June 15, 2000
Dear Mr. Bushnell:
Thank you for writing Governor Glendening regarding House Bill 19 -- Maryland Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). As you know, the Governor signed this bill on April 25, 2000. Knowing the importance of this issue to consumers as well as the academic community, I would like to explain the reasons for the Governor's support of House Bill 19.
Maryland's UCITA is a uniform commercial law drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The bill provides substantive rules governing the formation, construction, and interpretation of computer information agreements. These agreements pertain to the creation, use or distribution of computer information and products, including computer software, computer data and databases, and Internet and online information. The bill also specifies express warranties and implied warranties contained in an agreement, rules for determining whether a breach has occurred, and remedies for breach.
UCITA is intended to address concerns that expansion of the nation's digital economy will be significantly impeded by extreme differences in laws in each state. Through the adoption of uniform laws, UCITA will provide greater certainty for the millions of transactions which are occurring daily under less than certain legal rules. As introduced, the Governor and many legislators shared Attorney General Joseph Curran's concerns that Maryland consumers were not adequately protected under the model [sic] statue. After long hours of deliberation, the General Assembly added numerous consumer protection provisions including measures that:
- clarify that the Maryland Consumer Protection Act applies to computer information transactions governed by UCITA;
- prohibit the use of electronic self-help in mass-market transactions; - ensure that implied warranties cannot be disclaimed in most consumer contracts;
- provide that Maryland consumers are protected by Maryland law and have access to Maryland courts; and
- clarify that requirements contained in laws other than UCITA that terms must be conspicuously disclosed or seperately assented to also apply to contracts governed by UCITA.
The Attorney General's Office stated that the above provisions "address the substantial majority of the concerns ... raised about the impact of UCITA on Maryland consumers." With regard to academic concerns over copyright preemption, the Legislature added a provision to House Bill 19 stating that a contract term governed by UCITA may not preempt in any way federal copyright law.
The Governor and General Assembly believe that the many safeguards added to Maryland's UCITA law will adequately address the concerns raised by consumers and the academic community. Additionally, the Legislature has created an oversight committee to closely monitor the implementation of UCITA to determine if additional provisions are needed. During floor debate on House Bill 19, members of the Legislature made clear their intentions to revisit UCITA to address any inadequacies in future sessions. Ultimately, the Governor was satisfied that the majority of concerns over UCITA were adequately addressed and decided it was in the best interest of the State to sign the measure into law.
I hope this information is helpful in understanding why the Governor felt it was important to sign House Bill 19. He is optimistic that UCITA will promote the continued growth of Maryland's new digital economy.
(signed) Joseph C. Bryce
Chief Legislative Officer
Questions, comments and suggestions to Vergil Bushnell