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No. WP-00-06

Information Inequality: UCITA, Public Policy and Information Access

Eric T. Meyer

Center for Social Informatics
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405

1.0 Introduction and Theory

Although information inequality is often discussed under the terminology of “information poverty” (Katzman, 1974), the “Digital Divide” (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1998), or “haves and have-nots” (Wresch, 1996), I argue that these terms are too often used uncritically. When discussing the growing divide between the information haves and have-nots both on a national and a global scale, relatively few authors have tried to grapple with defining the real meaning of this concept regardless of their terminology. Rather than problematize the concept of information inequality, most authors have accepted the state of being information poor as a metaphorical correlate to economic poverty: they see it as a transituational  condition that must be alleviated if the poor are to be participants in the Information Society. I propose, however, that in order better to understand the subtle nuances of information inequality, it is necessary to take a more theory-driven empirical perspective.

I propose a theory of information inequality that has several key points. First, individual actors are all simultaneously information rich and poor about a variety of topics, and this appears as an emergent problem in situational contexts. Second, social constraints operate in a dynamic social environment and create fluid, ever-changing situational contexts. Finally, the real effect on individual actors of information inequality is only measurable when the need for information is contextualized.

Let me explain each of these three points, and then we will look at a case study to apply this theory.  First, as actors in the social sphere, we are all simultaneously information rich and poor about a variety of topics, and this appears as an emergent problem in situational contexts. Take, for instance, a librarian. The well-trained librarian with access to computers, networks, and databases would not be considered to be information poor by most, and in most contexts, this view would be accurate. Add a detail now. Below I will discuss UCITA in detail, but for now let it suffice that one element that concerns librarians is the provision strengthening the enforceability of shrink-wrap licenses. Now this same librarian has a new element that may not be within a well-understood sphere. Understanding the fine print in the license, understanding the legal implications of “accepting” the license, and understanding the nature of any technological protection measures placed on the software would be difficult for any one person. In this new, emergent context, I argue that this librarian is on the losing end of information inequality.

Second, social constraints operate in a dynamic social environment and create fluid, ever-changing situational contexts. The most obvious current example of this is the Internet. Limited to use by a few academics and government bodies until the late 1980s, the Internet’s rapid growth and ubiquitous spread across the cultural landscape have altered the social environment in the United States and elsewhere. With the 1991 introduction of the World Wide Web protocol, which became the dominant protocol on the Internet in terms of traffic by 1995 (Zakon, 1999), the Internet has become a major player in our social discourse. Today, access to “free” information is unprecedented, with everything from CNN to streaming video of a grandchild’s piano recital available for easy access.  Does this mean that the Internet is free of social constraints? Of course not.  The price of admission is still a computer and an ISP account, or at the very least a means of transportation to a public library with public access internet computers.  In addition, since putting information up on the Web is by no means universal, your ability to access any given set of information is still unpredictable. For example, if you are lucky enough to have access to a computer and your state government has made forms available on the Web, you can save yourself a trip to a government office that would have been required ten years ago. This alters the context of the social constraints placed on your actions. In this example, if you are not able to drive but can afford a computer and internet access, your ability to use government services is enhanced over what your available options would have been ten years ago.

One aspect of the Internet to note in this context of this paper is that those attempting “analyses of law and policy have found it remarkably hard to fit familiar models to the Internet” (Agre, 1997). This is clearly one of the continuing tensions of the Information Age (Schement & Curtis, 1995). With attempts such as UCITA (1999), UETA (Uniform Electronic Transactions Act) (1999), the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998), the Communications Decency Act (1996), and other recent public policy attempts to regulate the digital landscape, it will be interesting to watch how the law struggles to deal with this new, widespread technology.

The third element of this theory is that the real effect on individual actors of information inequality is only measurable when the need for information is contextualized. The value of information is not constant, but becomes valuable only at particular junctures, or windows of opportunity. It is at these junctures that one’s relative information wealth becomes an important factor in personal, social, and/or economic terms. At these opportunity points, one must be able to make use of the information available, or the opportunity will still be missed regardless of one’s rich access to information. An example of this is the experience of many new faculty members in their first jobs. As graduate students, most of them would have been safely ensconced at leading research universities.  During that time, they would have had access to large library collections, frequent collegial interactions with others in their field, and ready sources of scholarly feedback in the personages of their faculty advisors. However, many of these recent graduate students will find themselves not at similarly equipped universities, but at much smaller campuses. As new faculty members seeking tenure, they will have high expectations of research and scholarly output placed on them at all but the least prestigious campuses (and even then may feel personal pressure to publish as a ticket into a more compatible setting). At the same time, however, these new faculty members find themselves cut loose from many of their former resources without a suitable replacement in their new setting. Their libraries may be inadequate or out-of-date in their field, they may have few or no colleagues with similar interests, and they may find it difficult to maintain strong professional networks with limited travel time and budgets to attend conferences.

