EU court rules resale of used software licenses is legal, even online

In the case involving Oracle the court found that software vendors have no rights to block resale

Europe's highest court ruled on Tuesday that the trading of "used" software licenses is legal and that the author of such software cannot oppose any resale.

The exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by such a licence is exhausted on its first sale, said the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This applies to downloaded software as well as that bought on CD or DVD. This ruling sets a precedent for trading of used software licenses throughout the European Union and could potentially impact ebooks and computer games as well.

The court also ruled that any patches or upgrades made to the software through a service agreement also form part of the used software that can be sold on. However it said that the reseller must make the copy downloaded onto his own computer "unusable" at the time of resale.

The German Federal Court of Justice referred the question to the ECJ following a legal battle between Oracle and UsedSoft, a company that buys and sells used software. Oracle launched the case after UsedSoft offered "pre-used" Oracle software licenses online in October 2005.

Oracle customers can download a copy of the program directly onto their computer from Oracle's website. The user right for such a program, which is granted by a license agreement, includes the right to store a copy of the program permanently on a server and to allow up to 25 users to access it by downloading it to the main memory of their workstation computers.

In a small victory for Oracle, the ECJ ruling prevents resellers from breaking up a license and selling only part of it if they have purchased licenses for more users than they need.

UsedSoft customers download the resold software directly from Oracle's website after acquiring a 'used' license. Oracle argued that the principle of exhaustion does not apply to user licenses for computer programs downloaded from the Internet. However the ECJ firmly rejected this argument.

The German Regional Court originally ruled in favor of Oracle, but following UsedSoft's appeal, the federal court decided to refer the matter to the ECJ. The final judgement must still be made by the German federal court, but given the ECJ ruling will form a large basis of the decision, Oracle looks likely to lose the case.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?