And the courts rule one in favor of the little guy…[Autodesk vs. Some Guy]

by Mike
Posted October 2nd, 2009 at 9:45 am


The way in which any human being can manipulate, copy, and redistribute digital files has made our entire society from music, to books, to games stand up and take notice. Some have embraced technology and started new innovative services or produced new products while others have tried to hamper it. Perhaps the most widely mis-used aspect of technology is companies trying to push the idea that in this digital age, no one really owns their purchased goods anymore. Instead, we merely license or rent goods. Of course, this is completely ridiculous and sadly many cases of patent infringement/IP infringement have been battled in the courtroom with the big guys in suits often winning. However, the tides may be changing (albeit slowly) as the case involving Autodesk and Timothy Vernor in which the accuser is claiming the defendant is breaking the law by reselling legally purchased, used versions of AutoCAD on eBay. The outcome isn’t what you’d expect — the judge sided with Timothy Vernor…

Yes. In an age where consumers are getting sued left and right for the most asinine reasons and big companies walking off with all of the cash, this ruling will catch most familiar in the tech scene off guard. Of course, to many in the law scene, the outcome isn’t that unbelievable as a simple law involving the “right of first sale”. Reinforcing this idea that we own software when we purchase it and aren’t merely “renting” or “licensing” it is huge. Per the judge:

The transfer of AutoCAD copies via the license is a transfer of ownership

Further adding insult to Autodesk’s injuries, the Judge smacked them down even harder saying:

Vernor’s sale of AutoCAD packages promote piracy no more so than Autodesk’s sales of the same packages

Surely this is a major victory for consumers. Of course, since companies such as Autodesk and content providers aren’t happy with the ruling, they will appeal until they find a judge biased in their favor. If that doesn’t play out for them, you simply won’t hear another thing about this story…ever. Highly unlike what happens when the typical outcome materializes in which the companies are the ones which prevail in the courtroom and instantly turn to the web and print mediums to declare a grand victory for IP everywhere which will somehow translate into a happier existence on earth. We all know when they win, nobody wins.

The companies of course get around this right of first sale business by wording their ToS and marketing their products in such a way that an individual purchases a license instead of an actual product. While certainly shady on all counts and outright a jerk move, isn’t illegal and in some instances purchasing a license makes sense. Though, in most instances, this approach is only there to gouge customers.

So, this victory, while small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things is a small sliver of hope that society hasn’t been completely commercialized. Someone still does care for the little guy, the consumer and our rights. Are the tides a changin’?

TechDirt > MediaPost

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