CJEU Rules First Sale Doctrine Applies to Digital Copies of Software in Europe


In an eagerly-awaited judgment, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has held that the first sale doctrine applies to digital copies of software sold in the European Union or European Economic Area.

In Luxembourg on 3 July 2012, the CJEU held that the resale and use of used software is permissible under European copyright law. The Court found that, under the first sale doctrine, which is part of the Computer Program Directive (Council Directive 91/250/EEC on the Legal Protection of Computer Programs), there is no difference between physical copies on a data carrier and digital copies distributed online. As the legitimate owner of the digital copy, a purchaser of used software is even allowed to download updates from the software vendor’s website.

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