Court Ruling Could Hamper Software Reseller Market

Kara Reeder

The U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals has ruled on a legal case that could cause major problems in the software reseller market, according to


The case involves online merchant Timothy Vernor, who was selling unopened copies of Autodesk software that he purchased in office closure and garage sales on eBay.


According to a 1908 Supreme Court ruling, under the so-called "first sale doctrine," copyright owners cannot prevent the resale of products they had sold. However, the appeals court ruled unanimously that because the software had not been sold, but was licensed, by Autodesk, it was not covered by this legal principle.


The judgment says that Autodesk transfer restrictions:

stated that the licence is non-transferable, that the software could not be transferred or leased without Autodesk's written consent, and could not be transferred outside the Western Hemisphere.

The ruling does not sit well with the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

For too long, software companies have tried to strip consumers of their rights as owners of software by pretending that all software is licensed, rather than sold ... But if software companies can strip us of our rights with a licence agreement, there's nothing to stop book publishers, record labels and movie studios using the same trick to shut down libraries, archives, used bookstores and online auctions.

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