Trio Of Important First Sale Cases All Hit Appeals Court In Early June

from the it's-first-sale-month dept

Zusha Elinson has noted that a trio of important cases concerning the "first sale doctrine" in copyright law will all be heard on appeal in the (at times wacky) 9th Circuit in early June. We've written about all three cases here before. There's UMG v. Augusto, which questions whether or not it's legal to resell "promo CDs" that record labels stamp "not for resale." In that case, the judge ruled that reselling was perfectly fine, and preventing such sales was a violation of the first sale doctrine (and would, effectively, give record labels a way of creating perpetual and all-controlling copyright, if the decision went the other way). Then there's Autodesk v. Vernor, similarly involving the right to resell software. Again, the district court ruled that this was allowed, noting that software is really sold, not (as Autodesk claimed) just licensed.

The third case is the troubling one. MDY v. Blizzard is the one case that went the other way, in a ruling that left many copyright experts scratching their heads, noting that it seemed to go against everything that the first sale doctrine stood for -- and that nothing the guy did (he made a bot that worked in World of Warcraft) actually violated copyright law.

Hopefully, the appeals court upholds the first two cases and reverses the third... but these days, you never know how courts are going to rule on these sorts of issues. And, the 9th Circuit is often notoriously... weird in some of its rulings. Either way, these are three cases worth watching, as they could have a pretty big impact on the question of whether or not you have the right to do what you want with products you bought.
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Filed Under: augusto, copyright, first sale, mdy, vernor
Companies: autodesk, blizzard, umg


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  1. icon
    Nick Coghlan (profile), 12 May 2010 @ 6:47am

    The 3rd case is not the same, but should still be reversed on appeal

    I agree the third situation is somewhat different from the first two, but I also believe the decision in that case should still be reversed.

    The problem is that Blizzard can ban bots in their Terms of Service and cancel people's account if they catch them using a bot. That's all fine and well within Blizzard's rights (and as a WoW player, hooray for them doing it - bots can seriously mess up server economies).

    What Blizzard have done in this third case, however, is to go after the *maker* of one of the bot programs and attempt to use copyright law to get the bot program *itself* declared illegal.

    That's an abuse of copyright law, and the courts shouldn't allow it. Sure, the bot maker is creating a tool that has the sole purpose of helping people to violate Blizzard's Terms of Service in WoW, but that isn't illegal as things currently stand. If Blizzard would like it to be illegal, then they should be lobbying the legislative branch rather than persuading the judicial branch to get creative in interpreting the law.

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