You Can Sell Used Copies of AutoDesk

By Deane Barker on June 2, 2008

Court smacks Autodesk, affirms right to sell used software: This is an important decision, and one that I hope gets applied as precedent.

Autodesk argued that it only licenses copies of its software, rather than selling them, and that therefore any resale of the software constitutes copyright infringement.

But Judge Richard A. Jones rejected that argument, holding that Vernor is entitled to sell used copies of Autodesk’s software regardless of any licensing agreement that might have bound the software’s previous owners.

Here is the meat of the argument:

But as [the defendant’s] lawyers pointed out, the distinction between a lease and a sale is based on the actual characteristics of the transaction, not merely on how the transaction is described by the parties. And characterizing AutoCAD as merely licensed, rather than sold, barely passes the straight face test. AutoCAD customers pay a lump sum at the time of purchase, with no obligation to make further payments or to return the software at the conclusion of the supposed lease.

And that’s the truth of it. Just because a company calls it “licensing” rather than “purchasing” does not necessarily make it so. As the article says, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. This doesn’t change just because it has a sticker on it that says “I’m a hippo.”