Think You Own That Software? Think Again



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I'm no lawyer either, but I'm not sure why the familiar world of publishing and books can't serve as a precedent for electronic meda. If I buy a book, I am free to do with it as I please (including reselling it, lending it to friends or library patrons, etc.), except that I cannot make copies of it beyond short quotations that fall under fair use. 1 book purchase = 1 book use. Obviously, electronic works are far easier to copy, but I don't see why that should change the law. I buy a copy of a piece of software. I no longer need it, remove it from my computer, and sell the physical media along with the license to use it to another user. Seems quite fair and workable to me. Enforcement is a whole other issue, but I don't see why difficulties in enforcement should defeat common sense. Oh, that's right. Because large corporations with deep pockets will make sure that it does.



I'm no legal scholar, but I cannot see how John Q. Citizen benefits from this ruling. (Yes, I read the section describing how some purchasers could maybe possibly be in a better position because of the ruling.) But to this casual software purchaser, excuse me, 'licensee', it seems that the ruling only benefits the software creator(s).

Is the age of private ownership now behind us? What vendor would not want to have permanent control over their product, and more importantly its uses, in perpetuity? As I said, I have no legal background in this area, but couldn't this concept be applied to more traditional kinds of sales, for items that aren't considered 'intellectual property'? Does the complexity of the physical object matter? The first thought that came to me is of the emerging new class of cars that are electric or hybrid-electric. I already don't own my Playstation and my Xbox. Could this concept be applied to cars? Perhaps the better question is, what products couldn't this ruling be applied to?

At that point, the question would then become, what would the terms of the EULA be limited to? It seems that the personal behaviors of the licensee would be a topic of interest/control, since the behavior of selling is now to be limited. What other behaviors might become subject to control? What about using the PS or the XB to play a pirated disc, or to visit a site that violates gambling laws, or to view a pornographic movie? What about driving the vehicle in an intoxicated condition, or using it to violate the law in manners such as speeding, or driving the wrong way down a one-way street? Could breaking the law cause you to lose ownership of your car as a matter of contract law rather than criminal law? If so, say goodbye to having your day in court in many areas.

The ability of vendors to reach into the lives of their customers and exert control over their behaviors strikes me as something this ruling could conceivably put at considerable risk.

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