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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

As there are some license that I have finished using (such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, 3D Studio, Autodesk AutoCad). It also includes some server software (Server 2003, User Cal, Endpoint protection server, Endpoint virus definition renew...)

If my company finished using them, can I resell them to get back some money?

They are all legally purchased software.

Thanks and looking forward to the answer, Dan.


Sadly, I'm sure it depends both on your local laws and the EULA for each individual product.

ArsTechnica has an article up about legal precedent specifically in relation to reselling AutoCAD licenses. In short, the courts have found that it is illegal for them to prevent you from reselling the license. In the US, anyway.

  • 1
    I was just going to comment on this same point, it was discussed by lawyers on This Week in Law podcast episode 32. I recall that the keypoint was that a physical media changed ownership. The precedent might not apply to software downloads. Wikipedia seems to have collected all info in this to one article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernor_v._Autodesk,_Inc. – Raynet Oct 12 '09 at 7:47

I added "management" because for us it's partly a management issue.

We don't usually have the time to sell surplus equipment, and we've never taken the time to sell surplus licences. At least with old hardware, it's sitting unused in a corner anyway, it's already been removed from inventory, and we can just post something on Craigslist or sell it internally and it's not a big deal. For software, we keep things in the inventory for a long time, just in case someone needs a specific version or we are able to get a competitive upgrade. So the extra effort of verifying that something old isn't used on a lab machine in the corner and taking it out of the database isn't worth it.

Legally, it would depend on the actual license, but practically, if I did have some surplus s/w (maybe something that was never actually installed), I'd feel quite free to sell it.

For CALs, I wouldn't be surprised if there's something in the EULA that restricts resale.

But again, from a management perspective, it's not worth it for us to spend the time to figure it out. We'd never sell Windows or Office or Acrobat or any other widely-used app or utility, since we use a mix of versions and sometimes have upgrades, and OEM Windows can't be sold w/out the hardware... For lesser-used utilities, by the time our user wouldn't want to use it, the version would probably be too old.

So, ultimately, I'd feel free to do it if the circumstances made sense, but we're never in a situation where it makes sense.


You really should probably ask your lawyer.

If you asked the software company they will tell you that it is illegal and you only have a license and not ownership of a copy.

There was a recent ruling (2) that would seem to indicate you may be an owner of a copy which would allow you to resell your software. Listen to Episode 32 of TWIL they discuss it.


You really need to read each license first, as most I've seen cover this subject. Beyond that, do as others have already suggested and get proper legal advice.


MY UNDERSTANDING, for Microsoft products:

Retail licenses may be resold. OEM licenses live and die with the hardware - resell the hardware and the license goes with it. Volume Licenses MAY NOT be resold - they live and die with the company they licensed.

In short - READ the license agreement you should have read when you started to use the use software (admittedly few if any read it, myself included in most cases). And if you have further question after reading the license, contact the company that wrote the software.

  • Read all those agreements or have a life. Your choice. ;) – John Gardeniers Oct 12 '09 at 11:57
  • Volume licenses can be resold in many countries, as statute law overrules the contract. Don't assume that the license agreement is the end of the story; the court may refuse to enforce certain provisions. – Richard Gadsden Oct 12 '09 at 13:32
  • As I said, few if any read them, including myself. Though every now and then I DO read one when I have questions like this. As for being resold in some countries, that's fine. And most licenses agreements I've taken the time to read do make note about "unenforceable" items. So in that case, yes, contact a lawyer. In the united states, where I suspect a great many people might be reading this, you cannot. – Multiverse IT Oct 12 '09 at 17:51

At Techdirt there are a few articles that deal with this question but in general, it depends... (More, more, more and more...)

What is most important is when you had the chance to see the license. If you buy the software electronically and they display a license to you before they sell it to you, then the license can be enforced. And no, you don't have to accept that license since you will accept it by continuing the purchase. (Still, it gives the seller an additional protection.)

But most software will display a license after you've purchased the product. In that case, you are free to resell it to anyone you like, since you never agreed to this license to begin with. If you pay for something first, then have to accept the license then you're free to ignore that license. (However, most applications will only install after displaying the license, which you have to accept to continue to install it. This license could still be enforced! Why? Because you accepted it.)

However, if you do sell your software, you will have to uninstall it first from your own systems! You will also have to sell them including all the licenses and additional papers that were in the box, if you still have that box! And if you registered the software, you must turn over the registration information over to the new owner or unregister yourself so the new owner can register the software.

And sometimes you have to be aware that some companies will try to stop the resale of their products with tough, legal measures. While you have a good chance of winning those cases, they will be expensive and a waste of your time. Even though you might get all your legal expenses paid back after a long time, you will need to be handle those costs for quite some time.

And as others have said before, it does depend on your country, although almost every country has a right of resale like the USA. (Especially if software is delivered on CD-ROM or other hardware medium.)


It depends on the license you obtained (Or the agreement) from the Original software company. The most fair answer for your query is "NO"...

In that way you are going to sell a software that you have no right to sell.. :)


warning: not a legal advice

Lawyers may or may not agree with me, but even if license terms don't allow reselling, you can still "resell" software if you don't call it reselling, but call it, say, "unconditional rent". Since you are legally allowed to install a piece of software on one computer, you should be able to install it on the computer belonging to someone else.


Forget about selling your autodesk software, or buying used one.

We bought autocad 2010 upgrade, and the activation failed because i registered the previous editions with a different name!

I had to do several long calls to SWISS (of course, a money-making house like them, can be located somewhere else?) and mail them a copy of all the previous versions CD and boxes, with the invoices!!!! You can imagine what trouble can be finding the invoice of Autocad R14!!! (1998!!!)

  • Yeah, Autocad is real unhappy about people reselling their software. Unfortunately for them, they are still required to allow this. I'm even amazed that no one else has already kicked them out of their market share... The way they treat their customers is just plain bad. – Wim ten Brink Oct 12 '09 at 10:40
  • If there is around a real alternative to autocad, we would be super-extra-happy to drop autodesk forever... Every year, when the autodesk agent calls me to sell us the version updates, i try intellicad-based demos, and then, sadly, i am forced to accept the offer from autodesk (even if it is 20x more expensive than the intellicad products.....) I think the slogan of Autodesk is "Be Evil" (as opposed by google, ha ha) – Magnetic_dud Oct 14 '09 at 6:56