First Sale Doctrine Versus EULAs

I was browsing through some library related blogs this evening and I found something slightly disturbing. One of the topics for our group project and poster in IST511 (coincidentally the one my group chose), is about the First Sale Doctrine and libraries. This news article is about a court case, Verner v. Autodesk. Verner was selling copies of Autocad he purchased at an architect’s office sale, including the serial numbers, on eBay. Autodesk, the makers of Autocad, tried to shut down his sales so he sued them claiming he had the right to resale. Unfortunately, due to the original contract signed by the architectural firm he purchased the software from, courts found in favor of Autodesk. The contract “… made clear that AutoCAD was merely licensed, never sold, and that one’s license was non-transferable.

Now, if you think about it, what does this mean for the futures of used video game, movie, and music stores? Libraries may be safe (as far as books are concerned) for a while yet, but with this court case decision, could publishers seek to make similar agreements concerning their published works? If a library was only able to hold or lend books and media that are in the public domain, the value of the library as an information center will be greatly reduced if not snuffed out altogether. It is all well and good to say that a library is not dependent on books for value, but if a library no longer has the right to share information through any media due to license agreements imposed by publishers and software or digital media creators, it will have lost its most valuable asset: Information.


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I am a teen librarian. I am a learner of things and a doer of doings.

One thought on “First Sale Doctrine Versus EULAs”

  1. I agree. There was a discussion on NPR a few months back and one commentator was arguing that libraries are bad because they compete against booksellers and movie rental places. That sort of caught me off guard, so I sat down to think about why libraries should be able to do that. It comes down to the attitude that we have about information. On our side is the belief that information is a vital resource that should be freely shared, for the benefit of individuals and in turn, society, regardless of income. On the other side is the belief that information is a commodity to be bought and sold, that people deserve payment for their good ideas (or at least the companies that distribute those ideas), and that intellectual property needs to be guarded from “theft” just as much as physical property. In the case of something as intangible as a music download, it does get a bit sketchy, but it’s the same two attitudes battling it out. Either our society supports free information on principle, or we will move toward a pay per use model that cuts out the margins of society and results in even greater political, economic and intellectual divides.

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