When we buy DVDs or video games from shops, it’s our right to resell them once we’re done, no matter how much the creators might hate it. So why isn’t it the same for downloads? A court ruling suggests it might be…
If paying for a downloadable music track counts as a purchase, surely you should be able to sell that purchase on?
Well, companies would argue that you don’t actually own that track, you’ve only bought a licence for it.
As we found out when we talked about whether you have the right to bequeath your downloads – this is a licence granted only to you, which apparently isn’t transferable to anyone else, even after your death.
Essentially you’re just renting downloads, meaning they’re not yours to pass on, as commenter Robert Smith explained
‘You have not bought the item. You, by law, have merely rented it for your lifetime and when you become a memory the rights go back to the rightful owner. Exactly the same as a rented house, or car or anything else you RENT.’
UsedSoft – sell your old software
However, in a court case between a website called UsedSoft and the software company Oracle, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled that you should be allowed to resell software licences.
UsedSoft’s site allowed users to resell their ‘used’ software licences, where the secondary purchaser would be able to buy the licence and download a new copy of the software, with the original owner’s copy being deactivated. Oracle wasn’t happy with this and sued UsedSoft in order to prevent used software from being sold.
However, the European Court of Justice this week ruled that used software can be resold, even if it wasn’t on a physical format, like a DVD. According to the Court, the copyright owner (eg. Oracle) exhausts their exclusive right of distribution when they first sell that software and so they cannot oppose its resale.
If that turns out to be the case, there are quite wide-reaching implications. You should be able to resell your ebooks, apps, downloadable games, music tracks and movies.
Keeping track of downloads
Of course, there’s a catch. You cannot simply go around selling multiple copies of your software – the Court made it clear that selling on your licence would require you erasing every copy of that software from your own computer(s).
How the copyright holder would know the copy was completely deleted from your computer isn’t clear. How would they find out? Scan your computer to check the file is no longer there? Privacy implications are starting to unravel…
There’s also the fact that, unlike a scuffed paperback or a scratched CD, downloads don’t deteriorate. This means that people can, in theory, resell the ‘original’ copy of the ebook or digital album. That is, unless the vowels start to gradually fall out of an ebook every time it’s resold, there’s no real concept of ‘used’ with downloads. So, why exactly would you buy the more expensive ‘new’ copy from the original company?
Is this an unacceptable judgment? Or just something companies will have to get to grips with?