Set firmly in this context of high expectations with low resources, we can now posit measurable attributes of this population and begin to build hypotheses. In this population, do publication rates and university type co-vary? For faculty who switch from one type of institution to another, do their publication rates increase/decrease concomitantly? In interviews with such faculty, do they identify resources as a factor, or other factors such as external pressures from administration? Does the availability of technologies that increase access to resources (such as e-mail, the Internet, online databases, CD-ROM collections, and pre-print servers) increase scholarly output among faculty members at institutions with fewer academic resources ? By identifying measurable variables that can either be quantified or clearly operationalized qualitatively, the theory, unlike many others, is actually testable.

To understand this theory, one must not think in terms of static situations, but must view individual actors, information, and opportunities as a series of streams flowing through time . Each stream operates individually from (but not independently of) the others. The lack of independence creates interactions that result in windows of opportunity opening and closing. When an actor’s stream intersects an available opportunity, or conversely a blocked opportunity, they are faced with a decision point. It is at this point that the information stream becomes critically important.
The following case study will discuss a recent public policy decision that I will then analyze from the point of view of several different interested parties using information inequality theory.  In doing so, I hope to illustrate the adaptability of this theory to various issues.

2.0 Case Study: Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA)

The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) is a recent public policy decision that has potential impacts on information inequality in a variety of contexts. UCITA is a very broad based effort to unify contract law as it applies to computer software, a task that proponents argue is long overdue in an economy based increasingly on information exchanges. Many critics, however, contend that UCITA will place unnecessary limits on the use of information in the public sphere.

2.1 Background

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) was founded in 1892 as an organization of lawyers, judges and law professors appointed by the various states in the U.S. Their goal is to promulgate acts and model laws dealing with issues on the state level that will benefit from uniformity from state to state. The idea is that with uniformity from state to state, businesses, governments, lawyers and consumers would be able to have inter-state dealings without the uncertainty of differing rules (NCCUSL, 1999c).

NCCUSL originally promulgated the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in 1952 as an attempt to create uniformity in commercial law throughout the United States, although its predecessors date from much earlier. Since there is no provision to enact contract law at the federal level beyond those regulated by Congress in the name of interstate commerce, codes such as the UCC must be adopted by each state legislature before becoming law in that jurisdiction (Kunze, 1997). The UCC has been credited with creating substantial uniformity of commercial law. The UCC has been enacted in whole or in part in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico (NCCUSL, 1999a). One tension in the field of law, however, is that law has always been a slow-moving field marked by conservatism that finds itself operating in a fast-moving and fast-changing world. Certainly there was no way to predict in 1952 that by the end of the century there would be an economically powerful software industry and vast amounts of interstate traffic in electronic information exchanges. The original UCC focused on the sale of tangible goods, a realistic target for the goods-based economy of the 1950s, but was not able to address many of the elements of a service-based economy where there is the transfer of intangible goods (Kunze, 1997), and where the courts have questioned whether software is “goods,” the results have been inconsistent.

In response to the perceived growing inability of existing laws to adequately deal with protecting electronic information exchanges (Brennan & Barber, 1999), the NCCUSL began a process in the late 1980's to add a new section to the UCC to be called Article 2B. Article 2B would address the gaps in contract law in relation to information technology by providing consistent rules for computer information transactions on the Internet and elsewhere (NCCUSL, 1999b). How UCC Article 2B evolved into UCITA is interesting and illustrates some of the fears consumers and librarians have for this code. In order for UCC articles to be adopted, they must be approved jointly by the NCCUSL and the American Law Institute (ALI). NCCUSL must have readings of proposed articles read at two annual conferences, and both NCCUSL and ALI must vote on the final text at their annual meetings. In April 1999, however, ALI and NCCUSL announced that the new code dealing with uniform computer information transactions would not be added to the UCC, but would be promulgated as a stand-alone act of the NCCUSL. This is significant since it removed the ALI from the process altogether, a body that appeared at the time less likely to ratify 2B due to fundamental differences over the goals of the act (Crews, 1999). The new act, now called UCITA, was promulgated by the NCCUSL in July 1999 and sent to the states for consideration and adoption  (UCITA, 1999).

