Why? Because you purchased a 'license' and not a 'product'. A 'license' basically means you have no material rights to the item you're in possesion of except to use it. If you then want up upgrade or 'get rid of' the item, you're actually legally obliged to return or destroy it. That's the law now according to a new ruling by the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court on the case of Vernor vs Autodesk
Quick background recap. Vernor sold some copies of AutoCAD on ebay, Autodesk tried to shut him down. Vernor and Autodesk go to court with the latter claiming the former didn't have right to sell the software as he, in Autodesk's eyes, possessed the material illegally. As the software was sealed and accompanied by legitimate license codes (although they were
stuck to the outside of the packaging) Vernor and his Legal Council understood this to mean he had legitimately 'bought' the software from the previous owners assuming therefore, that ownership rights had been duly 'transferred' to him as a result.
According to the ruling, this is wrong.
Autodesk claim the original owners of the software only licensed it and as such that meant they didn't have any rights to it except in being able to use it; their case rests on the fact that their software is licensed and not sold which means the end-user only acquires what equates to a 'permission of use'. That's it. So what Vernor then did is of secondary concern because the original owners were actually legally obliged to destroy the software once they were done with it (in affect, they could be prosecuted for copyright infringement - selling/distributing something they didn't have the licensed rights to do).
But there's a problem.
Autodesk contends that the license is non-transferable so it cannot be passed on to another person or entity in any way, shape or form. What everyone reporting on this seems to be missing is that a license is a contract and as such it needs to be agreed to or acknowledged in order for it to be binding between all affected parties. The crucial question here is; at what point is that agreement made
? When the material is purchased? When the packaging is unsealed? Or when its installed or the user clicks "I Accept These Terms"?. If it's the former, then quite frankly we're all rather screwed. If it's the latter then was Vernor acting as nothing more than a reseller like Tiger-Direct, Jigsaw24 or any number of the thousands of resellers who purchase their stock to sell on to their customers, usually from wholesalers. Remember according the the report itself, the software was sealed. Unless I've missed something reading the ruling, it doesn't mention anything to do with this: at what point is the agreement made and then binding between parties. The whole case seems to rest upon determining this fact.
Now you don't need to be a genius to understand the implications of this, if the Autodesk ruling stands it means that pretty much anything consumers purchase with a license is likely being bought under the same sort of non-transferable conditions as Autodesk and its AutoCAD software suite. That means end-users cannot sell on their games, music or DVD's. Period. What about hardware? Want to sell on your old iPhone? Got an old PC you want to get rid of? If this ruling stands it's all going to need to be stripped bare of any licensed material, returned to the manufacturer or simply destroyed, you can't even return item to the place of purchase because doing so is in the literal sense transferring ownership of the item.
This is pretty much the silver bullet the likes of the RIAA, MPAA, the various software associations and other industry bodies that protect 'licensing' and 'copy' rights, have been looking for and needing to prosecute not just file-sharers, but also the used-games, software, music, film and DVD markets, all of which have been on the a hit-list for a long, long time.
How do consumers fight back? Go independent, open source and where-ever possible, simply don't use their stuff.