New `cyber rules' could limit libraries' ability to...


April 06, 2000

New `cyber rules' could limit libraries' ability to serve public

As The Sun has reported, the library community of Maryland is very concerned about the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) the Maryland House recently passed ("House OKs cyber rules," March 29).

The librarians' approach is not, as the article suggested, to allow our users to copy and use computer information freely.

Our objective is to enable library users to exercise the narrow exceptions and limitations to copyright privileges, as provided in federal law.

The format of the information, print or electronic, should be irrelevant to the exercise of these fair-use rights.

This balance between the interests of information producers and consumers is threatened by the UCITA.

Through it, we may be promoting new barriers to information for Maryland residents who do not have the resources or the expertise to access computer-based resources without the help of libraries.

Libraries have always broken down these barriers, within the constraints of the law and license agreements.

At a time when more Marylanders are looking to libraries for effective access to computer information and leadership in defense of their information rights. UCITA may undermine this important social role.

Let's take the time we need to study the very complex UCITA legislation so that we understand its impact.

Jim Neal


The writer is dean of university libraries at Johns Hopkins University.

The Maryland House of Delegates recently passed the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). This bill is a disaster for consumers and most Maryland businesses.

It takes rights away from consumers. It also severely limits competition by prohibiting "reverse engineering."

This means that we will be forever stuck with buggy, bloated Microsoft products.

It also criminalizes innocuous actions. For example, were you to stop using Microsoft Word and give it to your sister, you could be a criminal under this bill, because Microsoft doesn't collect any money from that transaction.

Imagine if you had to pay General Motors to give away your 1979 Buick.

The bill would force high-tech businesses out of the state. And it will do nothing to attract new ones.

Lewis Berman


Suit against Microsoft bites `the hand that feeds us'

The U.S. government continues to satisfy its penchant for business-bashing with its assaults against Microsoft ("Hope dims for software giant," March 28).

Officials' apparent refusal to accept a settlement of the government's antitrust suit against the computer firm is a fascinating example of fools biting the hand that feeds them.

Bill Gates should have threatened to pack up his entire operation and relocate it to another country. I can think of several nations who would have welcomed the boost that company would provide.

I can also imagine how fast the self-righteous officials who started this ludicrous lawsuit would have run for cover, with their political tails between their legs.

Charles H. Thornton


Elian should go home, but his home is despotic

After reading The Sun for some years, I have become accustomed to its decidedly liberal-biased approach to reporting.

But I was astounded to read the article, "For Elian, Cuban life might not be so grim" (March 30).

I do believe that Elian Gonzalez should be sent back to Cuba to live with his father. However, to romanticize the health care and education systems of Cuba's despotic and totalitarian political system is really beyond the pale.

May I remind The Sun that in Cuba it would not even be allowed to print this story without government approval?

And that Cubans are serving prison terms simply because they expressed their political views.

Come to think of it, prison has universal health care as well as free education. Perhaps in this country we just have too much freedom.

John E. Sandstrom


Let's trade `Little Havana' for the genuine article

Maybe we can work a deal with Fidel Castro: America can cede the "Little Havana" section of Miami to Cuba, and Castro can turn the real Havana over to us.

After all, the Cuban-Americans in "Little Havana" appear to have no respect for the rule of law in this country.

Maybe a taste of the dictatorship they knew in Cuba would give them some respect for the rights of Elian's father.

Besides, it's high time we Americans gained the chance to enjoy the many splendors of Havana, as do Europeans and people from other countries that have had the wisdom to turn a deaf ear to the tiresome whining of the Cuban exiles.

Joe Roman


Feminist expo excluded poor white women too

In her letter "Feminist expo excludes poor, blacks" (March 31) Larnell Custis Butler incisively noted that, for lack of free activities, poor black women were excluded from Feminist Expo 2000 last weekend.

Not only were poor black women excluded, so were poor white women, who also have those first-of-the-month bills to pay that Ms. Butler mentioned.

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