysis' of how to oppose this bill, and couldn't believe my eyes. Much of this is just cynical posturing. "Deep down he isn't that evil"?!

    How do you hear about a good piece of software? By reading the source code in detail, or by reading a summary, listening to friends who tried it, and reading about it on mailing lists and newsgroups. And trying it out, of course. Well, a state legislator can't test legislation, and while many do read the bills, they are long and complicated-- and you don't have more than one or two people to answer the phone and help you handle the legal (not legislative) stuff. So you have to rely on people you have worked with and usually agree with, reading the summary, and checking with groups that you usually support.

    They want to hear from their constituents- as the article pointed out- but if you go in with the attitude that the guy is ignorant or a crook, you won't get anywhere. Especially since he is probably neither-- how much do YOU know about education, labor, healthcare, law enforcement, disaster relief, small business, taxes, housing, agriculture, zoning and development and the environment? Name three bills that aren't media-darling social issues if you still think there isn't a torrent of information to stay on top of. So give him the information he needs to do his job, in a form which he can quickly and easily digest and use (paper is better-- government computer connectivity is pretty weak). Treat him as an ally who is having the wool pulled over his eyes.

    Of course, if we were all voting regularly, volunteering in campaigns, and supporting our local candidates with our time, work, and specialist information, we wouldn't be in this situation. Your party should be having or have already had its precinct convention-- this isn't usually more than about 25 people who come together to help your party's candidates win. Don't have a party? Well, call up a county commissioner/freeholder/whatever, or your state rep/senator-- if you really mean it when you say you pick each on their personal merits, there is bound to be one of yours who you like. Offer to help them out. Not in exchange for some vote or something-- if they are your kind of guy, they will already be voting your way anyway. Help them to do what they are trying to do. Because without the help of volunteers, they won't be able to get anything done.

    Of course, it is much easier to say that they are all crooks, and to self-righteously turn your nose up at the whole process. It saves plenty of time, feels great, and marks you as sophisticated and media savvy. And, of course, wrong. Helping a party/candidate is hard work-- and takes up valuable role-playing time (I know my Werewolf game suffered from volunteering in a campaign). Compromising on some issues so that other things you want will happen is uncomfortable. Dealing with people you don't always agree with all the time isn't easy. And finally, feeling like you are getting nowhere because the other side always seems to have more votes/media attention/money/whatever is pretty terrible. But in a democracy, that is how you get things done. Big national political figures were once just like the local guy you are helping-- and who would you trust, some guy who wants something out of you, or someone who supported you before you were 'important' and who has been on your side for years?

    Sound a little like and Open Source project? It should, because it works exactly the same way. Your best bet for fighting UCITA is to do it with respect and courtesy-- remember, you are the public's ally. Don't demonize your opponents, just talk about the legislation.

  • By my quick count you've written three comments about how it'd be too much work to put in so much effort opposing UCITA.

    If all Slashdot readers put that much effort into opposing UCITA it'd sink like a rock.

    As long as you're making the effort, doesn't it make sense to put that effort into opposing things that bug you instead of complaining about them?
  • I agree. However if the government(s) get to them before us we will have to be able to retrieve the hackers from their custody. I propose forming a crack, hacker swat team, highly skilled, and in control of a huge Voltron-like robot capable of flying to the scene, launching an insurgency, rescuing oppressed hackers, and separating into independent robotic tigers in order to escape. Only with a team of elite, Voltron-piloting hackers will we be able to live free of corporate and governmental oppression. Actually south america would be a good base because of the availability of crack for the swat team.

    (Note: I'm only half-joking, and will do my part if necessary ;)

    Jazilla.org - the Java Mozilla [sourceforge.net]
  • We must have a damn good system in place. We can't even figure out whether a bill has actually been passed or not. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information. Why does one say it's been referred to a committee and another say it goes into effect months before the committee is due to report back?

