THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am pleased to sign into law S. 2392, the "Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act."
As our Nation prepares for the year 2000 (Y2K), we face an urgent need to address the Y2K problem, which may cause computers and embedded systems that run America's critical infrastructure to malfunction or even shut down. With little over a year until January 1, 2000, this is a serious global challenge that businesses and governments around the world must address.
Today, my Council on Year 2000 Conversion is launching "National Y2K Action Week," to urge small- and medium-sized businesses to take the necessary steps to ensure that the technologies they and their business partners depend upon are ready for the year 2000. Over the next 5 days, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce, and several other Federal agencies will host Y2K educational events at their field offices across the Nation. As part of this week, we are also urging State, local, tribal governments, and community organizations to address this critical problem. More than 160 national organizations representing industries, professions, government, and the nonprofit sector have joined the Council in promoting Y2K action during this week.
This legislation will help provide businesses, governments, and other organizations with the necessary informational tools to overcome the Y2K computer problem. This Act, which builds upon a proposal my Administration submitted to the Congress in July, is an important bipartisan accomplishment. I particularly want to thank those in the Congress whose hard work and support of this legislation made its passage possible. Representatives Horn, Kucinich, Morella, Barcia, Leach, LaFalce, Hyde, Conyers, Dreier, and Eshoo and Senators Bennett, Dodd, Hatch, Leahy, and Kyl were integral to getting this work done and done quickly.
Many organizations have been reluctant to share valuable information about their experiences in dealing with the Y2K problem or the status of their Y2K efforts for fear of lawsuits. The Act's limited liability protections will promote and encourage greater information sharing about both experiences and solutions, which will significantly enhance public and private sector efforts to prepare the Nation's computer systems for the new millennium. However, the bill will not affect liability that may arise from Y2K failures of systems or devices.
While I understand that companies have a wide range of concerns related to the Y2K transition and potential litigation, we must also protect the rights of consumers. Therefore, this legislation is focused exclusively on exposure related to information exchange and would not cover statements to individual consumers in marketing a product normally used for personal use.
Firms within an industry confront similar challenges as they work to ensure that their computer systems are Y2K compliant. Although the Department of Justice has already indicated that competitors in an industry who merely share information on Y2K solutions would not be in violation of the antitrust laws, this Act creates a specific exemption from the antitrust laws for these activities. The limited antitrust exemption created by S. 2392 will make it easier for firms to cooperate with one another to solve the Y2K problem while continuing to protect consumers from industry agreements to boycott, allocate a market, or fix prices or output.
Information sharing will be important not only to those who have already made progress addressing the Y2K problem, but also to the many small business and State, local, and tribal governments that are just beginning their Y2K work. I urge trade associations and umbrella organizations to collect such information from their members and provide it to others through websites and other means devoted to discussing Y2K experiences and solutions. My Council on Year 2000 Conversion looks forward to working with Federal agencies, other levels of government, and consumer and industry groups in expanding the website, www.y2k.gov, that already supports activities related to our Nation's efforts to address issues related to the Y2K transition.
The Y2K problem is an enormous challenge, and we must meet it. Enactment of this legislation is a significant achievement toward allowing all of us to take a successful step into the new millennium.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, October 19, 1998. 30-30-30