Court Rules That Software License Transfers Ownership
By Kate Wevers – Edited by Anthony Kammer
Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc., No. C07-1189RAJ (W.D. Wash., Sept. 30, 2009)
On September 30, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington granted, in part, Vernor’s motion for summary judgment against Autodesk.After Autodesk became aware of Vernor’s attempts to sell copies of its copyrighted software, AutoCAD, on eBay, it invoked the takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, causing Vernor to be barred from selling anything on eBay for a month. Vernor sued, seeking, among other remedies, declaratory judgment that these sales were not in violation of copyright. In granting summary judgment for Vernor, the Court held that a customer who had acquired AutoCAD packages pursuant to Autodesk’s software license agreement (“License”) became an owner of the physical copies of the software with the right to resell the AutoCAD packages under the first sale doctrine (17 USC § 109(a)).
The Court also accepted that the owner was protected from claims of contributory copyright infringement by 17 USC § 117. The Court had previously considered very similar issues in the context of Autodesk’s earlier motion to dismiss. See Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc., 555 F. Supp. 2d 1164 (W.D. Wash. 2008)).
A selection of briefs and relevant court documents are available here. The Technology & Marketing Law Blog provides a useful overview and analysis of the case. The outcome was heralded as pro-consumer by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but Blog Nauseum suggests that the decision is not much of a win for consumers. (more…)