The politics of the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) in digital information policy development

Pages385-391
Publication Date01 Dec 2002
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/14684520210452718
AuthorJeffrey N. Gatten
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
The politics of the
Uniform Computer
Information
Transaction Act (UCITA)
in digital information
policy development
Jeffrey N. Gatten
This article describes the political process
behind the Uniform Computer Information
Transaction Act (UCITA) and the
implications for higher education. Group
theory is used as a conceptual framework for
explanation and analysis. Conclusions are
drawn regarding the higher education
community's responses to future public policy
development.
Problem statement
The negotiation, acquisition, and delivery of
digital information to students and faculty are
core services of academic libraries. UCITA is
a proposed USA state contract law intended
to regulate commercial transactions of
intangible digital goods, such as computer
software, online databases, and other digital
information resources. UCITA may weaken
the ability of libraries to negotiate balanced
contracts.
Research questions
.How does UCITA affect academic
libraries and what are the implications for
higher education?
.How can group theory inform one's
understanding of the political process
behind UCITA?
.How should the higher education
community respond in the future to
similar public policy initiatives?
Group theory
Group theory states that politics is the
struggle among various groups to influence
public policy (Dye, 2002). Public policy
represents the equilibrium that results from
group struggle and is determined by the
``relative influence of any interest groups''
(Dye, 2002, p. 21). Public policy moves in the
direction of the groups with the most
influence. Influence is considered in terms of
group size, wealth, leadership, access to
decision makers, and group cohesion.
Equilibrium is maintained by overlapping
group membership, multiple competing
The author
Jeffrey N. Gatten is Assistant Dean for Collection
Management, Libraries and Media Services, Kent State
University, Kent, Ohio, USA.
Keywords
Digital libraries, Information, Groups, Policy
Abstract
The political process behind the Uniform Computer
Information Transaction Act (UCITA) and the implications
for higher education are described. The negotiation,
acquisition, and delivery of digital information to students
and faculty are core servicesof academic libraries. UCITA is
a proposed USA state contract law intended to regulate
commercial transactions of intangible digitalgoods, such as
computer software, online databases, and other digital
information resources. UCITA may weaken the ability of
libraries to negotiate balanced contracts. Group theory is
used as a conceptual framework for explanation and
analysis. Conclusions are: higher education institutions
need to be aware of their role as economic entities in
public policy formation, and librarians need to educate
college and university administrators regarding the
significance and institutional impact of digital information
public policy.
Electronic access
The research register for this journal is available at
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregisters
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is
available at
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/1468-4527.htm
Refereed article received 25 July 2002
Approved for publication 7 August 2002
385
Online Information Review
Volume 26 .Number 6 .2002 .pp. 385±391
#MCB UP Limited .ISSN 1468-4527
DOI 10.1108/14684520210452718

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