Leading IT industry bodies in the US are seeking legal protection from liability if their Year 2000 bug fix programmes fail to perform.
IT bodies claim that fear of legal action from customers is currently preventing the exchange of information between companies that are striving to solve the problem, thereby reducing their chances of success.
A bill, drawn up by groups such as the Washington DC based Information Technology Industry Council, aims to prevent the use of this kind of information in recriminations and lawsuits. It is hoped that this will enable smaller companies, without the resources to develop their own solutions, to benefit from the work of others without putting them at risk.
Robin Guenier, director of the UK's millennium timebomb pressure group, Taskforce 2000, said he sympathised with the US companies. "I know that some major software companies in the UK are beginning to wonder whether they should be developing a bug fix at all, because of the fear of being sued. Without this kind of protection, we are all worse off," he said.
However, Guenier holds out little hope that similar measures will be taken in the UK. "I just don't see how it could be done," he continued. "Firstly, it wouldn't be possible to develop the complex legislation required within the timescale, and secondly, it's impossible to define 'liability'. Who's going to tell a company that has been genuinely let down by their supplier that they can't sue?"
Guenier supports initiatives such as Pledge 2000, the government sponsored scheme to help UK organisations address the millennium bug problem, which was endorsed yesterday by IBM. "The only way to solve the dilemma is to exercise extreme common sense," he concludes.
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