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Silicon Valley has a lot to fear, according to Y2K gloom-and-doomers. A run of lawsuits against Silicon Valley companies is expected to start even before the new year.Notwithstanding the Y2K Act designed to curb suits, anything that fails, falters or fades with the calendar change could become complaint fodder. Supporters hope the Y2K Act will effectively cap damage awards, encourage mediation, and apportion the blame among interested parties. However, with the exact fallout from the Y2K bug still undetermined, experts find it hard to pinpoint how the act will be applied.Early court decisions in Y2K issues have directed companies to use available resources to fix the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible. So liability concerns from here on out are focused on compliance and insurability. Bringing systems up or near to code may not be enough. How the company has handled Y2K step by step could also become a consideration — from the investigation start date to the internal communications about the problem.”Don’t let your Y2K e-mail messages become a liability,” warns attorney Stephen F. Brock of Christie, Pabarue, Mortensen and Young. Brock said that even if a company reaches Y2K compliance it could still face exposure because of careless or flippant e-mails regarding confidential information.And others warn to step lively in Y2K readiness coordination. “Given the widespread and almost universal knowledge of the Y2K problem, and the great length of time before the loss that many directors and officers knew they would have claims, damages arising from the Y2K problem may not be insurable,” said Joseph G. Finnerty III, an attorney with Piper & Marbury L.L.P.With last year’s passage of the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act, disclosure of compliance became the norm, and more and more information began to circulate. Although this gives attorneys looking to protect corporate interests more resources to draw on, it also give them fewer excuses for overlooked areas.As we near the century mark, experts warn that yet a new Y2K problem is on the copyright horizon. “Liability issues are arising out of copyright infringement of Y2K software and hardware,” said Sam Fifer of the technology group at Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal in Chicago. “In planning for Y2K, companies must carefully determine if modifying or copying software will put them at risk for a copyright infringement claim.”

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