If you own a product, do you then have the right to give or sell it to someone else? Millions of yard sales every year would seem to say “yes”.

And when it comes to intellectual property-based items (books, for example), the Supreme Court has even given the concept a name: the first sale doctrine.

However, at least one software publisher believes that piece of legality does not apply to their products. That they have the power to restrict an owner’s right to resell them.


Autodesk has appealed, arguing that so long as its license agreements recite the right magic words, it can strip purchasers of any ownership in the CD-ROMs on which software is delivered. If that’s right, then not only don’t you own the software you buy, but any copyright owner can simply recite the magic words and effectively outlaw libraries, used bookstores, and DVD rentals, among other things.

Ah, the magic of the end-user license agreement (EULA) which we’ve all had the pleasure of reading* during a long pause in the software install process. Right? :-)

Anyway, the EFF, which just celebrated their 20th anniversary, is involved in this and many other battles over consumer rights when it comes to digital property.

Unfortunately, most media companies these days, including software publishers, want to move away from the concept of “ownership” when you pay money for their products, whether it’s a physical package or digital download.

An idea that is only reinforced by files locked up with DRM, such as the books you buy for reading on a Kindle (something I hope is missing from Apple’s iPad book reader).

BTW, if you can afford it, contribute a few dollars to the EFF to help them continue defending our rights to own and control the media we pay for, no matter the format.

* I’ve read a few EULAs over the years, mostly so I can help people understand their fair use rights (the one that used to come with the Microsoft Office clip art collection was rather interesting). While I can’t tell you exactly what the EULAs say for any of the commercial software on my current MacBook, I’m pretty sure most read similar to Autodesk’s.