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First Sale Doctrine

First Sale doctrine is an exception to copyright codified in the US Copyright Act, section 109. The doctrine of first sale allows the purchaser to transfer a particular, legally acquired copy of protected work without permission once it has been obtained. That means the distribution rights of a copyright holder end on that particular copy once the copy is sold.

Doctrine of first sale prohibits renting and leasing phonorecords (recorded music) and computer software although private non-profit archives and libraries are allowed to lend these items provided thay include a copyright notice on the copy.

US courts upheld doctrine of first sale in Softman v. Adobe [1] and Novell, Inc. v. CPU Distrib., Inc when applied to software even if the software contains an End User License Agreement (EULA) prohibiting resale. In this case Softman, after purchasing bundled software from Adobe, unbundled it and then resold the component programs. The courts ruled that consumers can resell bundled software, no matter what the EULA stipulates. Specifically, the ruling decreed that software purchases be treated as sales transactions, rather than explicit license agreements. In other words, consumers should have the same rights they would enjoy under existing copyright legislation when buying a CD or a book. They cannot make copies outside of the exemption in section 117 Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs , but may resell what they own.

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