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Appeals Court Revokes Right to Resell Software
September 14, 2010
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today ruled (PDF) on a long-standing case involving used software on eBay, and it came to an important decision: if a company says you don’t have the right to resell a program, you don’t have that right. Could this mean the end of the resale market for all digital content? Yup. But the court says it had no choice.
The case is Vernor v. Autodesk, in which Timothy Vernor made his living from selling items (including software) on eBay. Vernor had picked up some old copies of AutoCAD from an architect’s office sale, complete with their serial numbers, and he put them up on eBay noting that they were not currently installed on any computer. Sounds legal, right?
But there’s a catch. Autodesk, the software’s developer, forced all users to accept an agreement before using AutoCAD. This agreement made clear that AutoCAD was merely licensed, never sold, and that one’s license was non-transferable. Further, a licensee could not rent, lease, or sell the software to anyone else; you couldn’t even physically transfer the discs out of the Western Hemisphere. Finally, if you upgraded to a new version, the old version had to be destroyed.
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