The Issue

Back in the 1960's, computer memory was at a premium. To conserve space, software developers used only the last two digits to represent years. Thus, "64" represented 1964. Apparently, they never dreamed that this problem would persist to the present day, but it has. When the millennium comes, many computer systems will interpret "00" as the year 1900 or possibly the year 1980. Still other computers will fail to realize that the year 2000 is a leap year, thus losing a day. Still other computers will shut down on September 9, 1999 (for testing purposes, programmers used "9/9/99" as a date that would never occur). This problem will affect not only the computers on our desks and mainframes in big companies and government, but embedded chips in equipment. These embedded chips number in the billions and can be found in your car and other every day equipment. The doomsday crowd suggests that the entire power grid will go out, leaving the world without electricity. Others suggest that there will only be minor inconveniences. Litigation could top $1 trillion. Costs to remedy the problems run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

What is affected

Each firm needs to look at its own operations to see what may be affected.

Hot News:  The (S2392) was enacted into law on October 19, 1998. Here is the summary as reported to the Senate:

Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act - Provides that no Year 2000 (Y2K problem) readiness disclosure (a statement concerning Year 2000 computer compliance information) shall be admissible in any civil action arising under Federal or State law against the maker of the disclosure to prove the accuracy or truth of any year 2000 statement in such disclosure, except: (1) as the basis for a claim for anticipatory breach or repudiation or a similar claim against the maker; and (2) when a court determines that the maker's disclosure amounts to bad faith or fraud or is otherwise unreasonable.

Provides that the maker of such a statement shall not be liable in an action based on an allegedly false, inaccurate, or misleading year 2000 statement unless the claimant establishes that the statement was material and, to the extent that the statement was not a republication of another's original statement, was made with: (1) knowledge of it being false, inaccurate, or misleading; and (2) an intent to deceive or mislead or with reckless disregard of its accuracy.

Precludes maker liability in such an action to the extent that the statement was a republication of another party, unless the claimant establishes that the maker made the statement: (1) with knowledge of it being false, inaccurate, or misleading and with the intent to deceive or mislead; or (2) without notice in such statement that the maker has not verified the contents of the republication or that the maker is not the source of the statement, the statement is based on information supplied by another person, and the notice or republished statement identifies the source of the statement.

Provides that the maker of a year 2000 statement shall not be liable in an action for defamation or trade disparagement to the extent such action is based on an allegedly false, inaccurate, or misleading statement, unless the claimant establishes that the statement was made with knowledge of it being false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.

Provides that the posting of notice on its year 2000 Internet Website in a commercially reasonable manner and for a commercially reasonable time by an entity charged with giving notice about year 2000 processing shall be deemed an adequate mechanism for providing such notice (with an exception).

Prohibits year 2000 statements from being interpreted or construed as an amendment to or alteration of a contract or warranty, whether entered into by a public or private party (with exceptions).

Authorizes a Federal entity, agency, or authority to expressly designate requests for the voluntary provision of information relating to year 2000 processing as "special year 2000 data gathering requests," thereby protecting information received from such requests from: (1) disclosure to any third party, including under the Freedom of Information Act; and (2) use in any civil action arising under any Federal or State law. Provides exceptions for information obtained through independent sources or in the case of voluntary disclosure.

Provides an exemption from antitrust laws for conduct intended to: (1) facilitate responses to correct or avoid a failure of year 2000 processing in a computer system or related software or hardware; or (2) communicate or disclose information to help correct or avoid the effects of year 2000 processing failure.

Specifies exclusions from this Act.

Makes this Act applicable to: (1) year 2000 statements made on or after July 14, 1998, through July 14, 2001; and (2) year 2000 readiness disclosures made after the date of enactment of this Act through July 14, 2001.

Provides for the treatment of previously made readiness disclosures, with exceptions.

Directs the Administrator of General Services to create, maintain, and promote a national year 2000 Website to assist consumers, small business, and local governments in obtaining information about year 2000 processing of computers, systems, products, and services. Requires a preliminary Website planning report from the Administrator to specified congressional committees.

This bill is also available in     to view PDFs.


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