It’s official: Software is owned, not licensed

Autodesk, a California based software company that has been suing one Timothy Vernor for second-hand sale of (legitimate) copies of the company’s software via eBay, has lost the suit.

Out-Law News reports that Autodesk tried to prove that the software in question is licensed (not sold), and that Vernor’s attempt to sell it constitutes copyright infringement – but the court found that there isn’t enough evidence to back that claim.

The problem for Autodesk emerged from their own license agreement for the product. It defined that the company retains title to the software, but can’t regain possession of it. The buyer pays a one-time price for the software, so the court used a precedent to make its decision.

The precedent in question was the Wise case – in which Vanessa Redgrave was given ownership over a print of a film she starred in and the court ruled she had the right to sell it and not to return it to the studio. The judge deemed film and software agreements to be similar enough for the Wise case to be used.

As regards to Autodesk’s claim that Vernor’s conduct promotes piracy, the jugde said: “Mr. Vernor’s sales of AutoCAD packages promote piracy no more so than Autodesk’s sales of the same packages. Piracy depends on the number of people willing to engage in piracy, and a pirate is presumably just as happy to unlawfully duplicate software purchased directly from Autodesk as he is to copy software purchased from a reseller like Mr. Vernor.”

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