UCITA Shields Purveyors of Buggy Apps

By Rob Fixmer  |  Posted 2002-04-01 Print this article Print

When it comes to bad software, you will eat your lemons and like it, Bubba. At least you will if your company has the misfortune of being located in Maryland or Virginia, the only states so far to have enacted UCITA.

When it comes to bad software, you will eat your lemons and like it, Bubba. At least you will if your company has the misfortune of being located in Maryland or Virginia, the only states so far to have enacted UCITA.

In case youve missed all the buzz in the past two years, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act is a little gem of special interest palm-greasing that lets software makers off the hook if your company or its business is damaged, even destroyed, by their products. This is true even if the software vendor knew of the villainous defects at the time it sold you—excuse me, "licensed" you—its software.

UCITA is insanity, as this publication and myriad other newspapers and magazines have editorialized in the past two years. Clearly, as we become an increasingly networked, fly-by-wire culture that can no longer function without dependable software, it is hardly in our interest as a society to indemnify buggy code. In fact, as the National Academy of Sciences recently suggested in its report on cyber-security, legislators should be moving in exactly the opposite direction: We need a strong software lemon law. And we need it quickly.

To understand why, consider this argument put forth by the Software & Information Industry Association, a major proponent of UCITA: "Software is recognized as a product that cannot be made perfect and that it almost always will have bugs," goes the reasoning. And this presents a legal problem, the association concludes, because "the existence of bugs in software could violate the perfect tender requirement under Article 2" of the Uniform Commercial Code. So, the group explains, "UCITA eliminates the perfect tender rule and replaces it with a substantial conformance standard."

In other words, software companies products dont have to be good or dependable, they just have to be no buggier than most other software. This is clearly a recipe for disaster. If these guys and their brand of reasoning had triumphed over the last two decades, wed still be driving fuel-sucking, rollover death traps with exploding gas tanks. Sure, there are still lots of defects in todays cars, but auto safety legislation, lemon laws with teeth and the huge costs of resulting litigation have combined to make cars exponentially safer today than they were 30 years ago.

Software, on the other hand, just keeps getting buggier with each new release and every new feature. Its time for software users to make security and privacy their top priorities—and to dictate rigid standards of quality through a tough, uncompromising software lemon law.

Are you ready to sign on? Tell me at rob_fixmer@ziffdavis.com.



Rob joined Interactive Week from The New York Times, where he was the paper's technology news editor. Rob also was the founding editor of CyberTimes, The New York Times' technology news site on the Web. Under his guidance, the section grew from a one-man operation to an award-winning, full-time venture.

His earlier New York Times assignments were as national weekend editor, national backfield editor and national desk copy editor. Before joining The New York Times in 1992, Rob held key editorial positions at the Dallas Times Herald and The Madison (Wisc.) Capital Times.

A highly regarded technology journalist, he recently was appointed to the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism's board of visitors. Rob lectures yearly on new media at Columbia University's School of Journalism, and has made presentations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab and Princeton University's New Technologies Symposium.

In addition to overseeing all of Interactive Week's print and online coverage of interactive business and technology, his responsibilities include development of new sections and design elements to ensure that Interactive Week's coverage and presentation are at the forefront of a fast-paced and fast-changing industry.


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