Oracle is on a legal losing streak. First, it lost to Google in its attack on Android. And, now the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, has ruled against Oracle in a software copyright case. Specifcally, the CJEU ruled that “Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy—tangible or intangible—and at the same time concludes, in return [for] payment of a fee, a license agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right.” In short, you can and buy sell downloaded used software in the EU… and that suggests that you might be able to resell used e-books, digital music, and video as well.
As Benoît Keane, a solicitor in England and Wales and a specialist in EU law put it in a recent blog post, “The rationale of this judgment could have major implications for other digitally available products, such as e-books and music, which are increasingly purchased through internet sites rather than in tangible formats.” The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) considers any attempt to resell digital music as willful copyright infringement (PDF Link). We can be certain that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) would take a similarly dim view at attempts to resell used TV episodes and movies.
Some people also argue that there is no such thing as used software, but that argument doesn’t hold much water in the US or the EU.