Licenses and Information Wares: An Update on UCC Article 2B

By Jamtgaard, Laurel | Information Outlook, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Licenses and Information Wares: An Update on UCC Article 2B


Jamtgaard, Laurel, Information Outlook


As our "information economy" has grown in recent years, some feel we have been caught in an information policy vacuum and we need to fill the void with new regulations and policies. For some issues triggered by emerging technologies that impression may hold true, but many of the fundamental policy questions raised by an information economy are not new. In 1644, in the early years of the printing press, John Milton wrote Areopagitica, an elegant statement extolling freedom of expression, in response to an order of England's Parliament that made it illegal to print books or pamphlets unless granted a license by the Crown or its agents. He wrote:

"Truth and Understanding are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land, to mark and license it like broadcloth and our woolpacks. "

- John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644

In other words, information is not a toaster. Three hundred and fifty-four years after Milton's statement, our society continues to struggle to balance our treatment of information as merchandise with information as a community resource used to express, criticize, communicate, and learn.

Today, this struggle is perhaps best embodied in Article 2B of the Uniform Commercial Code, a state law currently under development that seeks to define the legal ground rules for transactions in information. This proposed law is occasionaly mentioned in the press when someone discusses "shrink-wrap licenses(1)." Article 2B represents a movement toward licensing of information in its many forms and away from the sale of copies of works as traditionally understood under copyright law. The legal distinctions involved with this shift are subtle on the surface, but have significant consequences for the way we access, use, and exchange information.

Article 2B, unlike most uniform law projects, has faced controversy from the start. Although uniform laws are intended to be "accurate not original," some feel that Article 2B is teetering dangerously in the direction of creating a new legal regime rather than merely codifying an existing one. The current draft of Article 2B was scrutinized over the summer and the primary concerns raised, in addition to the overarching question of whether widespread licensing of information is sound policy at all, involve the proper scope of the article, its intersection with federal policies, and the open arms it extends toward "shrink-wrap" and "click-wrap" licenses.

The Movement Toward a Licensing Regime

Before providing a more detailed description of Article 2B, let me offer a bird's eye view of the movement toward licensing of information and where Article 2B fits in the process. The current chapter in the information licensing story began in the early 1980s when copyrightability of software was in question. Software companies looked to contract law for help and forged a new, and still controversial, legal device affectionately known as the "shrink-wrap" license(2). At the time and still to this day, consumers and lawyers alike have not known quite what to make of this new form of contract and whether or not the terms embedded in these licenses should be enforceable.

Today, as a result of digital convergence, the proponents of shrink-wrap licenses include more than just software companies and the message is that licensing of information is a necessary reaction to the advances in digital technology and is a natural way to think about the distribution of information(3).

This is not a subtle change in attitude. The licensing model contrasts sharply with the world of books so familiar to us, in which a book is sold and so long as the user does not infringe the copyright (by making copies) the user is free to read the book, donate it to a library, write a book review of it, or use it as a doorstop. The constraints applicable to a book are those explicitly included in the copyright laws and are balanced by "fair use" and other doctrines that promote the flow of information and prevent overreaching by the copyright holders. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Licenses and Information Wares: An Update on UCC Article 2B
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.