Database giant Oracle sued UsedSoft a while back; a German firm that specializes in buying up software licenses from customers that purchased them straight from the source, and then reselling them for a discounted rate. That’s bad for business if you happen to own the rights to that software, but as the recent ruling in the case made plain the court didn’t really take that into consideration.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that selling second-hand software is indeed legal, and this precedent extends far beyond Oracle’s singular case. Here’s the heart of a recently released statement by the CJEU that elaborates on the ruling:
“Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy — tangible or intangible — and at the same time concludes, in return [for] payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right. Such a transaction involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy.”
The bottom line:
“Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.”
It’s not over yet though. The CJEU got involved when the German court Oracle originally turned to them with the suit and asked them to chip in on the action, but it’s most likely that the final judgment will draw a very similar conclusion. Among other things, this will also encompass the two limitations that the CJEU set: you can’t sell unused licenses, and you can’t continue using the software once it has been resold to another party.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Oracle is so touchy about its IP these days – just last month it made a big investment when it acquired Collective Intelligence.