The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest judicial body of the European Union, ruled:
- The re-sale of used software licences is legitimate
- A software vendor cannot prohibit any resale within the EEA
“An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his ‘used’ licenses allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet.” (from the press release no. 94/12 by the CJEU in relation to C-128/11).
The Court Judgement of the CJEU (Case C-128/11 – 3rd July 2012) upheld the principle of exhaustion which was first laid out in Article 4.2 of the EC Directive “on the legal protection of computer programs”.
- The right holder’s right of distribution is exhausted on its first sale
- A ‘lawful acquirer’ is free to resell their licence
- Only applies to a fully paid perpetual licence
- A licence agreement with a limited term such as a rental or subscription agreement cannot be resold
The CJEU ruling provides legal certainty throughout the European Economic Area and reaffirms the legality of the European market in pre-owned software licences.
“The Exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by such a licence is exhausted on its first sale” (from the press release no. 94/12 by the CJEU in relation to C-128/11).