One important aspect of UCITA is that it creates “default rules” that apply only if the contracting parties do not agree to different terms. In other words, it is not like a regulation that cannot be opted out of (e.g., a employee cannot contractually give up their right to be protected by safety regulations, nor can a company contractually exempt their transactions from consumer protection laws). UCITA provides a background set of defaults that can be changed by the parties entering into a contract. However, in the case of computer software and information, the only party that can realistically decide whether to opt in or out of UCITA is the licensor. Except in the instance of a large company negotiating expensive site licenses, most consumers of computer information find themselves facing a “take it or leave it” license. If an individual purchaser does not agree to the terms of the Microsoft shrink-wrap agreement, their only realistic recourse is not to purchase the software. If they attempted to approach Microsoft to propose alternative licensing terms, Microsoft would have no realistic reason to give this any consideration.

Many of the major criticisms of UCITA revolve around issues that illustrate what some feel is the strong bias in favor of the software industry at the expense of consumers (Reichman & Franklin, 1998). One key example is the enforcement of mass-market “shrink-wrap” and “click-on” licenses is strengthened. The license, as discussed above, is generally a unilateral non-negotiated license (Founds, 1999) and there is some fear that UCITA will allow software publishers to include provisions that weaken copyright law and that waive other public rights (Crews, 1999; Founds, 1999). Without UCITA, the provisions of the license agreements have generally been found to be unenforceable  (Oakley, 1998), although cases such as ProCD (1996) have enforced the contract.

Most judicial opinions have refused to enforce shrink-wrap licenses because consumers have not meaningfully assented to the terms. They have regarded a contract of sale as having taken place at the time the consumer put down cash or a credit card and the store rang up the sale. The so-called 'license' in the box, they have said, may be a proposal to modify the nature of the transaction or add new terms, but the consumer must separately agree to the revised contract and typically she hasn't done so (Samuelson, 1998).

Another example of the perceived pro-software publisher bias in UCITA is § 102(a)(20), which defines ‘contractual use term’ as “an enforceable term that defines or limits the use, disclosure of, or access to licensed information or informational rights, including a term that defines the scope of a license” (emphasis added). By making non-disclosure terms enforceable, the ability to even make comparative information available about software is potentially limited. Kaner (1999a) cites an example from McAfee Virus Scan’s mass-market license that includes terms that prevent disclosure of results of any benchmark test without McAfee’s prior approval, and also prohibit published reviews of the product without prior approval.  Kaner argues that preventing the free flow of information by making such terms enforceable will have a “chilling effect on free criticism of mass-market products” ( 9). By limiting the ability of third parties to offer commentary and criticism, we run the risk of forcing consumers to rely solely on marketing information when making adoption decisions. Combine this with concerns that UCITA makes it too easy for software publishers to avoid any responsibility for defective software (Bernstein et. al., 1999; Simons, 1999), and it becomes clear that under UCITA unscrupulous software publishers would be able to circumvent many consumer protections.

2.2 Issues for Libraries

One of the sets of interested parties regarding UCITA is the library community. The American Libraries Association (ALA) has expressed strong concerns about the passage of UCITA and has vowed to work against its adoption at the state level (ALA, 1999; Albanese et. al., 1999). A joint letter on behalf of the Association of Research Libraries, the Special Libraries Association, the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, and their 75 thousand combined members indicated their concern with the “serious deficiencies” in Article 2B (later UCITA) (Webster, et. al., 1998). Webster (1999) identifies several key areas of concern to libraries. First, UCITA presents an overly simplistic view of the information marketplace, polarizing potential contractual interests into either licensees (consumers) or licensors (merchants). Although this may seem natural in a commercial setting, it fails to recognize the role of libraries as intermediaries in information exchanges. Since libraries act as both information consumers and as information providers, their position is ambiguous. Moreover, libraries have historically filled a unique niche, both in practice and in the law. For example, we will see below that libraries are legally allowed to use and copy copyrighted materials in ways that would not be allowed for a commercial enterprise.

