May 21, 2008

Federal Judge Upholds Right of Vendor to Sue Against Anti-Consumer Copyright Claim

eBay Vendor Claims Right to Resell Used Copies of Products from Software Company

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A California software company’s "license agreement" it includes with copies of its products does not prohibit buyers from reselling the software on sites such as eBay or anywhere else, a federal judge ruled today.

Judge Richard A. Jones denied Autodesk’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by eBay seller Timothy Vernor, who is represented by Public Citizen and Seattle attorney Michael Withey. Vernor sued Autodesk in November after the company prevented him from reselling copies of "AutoCAD Release 14." Autodesk filed several Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) notices with eBay claiming the sale would infringe its copyright.

Vernor acquired a used copy of AutoCAD at a garage sale in 2005 and put it up for auction on eBay. Autodesk sells this product in a shrink-wrapped box that includes a license agreement.

Public Citizen contended that Autodesk’s actions suppressed competition and led to higher prices for consumers. Public Citizen argues in the complaint that the owner of a copyrighted product can resell that product without permission, and that the court should protect Vernor’s rights to resell AutoCAD software.

Jones’ ruling, filed in the U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle, stated that Vernor is entitled to protection under the First Sale Doctrine, which allows a person who owns a lawfully made copy of a copyrighted work to sell or dispose of the copy.

"This sends a clear message to copyright owners that once they sell a copy of their products, they have no right to control subsequent sales," said Public Citizen attorney Greg Beck. "Consumers deserve protection against these types of abusive tactics that can force consumers to pay higher prices."

Vernor’s suit against Autodesk will proceed.

READ the case documents