Ninth Circuit Ruling In Vernor V. Autodesk: Users Do Not Own Their Copies – And Why That Matters

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The Ninth Circuit, on September 10, 2010, issued a highly anticipated decision in the Vernor v. Autodesk case, No. 09-35969, holding that the acquirer of an authentic copy of Autodesk software is a mere licensee and not the owner of a copy, overturning the district court’s decision. This is important because it means that licensees are in fact subject to the restrictions in the license agreement on both the transfer and use of the software and may be liable for infringement if they breach these terms, and the “first sale doctrine” in copyright law, which allows owners to freely transfer their software copies, does not apply.1 The court eliminated a source of legal uncertainty for the software industry by confirming the enforceability of licensors’ restrictions on use and transfer by users.

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