Secondly, libraries, like most users, have grown accustomed to not reading or worrying too much about the voluminous small print in the license agreements attached to their acquisitions of computer software. Most public libraries include educational CD-ROMs and other computer software in their collections and make these programs available for lending, even when shrink-wrap licenses specifically tie the program to one individual purchaser. Libraries operate under the “fair use” doctrine included in copyright law that allows use of copyrighted material without permission under certain circumstances. When Congress created the fair use provisions, they “deliberately created an ambiguous statute with no exact parameters--fair use depends on the circumstances of each case” (Crews, 1992). Since interpreting what constitutes fair use has been largely left up to libraries themselves, many libraries have adopted policies that allow them to serve their public role as information mediators without becoming software pirates.

The First Sale doctrine of the Copyright Act is of utmost importance to libraries (Oakley, 1998). It is the provision that allows libraries to lend out copies of items it has purchased for its collection. UCITA § 503(2) allows mass-market license provisions to prevent such transfers of interest: “…a term prohibiting transfer of a party’s contractual interest is enforceable…”. Without UCITA, libraries freely distribute computer software that serves the informational needs of their communities. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any library would loan out CD-ROMs with the installation software for Microsoft Office. Since the CD-ROM is only necessary for installation and the program then runs on the computer on which it was installed, few librarians would argue that circulating this material falls under the First Sale doctrine. On the other hand, the CD-ROMs for the Illustrated Human, the World Book Encyclopedia, or Myst may install some small portion of the program on the user's hard drive, but to run the program it is still necessary to have the CD-ROM in the drive to access the large image, video and animation files. In this case, libraries have felt safe allowing patrons to check this software out of the library, use it for a period of time, and then return it for another patron to use. Since the first patron no longer has the media, they will no longer be able to use the program.

While UCITA § 503(2) allows terms that limit transfer of interest, § 503(4) specifies that terms that prohibit such transfers must have terms that are “conspicuous”. In other words, if the software publisher includes “conspicuous” terms prohibiting transfer, the library could not lend the material or sell an outdated version at the library book sale. Lessig (1998) argues allowing contractual terms to be considered “conspicuous” requires little more than a second click-on box asking, “Are you sure?”. In the law, however

It has long been a principle of commercial law that contract provisions – especially those in a standard contract – that are surprising to a reasonable person are not binding unless they are brought to the signer's attention…letting people rely on what's reasonable and focus only on what's different…Article 2B reverses this presumption. If it passes, the consumer is bound by the terms of the contract (subject to a rare finding of unconscionability) so long as the consumer had an opportunity to discover the surprising provision. This means before you "sign" a software contract by clicking on "I agree" in the installation routine, you'll have to page through unintelligible legalese to make sure there's not a rat hiding somewhere (Lessig, 1998).
With UCITA the question may become much more thorny than in the past. If the shrink-wrap license is enforceable upon the licensee (in this case, the library that purchased the software), and the license grants non-transferable rights for use on only one machine, the library may find that they are not able to provide this service for patrons. Of equal importance is the added administration that would be necessary for libraries to identify, interpret and track license terms for computer information in their collections. Webster (1999) argues that UCITA will cost libraries money that they may not be able to afford. “Increased licensing means that more time will be needed to educate library staff, to negotiate licenses, to track use of materials, and to investigate the status of materials donated to libraries. The approach and terms of UCITA challenge the very core of these fundamental activities of libraries” (Webster, 1999: 2) .

Interestingly, one of the issues over which ALI and NCCUSL were divided that resulted in Article 2B being transformed into UCITA involved libraries and copyright. At the 1998 annual meeting of the ALI, the question was raised of whether copyright owners could use the mechanism of a contract to change the balance of rights currently codified in the Copyright Act. After debating the issue, the ALI passed a motion that would have voided contract terms that were inconsistent with copyright law. When the same issue came before the NCCUSL, the result was a request to the ALI to reconsider and drop this provision (Oakley, 1998).

Oakley (1998) argues that with strongly enforceable software licenses that are not necessarily subordinate to existing copyright law, librarians may inadvertently sign away their rights including fair use rights, interlibrary lending rights, preservation rights, and other rights of copyright law. In the discussion section below, I will analyze these issues from the perspective of information inequality theory.

