Back in the day, when you bought music on a CD it was yours. You could copy, share and even resell the CD. Similarly when you were done reading a printed book you could pass it on to a friend, sell it at a garage sale or donate it to a worthwhile cause. Now in the digital age of e-readers and downloaded digital music files, you can no longer do that. But what if you’re in the business of selling software? Can you do that? A recent court decision in California says you probably can’t. And perhaps some day this decision could affect the sales of textbooks, DVDs, videogames and more.
The case involved someone with an Online business who resells used goods on eBay. He acquired several copies of AutoCAD from an architectural firm’s sale. The Autodesk Company, originators of the widely used AutoCAD program, sued. The company argued that selling individual packages of its software was a violation of its licensing agreement. In effect a “buyer” was merely renting the right to use the software and therefore did not posses the right to resell it. Autodesk has a list of restrictions on its software. Consequently, its attorneys argued that when the business owner pays for AutoCAD he isn’t actually buying it, and therefore he cannot resell the individual packages without violating copyright laws.
Attorneys for the reseller invoked the “first-sale doctrine” which allows legally copied versions of a copyrighted work to be sold. They also noted that upon buying individual packages of the software, sales taxes were paid and therefore the businessman possessed ownership of those individual copies. Since he bought the software in their packages, no new copies had been made and he had a right to resell them. But attorneys for Autodesk weren’t buying such arguments. The Motion Picture Association of America agreed with Autodesk’s point of view, suggesting that all producers of digital content might consider such a move.
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