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Can I Resell Software I'm No Longer Using?

--John Keinath, Savannah, Georgia

According to Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, a noted expert on copyright and fair use, "The law of copyright would not block someone from reselling [software]. But independently of copyright, the End User Licensing Agreements for many products purport to block an owner from reselling the product."

So all you need to do is check the EULA that you effectively signed with a click when you installed the software. That's easy--provided you're an extremely talented contract lawyer with a high tolerance for boredom.

Since I don't qualify, I checked with four major software vendors. Representatives from Microsoft, Symantec, and Sonic told me it's okay to sell used software--provided that you uninstalled the program from your own PC first. And you can't sell the old version of a program after upgrading to a new one, since buying an upgrade isn't the same as buying a whole new copy of the program (unless, of course, you buy a full new version instead of a specially priced upgrade version).

But not all vendors agree. An Intuit representative warned me that "users are not allowed to resell copies of [Quicken] according to our End User Licensing Agreement."

Can they stop you? "I think it would be bad public policy for [such license agreements] to be enforced," says Lessig, "but I don't know whether courts will enforce them."

My thanks to all the folks on the Answer Line Forum for their input on this tip.

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