2.3 Issues for Software Developers and the Open Source Movement

So far, much of what I have covered has addressed potential negative impacts of UCITA, particularly for libraries. Of course, unless some interested parties would benefit from UCITA, it is unlikely that it would have ever been promulgated. To look at the potential positive impacts of UCITA on information availability, let us look at the software industry in general and the Open Source software movement in particular. In some ways, the Open Source movement has parallels to libraries. Operating under a public license such as the GNU Public License, open source software such as the increasingly popular Linux operating system for PCs provide software and source code as a freely available resource to the community. Much as libraries serve as a repository for the dissemination of information, many open source software companies serve as an access point for their software and also as a forum through which developers can submit their own changes to the code. Again using Linux as an example, although companies such as Red Hat and Debian market Linux distributions, the operating system’s creator, Linus Torvalds, controls releases and updates to the Linux kernel.
Since software such as Linux or Java rely on an enforceable mass-market license to ensure that their software remains freely available, some authors have argued that UCITA will strengthen competition in the software industry by allowing open source software to proliferate under enforceable contracts. Gomulkiewicz  (1999) makes several points to support his argument that UCITA is good for open source software. First, he argues that developers  of open source software license their software rather than allow it to enter the public domain so as to retain control of their code (p. 186). Second, by using strong licensing terms, the licensor may grant the licensee the right to create modifications and derivative works and distribute them, provided that the rights attached to the initial software self-perpetuate. In other words, “the rights attached to the software must apply to everyone to whom the software is redistributed…and those licensee [must] pass the terms on to all subsequent licenses” (p. 188-189).

Another important provision of UCITA that benefits the free software movement is § 406, Disclaimer or Modification of Warranty.  § 406(b)(3) allows software contracts to remove all warranties from software products provided:
language in a record is sufficient to disclaim all implied warranties if it individually disclaims each implied warranty…if it is conspicuous and states “Except for express warranties stated in this contract, if any, this ‘information/computer program’ is provided with all faults, and the entire risk as to satisfactory quality, performance, accuracy, and effort is with the user”, or words of similar import.

This is clearly strong language, and Brennan & Barber (1999) argue “the law should encourage developers to bring experimental and innovative new products to the public by allowing them to control their risks by proper disclaimers” (p. 3). They point out that both Sun Microsystem’s Java and Linux include waivers of implied warranties and consequential damages.

Both Java and Linux off a critical trade-off: valuable free software but on an “as-is” basis. If their shrink-wrap and click-on licenses are unenforceable, meaning that the developers must provide non-disclaimable warranties, it is doubtful that they would be available for free, it at all. Moreover, if the license is unenforceable, then anyone who downloads (copies) Java or Linux does so without permission, making them copyright infringers. Innovation requires trade-offs between time, cost, and quality. UCITA opts in favor of innovation, letting developers and their customers decide for themselves what those trade-offs should be (Brennan & Barber, 1999, p. 3).

These assertions are far from uncontroversial. Indeed, to argue that UCITA as a whole is valuable because it benefits the rather small open source movement is somewhat disingenuous, particularly since large corporations such as Microsoft will benefit far more from UCITA’s provisions than will small independent open source developers. Kaner (1999b) in particular responds to this line of reasoning by arguing that not only does UCITA not favor small developers, but actually places them at greater risk that under current law, which he argues is completely satisfactory and does not require modification. Under UCITA, he argues, Linux’s disclaimer of warranty will protect the software developer but it will not protect the consultant who installs it unless they have drawn up their own contract removing liability for defects. Instead of making open source software inviolate to warranty claims, instead it transfers the risk to other, less powerful parties.

For the purposes of this paper, however, we will simplify the argument by considering only the concerns of open source software developers. This will help illustrate the information inequality theory in the following section.

3.0 Discussion

How do our two examples within UCITA help illuminate information inequality theory? Let us return to the original exposition of the theory and handle each point one at a time in light of the information on UCITA.

1. Individual actors are all simultaneously information rich and poor about a variety of topics, and this appears as an emergent problem in situational contexts.
Both the library and the open source software examples fit nicely into this element of the theory. Libraries are information rich on a wide variety of topics since they serve a public role as storehouses of information. Nevertheless, they may find themselves information poor when it comes to evaluating software license agreements. UCITA, in the terms of the theory, is the emergent problem. If UCITA creates enforceable licensing provisions, librarians must deal with this new problem by hiring lawyers to evaluate contracts, train librarians to understand the implications of licensing terms, or simply forego acquiring materials that contain enforceable non-negotiated contractual licenses. Of course the context is also important—if a library has no computer resources (an increasingly unlikely situation), then UCITA will likely not prove to be a major problem for them.

