First Sale Doctrine

As esoteric as the subject matter of this blog can be, I tend to stay away from the really, really, really nitty-gritty legal discussions for fear that most of you don’t really care.  Heck, I barely care sometimes.

But the first sale doctrine is an important aspect of the Copyright Act.  Basically (and over-simplistically), it says that once you “buy” a copyrighted work, you can sell it to someone else however you wish.   In other words, if you’ve purchased a copy of the Software Licensing Handbook (hint, hint)… you can resell it to someone else for whatever you can get for it.  So while you may have paid $44.95 to me, if you were able to get someone to pay you $200 for it, good for you.

Within the software licensing realm, this is a little more tricky.  Most business-to-business software licenses specifically prevent you from transferring, assigning, or otherwise divesting yourself of the rights you have, unless all you’re doing is terminating the license (in which case, the license goes away).  But what about commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) software?  Something like, say, Microsoft Office.  If you buy it from PCWarehouse for $300… can you resell it on eBay?

Well… someone is testing the waters against a company called Autodesk.

Michael Madison over on Madisonian has a great summary.

Pay attention to the results on this one.  It might not affect the bulk of us on the software side of things, as our negotiated software licenses already deal with all of this minutia)… but the music and movie industry-related impact could be significant.


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