Many sellers assume that when their listings are removed by eBay’s VeRO programme, there’s nothing they can do. But one, Timothy Vernor from Seattle, trading on eBay as happyhourcollectables, decided to fight back at what he saw as unjust and illegal actions on the part of software vendor AutoCAD. Over a two year period, AutoCAD had five of Mr Vernor’s listings removed from eBay: the fifth removal resulted in his suspension from the site. The copies of AutoCAD that Mr Vernor sold were preused copies, which the original owners had finished with and which they believed they had the right to then sell on. It’s not cheap software either, at $4000 per copy it’s a significant investment and naturally people want to recoup some value when they no longer need the product.
Autodesk say they don’t sell their software; they sell a licence to use it which is non-transferable. That’s not obvious when you buy the software though: the licence is inside the shrink-wrapped software package so you don’t discover this until you’ve opened it. Autodesk say that by breaking the shrink-wrap seal, you have automatically accepted their terms and conditions. In the US a â€œshrink-wrapped contractâ€ can’t be enforced: how can you agree to something you haven’t seen? The right to resell something you have purchased is enshrined in US law under the first sale doctrine: an individual has the right to transfer (sell or give away) a lawful version of a copyrighted work which is in their possession. You may re-sell a book, a DVD or a car without interference from the author, the film rights-owner or the car manufacturer, and so, the argument goes here, you can re-sell software without interference from the software manufacturer.
Timothy Vernor says Autodesk committed perjury and fraud when they signed the VeRO Notice of Claimed Infringement forms. The case has been likened to being prevented from reading and then reselling a book, which you purchased and paid for. Using VeRO to prevent resale of legitimately purchased authentic goods, once you’ve finished with them, is an abuse and should be stopped.