New technology laws will hurt consumers, won't attract...


May 02, 2000

New technology laws will hurt consumers, won't attract business

The Sun seems to have uncritically bought the governor's claim that Maryland has taken a leadership role in digital commerce by passing a number of computer related laws. It asserted in the subheading of a recent article that new laws will "promote technology" and in the article that Maryland will be a "national leader in electronic commerce" ("Glendening signs bills on e-commerce," April 26).

Maryland has become a leader, all right. It has become a leader in subjecting its consumers, small businesses, libraries and schools to the whims of large software and on-line service vendors.

One of the laws the article mentions, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act, was opposed by many Maryland business, education and consumer groups. Under this law, Maryland condones the software industry's practice of subjecting consumers to the license terms concealed in complex documents the consumer does not see until he or she gets home and opens the box or installs the program.

Nothing in this law will make Maryland more attractive for software developers or deter copyright violations.

The governor has said, "Six months ago I didn't know what digital crime was, and now we're the national leader in fighting it."

The first part of the statement must be true. And that may explain why the governor does not understand how wrong he is about the second part.

Charles Shafer, Baltimore

The writer teaches consumer law at the University of Baltimore Law School.

Breaking up Microsoft wouldn't help anyone

Imagine if Bill Clinton and Janet Reno had been around in the early 1900s to target Henry Ford for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

They would have broken up the Ford Motor Co. into three smaller companies -- and we would have all paid competitive prices for our cars. Of course we'd have to buy the chassis from one company, the engine from a separate company and the suspension from a third company.

It would be just like the government to take two things that need each other to work together (like an operating system and browser) and force us to get them from two different places.

Technology is changing so fast today that computers devices may not even need an operating system in five years.

Breaking up Microsoft would only serve to take the biggest technology center in the United States and dump it on the floor like a box of marbles.

L. Leonard, Columbia

Abuses of federal power make many hate government

In his recent column, Chip Berlet correctly identifies Timothy McVeigh and his ilk as racist, anti-Semitic terrorists ("To defend our society we must name its enemies," Opinion Commentary, April 19).

He then argues that we must acknowledge "some truth to militia complaints that government agents abused their power" at Ruby Ridge and Waco."

Some truth? Mr. Berlet has got to get out more.

On a daily basis, I see and hear a pervasive distrust and dislike of government on the part of people who couldn't be more unlike militia members -- among them corporate executives, middle-class housewives, clergymen, Little League coaches and storekeepers.

This is the bitter legacy of not only the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents, but also the clumsy, ill-concealed and continuing power grab by the federal government.

The other new Nazis Mr. Berlet fails to identify are members of the ruling class.

They are the ones who ignore the strictures of the Constitution, declaring it to be a "living document" and, therefore, bendable to their whims and desires.

They are the ones who steal nearly 50 percent of our earnings through their Draconian tax code. They are the ones who dumb down the masses by what passes for education in their schools.

By all means, let us identify society's enemies. But let us identify all of them.

Glenn E. Redding, Baltimore

Keep Elian here; send Reno to Cuba

Elian Gonzalez' mother gave up her life to bring him here to the land of the free.

If our president had enough nerve, he would have told Fidel Castro from the beginning this child was granted asylum here -- and that would have been the end of it.

Nick T. Savko, Essex

Forget about sending Elian back to Cuba. Send Janet Reno instead.

Eleanor Keough Harbinson, Baltimore

Hearings on Elian raid would be mere grandstanding

After an April 25 meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said about the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, "We need to investigate whether funds were spent properly in this matter, that's our role."

I ask whose "role" it is to oversee the waste of taxpayer's money on investigations and hearings that have no merit and are clearly politically motivated.

Congress is full of Monday-morning quarterbacks who have nothing better to do than grandstand before the national TV cameras demanding accountability.

This waste must be stopped; taxpayers need to demand accountability from our elected officials.

Keith F. Kelley, Lutherville

Obsession with Elian obscures other concerns

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