|From: Master Sibn
Date: Tue, Jun 27, 2000 11:08 PM
Subject: High-Tech Warranty Project -- Comment P994413
1. I understand that the FTC is collecting comments regarding the recent UCITA legislation. My apologies if this address is not the correct one.
2. I think that UCITA is inherently dangerous, for a few reasons. It would hit me hard, as an end user, as well as a developer.
3. I run the Linux operating system on my personal computer, and as a result, I rely heavily on free software, such as GNOME http://www.gnome.org and gEdit http://gedit.sourceforge.net. Free software is a staple of my computer, and I couldn't operate without it.
The commercial alternatives require that I invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in programs for my computer, and to be fair: I'm currently unemployed. I can't afford that kind of expenditure.
4. I am an amateur software developer myself, and although I have very little experience, I would like to release my own free software into the world at some point. UCITA's vague wording provides that I must give a warranty for any damages that would result through use of my software.
Naturally, damages could be anything; it could be a simple bug, or a major memory leak that compromises performance to an extensive degree. If I am to be held financially responsible for other people installing my program and having difficulties then I have to ask "How much is my free software going to cost ME?"
5. Can I really be held responsible for that kind of thing? Obviously, if I want to release the product for free, then either I want to be famous, or can't afford to publish it commercially. Or both. If I can't afford to publish it commercially, how am I to pay out these "damages?" Even with a blatant claim such as "Use at your OWN RISK" is not sufficient to make people realize that it's free software. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
6. In the commercial software industry, you NEVER get what you pay for. You pay $150-200 for a fresh copy of Microsoft Windows 98 SE; and it's bug ridden, crash prone, and eats system resources so voraciously that I find it unusable on my machine. This is not the kind of software that I expect to get for $175.00. You can pay $45 for a copy of Epic MegaGames' "Unreal Tournament," and still have bugs, and patches released every few months to fix them. The sad fact is, that software is never bug free; and it's a shame that we must stick it to the penurial publishers, who can't afford to shrink wrap their software commercially, whilst other, less earnest groups can make provisions such as this:
7. On the page located at http://www.3drealms.com/policy/index.html, under the sections "INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY" and "Trademark Use," there is a short clause condemning the use of Apogee trade marks (such as the Apogee brand name) in any kind of negative context. What this means, quite simply, is that we are not allowed to honestly review products any more; all software is as good and useful as all the rest. If I can say nothing bad about Apogee, then I must only say good things. This is ridiculous; and if I should want to parody one of Apogee's products under the terms provided from "Fair Use?" Can I be sued for that? Of course; why not? After all, the terms are there, and I would be violating them, wouldn't I?
8. Other provisions for UCITA would allow developers to forbid benchmarks, unless express permission is given. This means that nVidia or Matrox could release a new video codec for use with their respective graphics boards, and we would never know which codec or board is better because both nVidia and Matrox (hypothetically) forbade comparisons and benchmarks. The end result is that I don't know what I'm buying, or what I should buy.
9. I have heard in numerous places that these "provisions" and "features" of UCITA are an exaggeration. Interestingly enough, I have yet to find proof otherwise: The only persons who say that are actually businesses who (to no surprise) would directly benefit from the aforementioned provisions. Apogee has proven to me that these fears are well-founded.
10. The terms of UCITA as I understood them, were quite vague. History shows us that vague laws often lead to ridiculous decisions. For example, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) filed a lawsuit against mp3board.com http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,37227,00.html, in hopes of illegalizing linking directly to providers of illegal or pirated material. The outcome of this case has yet to be decided. mp3board cannot be held responsible for other persons' work; if that were the case, one could argue that FTP (file transfer protocol) should be illegal because it CAN be used for illegal or piratical purposes, completely ignoring the fact that it's been around for about 30 years now and is used much more often to a good or legal end. What the RIAA misses is that this service (mp3board.com) allows them to locate those who are breaking the law; and rather than shut down the websites that do break the law, they choose to instead target the service that does not directly provide any of that content. To be sure, linking knowingly to illegal/pirated content in order to provide it should be considered an accessory. But how do we know when the intent is to provide illegal content? Especially if the linking is automated? What mp3board.com has given the RIAA a hotlist for their lawyers, and the RIAA doesn't see it that way.
11. Whatever the case, I have not yet seen any good come from UCITA yet, although I would like to. Unfortunately, I don't believe that this law will benefit end users such as myself because software that I publish MUST include a warranty, and for businesses, the warranty is OPTIONAL (depending on how liberally the terms of UCITA are perceived in a court room).
12. I can only hope that UCITA be repealed. I appreciate your interest in the matter.
(I will grant that I may simply be perceiving the whole mess incorrectly; but hey, if I believed I was wrong, I wouldn't take the time to write this =)