Autodesk, eBay Seller in Court Over Reselling Software

A very simple question for you. How often have you resold software that you legally purchased? Often enough, right? Well, if it’s up to Autodesk, the company behind AutoCAD, you will no longer be allowed to resell your software. Update: As it turns out, the matter has already been resolved: Autodesk lost. A win for all of us.

Licensed, not sold

Timothy Vernor was selling software from Autodeskvia eBay, but Autodesk didn’t seem to like this very much. They ordered eBay to take down the ads, and ban Vernor from the site, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Vernor was selling the actual disks, not copies or whatever. After the takedown, Vernor sued Autodesk.

Autodesk claims that it is not selling its software, but that it is licensing it, and as such, the buyer licensee does not have the right to resell the software. “The deal between Autodesk and the licensee is [that] you pay us for the software and you’re not going to be able to sell it on the used market,” Michael Jacobs, an attorney representing Autodesk, said in court Tuesday.

Jacobs argues that if the court sides with Autodesk, the company’s entire business model will be upset. While Jacobs acknowledges that this is not a case of pirated software, he argues that the end result is similar – because the seller could still potentially run the software after selling the disk it came on. To top it all off, Autodesk also argues that Vernor acquired the software unlawfully, because the original licensee did not have the right to sell it to him.

Vernor’s lawyer, Greg Beck, responded that while Autodesk may claim it is a licensing arrangement, in reality it’s a sale, and the end user owns the product. “There’s no way for Autodesk to control the software once it’s in the stream of commerce,” said Beck, “The particular copy of software gets full value up front. Autodesk doesn’t ask for periodic payments.”

Beck drew a parallel with books, which contain the “All rights reserved” note, reaffirming copyright. “That’s different from saying you don’t own the copy of the book you purchased. You do own it because you have the right to keep it or destroy it or burn it or do whatever you want to that copy, even though you don’t have the greater rights,” Beck said, “By the same token, someone who buys a piece of software has the right to resell the software CD.”

The hearing for the case took place Tuesday, and a ruling is expected soon. The judge will most likely side with either of the two parties, instead of sending it to court, after which appeals will be made.

Slippery slope

This, my friends, is the result of arguing for the nonsense that software is licensed, not sold – an idea particularly strong among Apple fanatics in the whole Apple vs. Clone makers debate. As I have said numerous times before, this is a very slippery slope we’re on.

If you believe that software companies license software, and not sell it, then you should be in agreement with Autodesk here. You may argue that Autodesk is taking it too far, but if software companies indeed license their software, as some of you argue with all your heart, then Autodesk is fully within its right to forbid the resale of their software.

This is the very reason why I’m rooting for Psystar. It has nothing to do with being against Apple or wanting Mac OS X on my non-Apple labelled computer – no, it has to do with things like this. Defending the licensed-not-sold nonsense is short-sighted, and will only come around to bite you in the bum. By then, it’ll be too late.


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