In a ruling with signifi-cant implications for all business software developers and users, a federal appeals court in Seattle in late September upheld the terms of a commercial software publisher’s end-user license agreement (EULA), allowing it to bar the software’s resale by the original consumer. That decision (Vernor v. Autodesk, in which a buyer of Autodesk software was threatened with litigation when he tried to resell it on eBay) brings business software in line with entertainment media business, where digital distribution models have already begun to replace the “first-sale doctrine” of physical media.

Autodesk, which recently introduced its AutoCAD LT 2011 drafting and detailing software, is understandably happy. “Autodesk is pleased with the opinion issued by the Ninth Circuit Court, in which the software industry’s long-standing practice of licensing software was unanimously affirmed,” says Autodesk spokesman Noah Cole.

Technology advocates the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed an amicus brief in the Vernor case, offered a counter view, criticizing the decision for essentially finding that a software publisher can gain the rights of a licensor by labeling its software sales as “licenses.” Calling it “a triumph of legal formalism over reality,” the EFF went on to say that, “The Court held that the copyright’s first-sale doctrine—the law that allows you to resell books and that protects libraries and archives from claims of copyright infringement—doesn’t apply to software … as long as the vendor saddles the transfer with enough restrictions to transform what the buyer may think is a sale into a mere license.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA.