The Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) has ruled that software authors can't stop the resale of digitally downloaded software.
The court's ruling comes as part of an Oracle case in which the company argued that software licensing agreements prevented the resale of digitally downloaded software.
Oracle had taken German software re-licensing firm UsedSoft to court over allegations that the firm was a solicitor for piracy. As part of the court's ruling software resellers, like UsedSoft, are granted the freedom to re-license software received through digital means.
"It makes no difference, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, whether the copy of the computer program was made available to the customer by the rights holder concerned by means of a download from the rights holder's website or by means of a material medium such as a CD-ROM or DVD," the court said in its ruling.
At the core of the EU's ruling is the Doctrine of Copyright Exhaustion which states that copyright holders do not own the rights to used versions of their work. Oracle had argued that digitally downloaded software was not included in the doctrine because it's downloaded and warrants no tangible ownership.
The EU's court stated that downloaded software is no different than software purchased through a physical medium. Tangible, or intangible, the court ruled that once a software owner sells its program they have exhausted its copyrights under the doctrine.
As part of the decision the EU put in stipulations for the way used software is handled. The ruling will require software manufactures to continue updating software even after resale and software maintenance agreements must now follow the software after any resales.
Oracle was part of another major copyright case earlier this year. The company lost a landmark case against Google's Android OS last month. During that trial a US judge ruled that API's were not subject to copyright protections.
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