Autodesk Sued By eBay Seller For Pretending Right Of First Sale Doesn't Exist

from the ah,-copyright-law dept

The folks over at Boing Boing are pointing us to a very interesting case where an eBay seller who was kicked off eBay is now suing software maker Autodesk for $10 million. The case raises some important issues that don't get nearly enough attention. In copyright, the right of first sale is designed to allow anyone who buys a copyrighted product the right to resell it without going through the copyright holder -- just as when you buy a chair, you can resell it without the manufacturer's permission. In fact, studies have shown that an active secondary sales market often helps boost the size of the primary market (if you'll be able to resell a product later, you're probably willing to pay more for it initially). However, short-sighted copyright holders don't always see things that way.

In this case, the guy had a legitimately purchased copy of AutoCAD and was trying to sell it on eBay. This should be perfectly legal. He had purchased a good and was trying to resell it. Assuming he had removed all copies on his own computer and wasn't using the software any more, there should be nothing to complain about here. However, instead, Autodesk sent eBay a DMCA takedown notice, claiming that the sale was a copyright violation. This would appear to be an abuse of the DMCA, sending a takedown notice on content that the seller has a legitimate right to put up for sale. Abusing the DMCA with false takedown notices can get you in a lot of legal hot water.

However, once again, the case takes a bit of a twist. Autodesk is claiming that the right of first sale doesn't apply in this case, because the guy did not purchase the software, but merely licensed it, thanks to the shrinkwrap license found inside the box, which the purchaser doesn't get to read until well after he or she has "purchased" the software (which appears like any normal purchase, rather than license). Unfortunately for Autodesk, some courts have already ruled that, despite mind-numbing EULAs that no one reads, if you purchase... er... license software, you still get certain ownership rights, which likely include the right to then sell the software. This case seems to have a little something for everyone interested in software and copyrights, between the questions on first sale doctrine, DMCA abuses and shrink wrap EULAs. It should be worth paying attention to as it moves forward.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, ebay, first sale
Companies: autodesk, ebay


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  1. identicon
    The infamous Joe, 14 Sep 2007 @ 12:38pm

    Bleating little fluffy sheep.

    Just because it says you can't resell it on the box doesn't mean you can't resell it any more than when NFL says you can't talk about the game without their permission. Just because it's written on the box doesn't make it legal.

    Some of the posters should really stop accepting everything that's thrust at them as truth and question their surroundings.

    As it is, this is clearly a case of greed. Even if we were going to *pretend* that software was a scarce good, if you removed it from your computer before selling then the company is still getting a 1:1 ratio of purchased software to user. The only thing that changed is the user's name. It shouldn't make a difference to them, unless they are foolish enough to think that they deserve a cut from every new user.

    Pure foolishness, I say.

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