The Blog

  • July 4, 2012
  • When Is A License Not A License?

    In a blow to the software licensing paradigm and intellectual property rights everywhere, the European Court of Justice said that it was OK to resell a software license once you are done with it.  The case involved Oracle and a European company UsedSoft, which had made a nice business of reselling the licenses.  The story is reported here at Dow Jones by Vanessa Mock.

    It really boggles the mind that such a court could redefine intellectual property rights in such a fundamental way.  Furthermore, I could understand, though not accept, it if this action came from North Korea or China where pirating is an open secret.  But to have the European Court of Justice come up with such a boner leaves me just shaking my head.

    It’s almost as if medieval law was resurrected and rather than indenturing people to the land, it now indentures technology companies, and probably many others who provide licenses rather than products, to slavery.

    This might be a boon to the subscription economy.  In that model there is no doubt about who owns the software and the terms of use.

    So, does Oracle in this case have an obligation to continue providing updates to the new owner of record?  This is a story that will continue to evolve.

    Published: 11 years ago


    • July 4th, 2012 at 12:29 pm    

      Denis – nice to see you defending property rights. We’ll make a conservative of you yet!

      This ruling does remind me of the one-sided nature of the residential rental market here in San Francisco. Even though the leases are technically month-to-month, the tenant can’t be evicted without being paid a large fee to move out, and rents can only go up a small amount per year (ranging from 0.1% to 2.9% over the past 20 years), and many tenants “sub-lease” to friends and then move out. Although rents currently can be raised when the unit becomes empty, the all-powerful Tenants Union wants to do away with that and freeze rents forever.

      No wonder there is a dearth of rental units available, and existing ones continue to deteriorate and owners decide it isn’t worth improvements and upkeep until a unit becomes vacant.


      • July 10th, 2012 at 1:36 pm    

        Hmmm…I like to think that any pragmatist would see the value in both private property and the commons. Why is it that we only see one? Thanks for writing.

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