Who Really Owns A Piece Of Software?

from the here-come-the-questions dept

One of the big issues that gets discussed a lot in the digital age is the question of ownership. With digital copies and end user license agreements, the whole idea of “ownership” has become a lot more vague. In many cases, it seems a lot more like you’re leasing digital content rather than really owning it. However, it looks like the courts may be carving out a clearer definition of ownership, and that could become quite important. For now, at least, the Supreme Court has refused to weigh in on a case about the ownership of some software, meaning that the lower court’s ruling stands, which pretty clearly lays out the terms under which someone can “own” some software. It’s not a perfect standard, but it’s a starting point. The court notes that if you paid a substantial sum, can use the software indefinitely without restrictions and can discard or destroy the software at will, then, for all intents and purposes, you own it. Of course, that can be open to an awful lot of interpretation — and you can bet that various EULAs will make sure to write out those points pretty quickly, if they don’t already. However, as the law is blindly groping around this digital world, trying to figure out how things fit, it looks like they’ve mapped out one little corner to start with.

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