The "Shrinkwrap" Software Licensing Proposal:
Why Software Buyers and Developers Should Be Worried

Author and attorney Cem Kaner will discuss the status of a proposed software licensing law on Thursday, March 18, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the San Francisco Main Library's Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room.

The talk is sponsored by NetAction. Admission is free but seating is limited; please RSVP to audrie@netaction.org, or 415-775-8674. The Main Library is located at 100 Larkin Street, near the Civic Center BART/Muni station.

If enacted, the proposed changes in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) could exempt software purchases from traditional consumer protection laws, allow the software industry to dictate in advance the terms of software purchases by validating "shrinkwrap" licenses, and threaten the rights of software developers to make competing programs.

The proposal has been under development for about 10 years and is scheduled to be introduced into state legislatures in the fall of 1999. The complex bill runs well over 200 pages, and is written to cover all contracts involving the development, sale, licensing, maintenance, support, and documentation of software, and most other contracts involving information products.

The proposal is opposed or severely criticized by a wide range of organizations and associations, including the American Library Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology, Consumers Union, the Institute for Electrical & Electronic Engineering, the Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Newspaper Association of America, and the National Writers Union.

Kaner has participated in the drafting of the proposed Article 2B for the past three years as an advocate for the interests of software consumers, developers, and writers. He is the author of "Bad Software" and "Testing Computer Software," teaches software testing, and consults on technical and software development management issues.

NetAction is an Internet-based non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public, policymakers, and the media about technology policy, and to promoting use of technology for grassroots organizing, advocacy, and outreach. Background on the UCC 2B issue can be found on NetAction's web site at: http://www.netaction.org/notes/notes37.html and http://www.netaction.org/notes/notes38.html.