Court ruling hikes pressure on Software Asset Management

Has your organization ever sold a retired computer with applications still installed? Have you ever purchased software this way? A recent court ruling in Seattle has sent a chill down the spine of many IT Asset Managers around the world as the U.S. District Court upheld that software publishers can prevent their products from being re-sold.

Licensed entitlement to use, not own

Although the US Supreme Court ruled in 1908 that copyright owners cannot prevent the resale of products they had sold, the recent ruling by the US 9th Circuit of Appeals has upheld Autodesk’s contention that their software was never actually sold, and was only licensed to a customer to be used by the customer, not owned. We expect this judgement to be appealed, as it could have huge impact on the second hand software market. It also means that you, the customer, would not be able to place a value on software installed on PCs that you wish to retire through resale. Nor would you be able to automatically re-assign your rights to another company in the event of a divestment.

SAM practitioners – how to react?

Many products are licensed to be used, typically to avoid the issue of conveying any ownership of the copyright or intellectual property in the product code. It appears that vendors vary greatly in how they interpret and implement the rights they reserve for themselves. It looks like it’s no longer enough to accurately track your installed software. For the time being, until the position is clarified on appeal, it would seem that organizations holding software, and with any possibility of wanting to resell or re-assign their rights in the licenses, need to add another field to their software supplier profiles, to describe the supplier’s attitude to license re-assignment or resale.

In Vector’s case, we have never obstructed any customer seeking to re-assign their license to someone else – we have no reason to do so. Put a big smiley in the box for Vector’s vendor attitude.