Autodesk Wins Appeal in Vernor Case

Autodesk wins Round Two regarding the right of individuals to resell software products.

Today a US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling, giving Autodesk a win regarding the right for individuals to resell copies of software.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a ruling from the federal court in Seattle that had allowed plaintiff Timothy Vernor to sell on eBay unopened copies of AutoCAD software he had acquired at a garage sale. In the new ruling, the court said since Autodesk licensed the software to its first purchaser, federal copyright law does not allow resales by individuals like Vernor.

Autodesk has yet to make a statement regarding the ruling. Public Citizen, an advocacy group that helped litigate the case on behalf of Vernor, has also not yet commented.

The case in the 9th Circuit in San Francisco is Vernor v. Autodesk Inc, 09-35969.

In the original case, Vernor acted as his own lawyer, surprising many in the software industry when his petition to the Federal District court in Seattle was accepted. An advocacy group called Public Citizen stepped in to offer legal council, helping Vernor to win the original case. Public Citizen is a non-profit founded by Ralph Nader, and its stated goal in taking on the Vernor case was to set precedent in case law to poke holes in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. PC believes the act allows software companies “enormous control over the rights of average consumers” far in excess of settled case law regarding copyright and related notions of first sale and fair use.

Both sides are highly motivated in this matter; we expect an appeal.

Background, albeit a bit edge: