Archive: October 1999 — Licensing and the law

Enterprise users have expressed their frustrations over the changes Microsoft, Oracle and others have made to software licensing programs, but in 1999 a controversial legislative plan was even scarier.


group of software giants in the United States banded together to create lobby aimed at passing the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA).

Its proponents called it “”a neutral and predictable legal framework for transactions in computer information”” that would govern all contracts for the development, sale, licensing, support and maintenance of computer software and clear up legal grey areas within state and federal regulations. Detractors feared it would eliminate liability from software vendors for damages their shrink-wrap software may inflict on a business — even if the vendor code was poorly constructed or not tested.

Despite some of the initial fears, time has been on users’ side, with only a few U.S. states, like Virginia and Maryland, passing UCITA-type laws, which they have been slow to amend. In Canada, the closest we’ve come is the Uniform Electronic Commerce Act, which has been legislated in Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Yukon since its adoption by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada in 1999.

That same month, North American PC manufacturers were recoiling over a European Union initiative The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program placed legal and financial responsibility on the producers of electronic and electrical goods throughout the life cycle of their products, from design to end-of-life.

That meant PC owners could have returned their obsolete equipment to the manufacturer. This would have also included any household appliances, cell phones, medical equipment and even toys that use electronics would also fall under the proposal’s requirements.

Environmental groups pushing the initiative said counter-lobbying from the IT industry weakened the legislation, but experts here said Canada has little to fear, even the availability of local landfills.

The issue of hardware disposal made headlines again last month when old servers from the Bank of Montreal were sold through a recycling program to a reseller who discovered they still contained customer data. The bank and everyone involved said they would review their processes.

The autumn launch of the 820 chipset from Intel hit a snag in 1999 when memory technology from Rambus, which Intel had championed for its “”Camino”” processors, developed a glitch that affected a slew of desktops.

PC makers scrambled to delay their plans to bring out new machines which included the faulty memory, which was discovered at Compaq in its production facility. The problem concerned a third Rambus slot on motherboards, which lost data as it was being transferred between the memory modules and the CPU. It took a while for new motherboards to be released, in part because of an earthquake which hit Taiwan, where many of the boards are manufactured.

Rambus’s fortunes continued to fall when Intel said it would end the subsidies that promoted the sales of Rambus-based Pentium 4 chips. Only a few days after, motherboard manufacturers in Taiwan fell in step, disclosing details around a slew of products based on the forthcoming “”Brookdale”” P4 processor that used SDRAM instead. The company has been embroiled in a series of legal battles ever since.

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