Although Autodesk, creators of computer design program AutoCAD, has lost the case regarding resale of its used products twice before, that didn’t stop them from continually appealing the decision. On September 10th, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Autodesk, setting the precedent that selling used software is a violation of intellectual property rights.
Autodesk made the case in response to finding Timothy Vernor selling unopened copies of AutoCAD on eBay that he bought from an office sale. Autodesk lost the previous cases mainly due to Timothy Vernor’s defense that he can sell used copies of AutoCAD under the first-sale doctrine, which states a person can legally sell a used item purchased from its owner, so long as copies of said item aren’t created. Vernor’s defense held up through previous cases because the first-sale doctrine directly describes his exact situation regarding selling used copies of AutoCAD, except for one tiny hair to split.
This time around, what seemed to turn the tide for Autodesk was their claim that Vernor didn’t purchase the software from its owner, which would be Autodesk since AutoCAD is their intellectual property, thus the first-sale doctrine defense didn’t apply because the doctrine states items can only be resold when purchased from the item’s owner. It’s all semantics and hair-splitting, but it finally won Autodesk their desired ruling.
Aside from potentially tarnishing their reputation with its user base, the ruling Autodesk won has technically set a precedent regarding the sale of used items that are considered intellectual property, leaving one of the biggest used trade markets around, used video games, a glaring, susceptible target.
We’ve reported on the potential coming war centered on the sale of used video games before, but this ruling has set a precedent that has the potential to curb the sale of used video games. As AutoCAD is intellectual property to Autodesk, video games are intellectual property to their developers, and considering we normally don’t buy used video games directly from their developers, but buy them from retail outlets like GameStop instead, our purchases aren’t protected under the first-sale doctrine.
Whether or not developers will actually go through the legal process in order to curb the sale of used video games, many prominent developers, including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Activision and THQ, have already attempted their own ways to prevent the sale of used games. This ruling, however, can potentially provide game developers with an easier, legal way to stop the sale of used games.
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