In the software development example we see the other side of the coin. Open source software developers are not only information rich in terms of computer software, but they are information rich also in terms of being able to dictate non-negotiated mass-market licenses that remove implied warranties. In this case, the only limitation to being able to exercise this informational power is having a suitably proficient lawyer (or being suitably proficient with cut-and-paste from existing licenses) to be able take advantage of UCITA’s provisions.

2. Social constraints operate in a dynamic social environment and create fluid, ever-changing situational contexts.
Many of the proponents of UCITA argue that it was necessitated by the huge share of the economy that information technology accounts for without having in place contract law providing uniform rules for the often intangible subject matter involved in transactions (Ring & Nimmer, 1999). The tensions thus created in the law and in the marketplace are the result of decades of rapid change in the computer software industry. When the UCC was passed in 1952, it was impossible to foresee the changes that would take place before the turn of the century. Ever since Article 2B was first proposed a decade ago, the computer software industry has changed in ways that would make it almost unidentifiable to someone from the late 1980s. The Internet, the ubiquity of fast, cheap, high resolution computers in the office and the home, and the increasing spread of computer applications into more economic spheres have created an extremely dynamic and changing situation for libraries, software developers, consumers, and anyone involved in modern American life at all. The law, based as it is on establishing precedent, has a difficult time dealing with such a fast changing landscape. Indeed, some of UCITA’s critics have argued that although uniformity of law is an admirable goal, that UCITA is being promulgated far too soon. Just as users ten years ago would not recognize the computer industry of today, it is not unlikely to speculate that ten years from now will be markedly different from today’s realities. This ever-changing situational context will continue to create challenges for the law to deal with.

3. The real effect on individual actors of information inequality is only measurable when the need for information is contextualized.
In the pages above, we have seen ways in which the effects of UCITA can be better understood when affected parties are identified and their interests established. Libraries, in their role as public servants, have a strong interest in maintaining (and extending) the ability to acquire products with informational content and in turn preserve, share, and lend those materials in fitting with their charter. With this context established, we can begin to see how the effects could be measured: What would be the cost to libraries if they were required to evaluate each potential software license separately? How many libraries currently loan software materials out to the public and (in a state that adopts or has adopted UCITA), how is this rate affected by the new rules in UCITA? What ratio of current and new software licenses contain terms that would prohibit First Sale or Fair Use provisions of the Copyright act? These and any number of other questions can be answered.

In the Open Source software example, there are also easily identifiable variables that can be measured now that we have established the context. What percentage of software falls into this category? Qualitatively, what do its developers see as their major goals in the marketplace, and are these extended, maintained, reduced or not affected by the mass-market licensing provisions of UCITA? Again, these are just some of the many questions that arise for possible study.

Why does this help? I see information inequality theory as discussed in this paper as a tool that simplifies complex arguments by allowing the identification of interested parties and asking how unequal access to information affects them given situational and contextual constraints. While many of the sources discussed in this article present strong analyses of UCITA, their arguments are often difficult to prove because of the level of abstraction necessary when dealing with thousands or millions of potential interested parties. By focusing on a few interested parties, I have attempted to gain a better understanding of a complex issue. Doing the same for additional actors and interested parties would yield additional information for evaluating the question, in this case a public policy decision. In other words, the theory is scalable.

UCITA is still new and has not yet been put into practice in the states that have adopted it nor tested in a court of law. It will be interesting to see how the issues play out in the statehouses and the courts as it becomes more widely debated. In this paper, I have briefly touched upon some key elements of UCITA and discussed what they may mean for libraries and open source software developers. UCITA is much broader than this paper has been able to cover. The Act itself is 108 pages long (UCITA, 1999), with a separate 116 page document (UCITA comments, 1999) in very small type with explanations of the Act. If adopted, there will be both positive and negative consequences for the software industry, for libraries and information providers, and for consumers. By applying information inequality theory to this question, I have tried to illustrate both the theory itself and some of the issues surrounding UCITA.


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