  • I don't buy it. I can't see them passing this thing unanimously. I can see them referring it to a subcommitte unanimously though. It just seems to be the more likely story. Someone said that the bill that the senate passed had an "E" tacked onto the end of its number and that they added language to refer it to committee until December 1, 2000. Then someone else said that it was supposed to go into effect July 1, 2000. I'm not sure who's getting what information from where.

  • Hmmm.. ESR as Keith, RMS as Lance, Linus as Pidge... Debate will be open on AC as Hunk..

    But the real question is? Sven or Princess Allura? How about a BSD grrl, or would we have to swap Linus into Sven's roll and fill Pidge?

    My head is swimming!

    BTB, auditions for Princess Allura will bw held at my apartment, eight-ish. Dress is completly optional..
  • Consider, a Java or JavaScript program is downloaded to your computer, may be cached several times on your hard-drive, is loaded and executed. Furthermore, it may be stored and redistributed by proxies and web caches.

    So presumably such programs are considered public domain.

    False logic. It is generally taken to mean that implicit permission has been granted to distribute as necessary in order for the content to be used. It does not necessarily grant any other rights.

    By this same argument, all web pages are in the public domain; this is clearly false, and not a desirable state of being, unless you are a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with total control over the anarchy that would result.

    Copyrights are not a discrete entity, they are a constellation of entities that can be sliced, diced, and split as agreed to by the owners and those who would use the content.

    The rest of your post is mostly irrelevent (fortunately) as it is based on a false premise.

  • nah...we need something like the Symbionese Liberation Army [everything2.com].

    The "Hacker Liberation Army" I guess.

    Jazilla.org - the Java Mozilla [sourceforge.net]
  • People constantly bemoan the fact that their one vote can't possibly compete with the millions of dollars available to a PAC.

    What I see, though, is a whole bunch of new wealthy, under 35, disaffected geeks with serious stock options. Typically, they don't vote, because they believe its a waste of time.

    So hell, why don't we all kick in a couple grand of our millions to our own private slush/bribe fund? Screw voting.. can't we just pay off our representatives directly? How much could a "NO" vote possibly cost?

    Admit it, who here would pass up a chance to bribe their local politician on the side of good?
  • -Fact Number 1 [state.va.us]
    -Fact Number 2 [state.va.us]
    -Fact Number 3 [state.va.us]

    They have merely resolved to form a subcommittee to investigate it. And of course they would unanimously agree that this sort of law needs more research into its effects.

    "RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That a joint subcommittee be established to study the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act."

    In the last article [slashdot.org] someone had already pointed this out. Slashdotters aren't idiots. They don't take some article's word for it, they find out for yourself at the source [state.va.us]! Media isn't always right, I hate to say this- no matter how painfully obvious -but simply linking to a news site who says something does not mean it is true.

    I certainly do not expect the Slashdot authors to research every story, but atleast read score 4 or lower comments on an article before posting a follow-up.

    On another issue, Eastern states are generally more protective of its citizens than any other. Colonial states tend to be more fearful of government control; it is something that has stuck with us since the Revolutionary War's battle grounds stare us in the face everyday. For instance, in Virginia we have Magistrates who's sole purpose is to decide whether the police arrested you fairly and how much bail shall be. Magistrates are not even lawyers or policemen, they are ordinary citizens with "intellectual backgrounds". In California, their version is a policman who works for the police department. So you have the police checking the police...

    Of course, I'm not saying Virginia is perfect, nor is it close.
  • Sorry, but the information in the article is correct. There was a last-minute amendment tacked onto the Virigina Senate bill that allows it to take effect in July, 2001 "as is" unless the study group modifies it.

    - Robin
  • Yes, clearly you are right that there is an implicit license rather than no cpoyright. But that makes the rest of my questions *more* rather than less relevent, because the implicit license, even if it contains an implicit no-warrenty, will certainly be overridden by the UCITA warrenty provision.

    The only way I can see of getting out of this is to claim that if the program causes loss of data, the JVM is to blame. But that could only work for content which is supposed to work in a sandbox environment. Plugins and ActiveX are more problematic though.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford

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