Mark Your Calendar Now for the December 13th Satellite Teleconference

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Mark Your Calendar Now for the December 13th Satellite Teleconference,
UCITA: A Guide to Understanding and Action
by Mary Alice Baish

A basic tenet of AALL's intellectual property policy agenda is to represent the interests of the law library community and the American public in promoting and preserving the historic balance in Federal copyright law between information users and the content community. On the Federal level, we are engaged currently in important proceedings regarding fair use and first sale that were mandated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. In addition, during the 106th Congress AALL has continued to fight for a balanced approach to database protection.

The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act(UCITA) could well do an end run around any success we might have in maintaining balance in copyright law for the digital age. UCITA has moved the battleground to the state level where this very controversial and complex proposed uniform law threatens to shift the balance dramatically in favor of software developers and online publishers at the expense of consumers, libraries and educational institutions. UCITA threatens to replace the Federal law of copyright with the private law of contract and, as currently drafted, is bad public policy. Despite its legitimate goal of providing a new legal framework for computer transactions, software and information, UCITA is a not-ready-for prime time piece of legislation that should never have been adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL). During the ten-year long drafting process and since its adoption by NCCUSL in July 1999, UCITA has been opposed by many different constituencies, including the prestigious American Law Institute (ALI), the Federal Trade Commission, 26 state attorney generals, consumer groups, a host of law professors and the library community.

What makes UCITA so dangerous is that this important policy debate is being played out at the state level, where legislators have little or no knowledge of Federal copyright law and great pressure to join the electronic commerce bandwagon. Proponents are expending huge amounts of money to hire prominent lobbyists in your state capitol to push hard for the enactment of UCITA. Having participated firsthand during the legislative processes in Virginia and Maryland--the only two states that have enacted UCITA, I warn you that it is not a fair fight. In our state efforts thus far, we have seen the library community being portrayed unfairly as being against electronic commerce and the new digital economy and for the piracy of software and digital resources. These distortions are very difficult to respond to with legislators. The Maryland law became effective on October 1st and, pending the outcome of a study on the impact of UCITA on consumers, businesses and libraries in Virginia, that state's UCITA will become effective July 1, 2001. While there is some good news--UCITA was tabled this year in six other states--the bad news is that it may be introduced in as many twenty states early next year.

It is so essential to our advocacy efforts to educate our members and help them develop a state legislative strategy that AALL, ALA, ARL, MLA and SLA are cosponsoring the satellite teleconference UCITA: A Guide to Understanding and Action on December 13th from 1-4 p.m. EST. This is a not-to-be missed opportunity for you to learn the background and major issues surrounding UCITA, as well as its implications for your library and what you can do about it. It is important that all librarians be able to articulate the anti-library, anti-consumer provisions of UCITA and join together in a strategic effort to kill or amend UCITA in your state.

Four distinguished panelists who have been active in their states in promoting our concerns about UCITA will be on hand to share their knowledge, expertise and experiences with you during the December 13th teleconference. They are: Sarah Wiant, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University; James Neal, Dean of University Libraries, Johns Hopkins University; Rodney Petersen, Director, Policy and Planning, Office of Information Technology at the University of Maryland; and Cathy Wojewodzki, Librarian, Reference Department, University of Delaware Library and former member of the Delaware legislature.

The program is divided into three sections: first, What is UCITA? and Why Do We Care?; second, Working on UCITA in a State Context and How Do We Organize in a State Context?; and third, Framing the Key Issues. Individual panelists will first present each topic, followed by a full panel discussion and audience participation through a Q & A period. Questions may be phoned or faxed in. In order to provide you with some helpful information on UCITA prior to the event, we will be posting several key reading resources at the web site. In addition, each participant will receive a packet that will include additional reading materials, talking points and an advocacy checklist. During the post-teleconference discussion at each site, participants will work together to develop an action plan for their state.

The goals of the teleconference are two-fold. First, to arm you with what you need to know about UCITA because even if it does not come to your state this year, its choice of law and choice of forum provisions will affect you and your library. And second, to energize you to action about what you need to do about UCITA in case it is introduced in your own state. Our panelists will share their own state experiences with you, they'll have plenty of tips and lessons learned, and they'll help you frame effectively the key issues of concern to the library community.

How to register for a site license:
The Online Registration Form, along with specific information about becoming a host site, are at: http://www.arl.org/ucita.html.

How to check to see if there's a host site near you:
Follow the same directions to the web site, you'll see a box labeled "View List of Sites Accepting Guests" when you click on the Online Registration Form. The names of host sites will be added continuously as site registrations come in.

Last but not least, I encourage you to explore with your institution the possibility of hosting or co-hosting this important learning and advocacy opportunity with neighboring institutions, consortia or perhaps even your chapter. As members of the law library community, you will be counted on for your knowledge of copyright and contract law if and when UCITA comes to your state. This is a great opportunity for our association and our chapters to demonstrate leadership in the UCITA state legislative process. Participating in the December teleconference will give you the tools and resources you need to help develop a successful state strategy to counter the efforts of the UCITA proponents. Please join our anti-UCITA campaign by participating in this valuable session!


The September 15th Press Release.