The U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit just upheld the legal enforceability of software End User License Agreements (EULA). The court sided with Autodesk and agreed that the terms that a user must agree to in order to use their software are legally enforceable.
In an of itself, the courts saying that these ‘contracts’ are enforceable can be a good thing. By informing the end users that they are able to use a copy of the chosen software on one computer, or two, or can be freely shared among all computer users allows the end user to know their legal rights in using and reproducing the software.
But when the terms that are being put into EULAs infringe upon other rights, including basic rights of any citizen of the United States, there are lines being crossed that should be held to a higher standard. In many EULAs a user is not allowed to make a backup of the software, even though in other circumstances the courts have firmly upheld the user’s right of Fair Use. Also many, many EULAs restrict the right to the doctrine of First Sale. The doctrine of First Sale is the legal right to resell or give away a product that you have rightfully purchased.
Many EULAs now ‘license’ the use of the software to you, not sell you the software. This allows the software maker to forbid the end user from reselling or even given the software to someone else for free. The practice of First Sale has existed since the first decade of the 20th century. It has never been a cause of piracy or skewing of the marketplace.
I expect many companies to begin putting EULAs on everything from software, to books, to CDs. But I imagine those companies will not be so bold as to do this all at once, but to take <1% of their catalog and implement this scheme. They will take the next bestselling book or platinum-bound CD and slap the EULA on it and attempt to justify it by the products popularity. Then the companies will slowly begin converting their entire catalog of products to this new method of business all in the name of ‘helping the economy’ by reducing ‘theft’.
Much of the US copyright system needs an overhaul to account for the abuses that have taken place in the last couple decades. From the ever-lengthening term of copyrights on works, to the End User License Agreement debacle, corporations are running roughshod over the American people in the pursuit of profits. Wherever was a valid case made that a person should be able to live off a single invention, song or book written for their entire lifetime PLUS seventy years? That means that a person could write a bestselling book when they are twenty and never have to work again, nor that person’s children AND grandchildren!
It’s time for the Copyright Revolution.
Till Next Time