EU rules sales of used software legal.

Are you looking for a second-hand copy of Angry Birds? The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that software authors cannot prevent customers from reselling their products.

Software companies have long insisted that unlike books, DVDs or cars, computer programs cannot be resold because customers do no actually own them. Instead, you merely own a license to use the software as governed by the End User License Agreement (EULA) – that big wall of text you normally click past without reading during the install process.

Most EULA’s forbid resale of the license, but the court’s ruling, made in a case against software company Oracle, now says otherwise – “even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.”

Of course, one vital difference between software and books, DVDs or cars is that its incredibly easy to create an exact duplicate of every program on your hard drive, so what is to stop you copy-pasting all the way to the bank? Thankfully the court has thought of that as well – “an original acquirer… must make the copy downloaded onto his own computer unusable at the time of resale.”

You don’t even have to transfer the program from your computer to the buyer’s, however, as the ruling says that once the licence is sold, the new owner can simply download a copy from the software vendor’s website.

It remains to be seen what impact this ruling has, as there are currently no mechanisms in place for transferring software licenses on platforms such as the App Store or Google Play. Steam, one of the largest video game distribution services, does currently allow users to “gift” games to one another, so it might be easy enough to add a “sell” feature alongside.

Software firms are unlikely to take the ruling lying down though, as there is no reason for consumers to purchase new software instead of used – unlike physical goods, digital data isn’t subject to wear and tear.

Photo credit: Engadget

Via New Scientist