Question:

Hi. This may seem like a odd question. In the past I have bought used computer games, sold computer games, and installed computer games on my computer. My brother bought and games that were my step dad's.

According to the terms of agree in many computer software you do not own the software and are not suppose to sell them. I think in the terms of many software if you click the "agree" button you agree to indemnify them from and against any injury, damage, loss, and liability that arise out of use of software or breach of terms of agreement.

Because I sold computer games I was not suppose to, bought used games, installed games on my computer that I wasn't the the original buyer of do I owe them money? The agreements are legally binding. I know Christians are to be subject to governing authorities and not break agreements. By doing these things did I cause the software makers damages, loss and injury? They did not make money from me using used software or selling it so would this count as a loss or damage? This has been really worrying me.


Answer:

This is a tough one to answer because your question is currently being fought in the courts. Copyright laws include a right to resell what was purchased. This is what allows you to buy a book but then sell or give it to someone else when you are done reading it. What some software manufacturers are claiming is that you don't buy the software but instead buy a license to use the software. In May of 2008 the courts seemed to indicate that this wasn't true ["Court Says Reselling Software Is Okay"]. However, the courts recently ruled that the right to resell doesn't extend to licenses ["Guess What, You Don’t Own That Software You Bought"]. This isn't the end of matter because it is being appealed.

For now, you would need to read the license agreement to see if resale is specifically prohibited. From what I know, most licenses do not prohibit the resell of consumer software. The strict licenses usually are for the expensive products or business-targeted software. Even in agreements that state no resale, there is often a clause that says basically that a producer can give permission for resale. From that I would understand that if a software package requires activation or registration that the allowance thereof to activate or register could constitute agreement. That is probably yet another sticky issue that the courts will have to decide upon.

What I would suggest doing is going through the software you currently have on your computer that you bought used and read the agreements that came with the software. If it specifically prohibits resale, then go buy a copy for your use. If it doesn't, then don't worry about it.

For the ones in the past that you no longer have, there isn't a good way to reverse course. You don't have the old agreement (agreements do change with each edition of a piece of software). For example one edition of a product that I use allowed installation on up to three computers. The next edition only allowed installation on one computer. It would be much the same as other sins which cannot be reversed; you can only move on from where you are with the knowledge that you will try not to repeat the mistake.

It is going to be an interesting debate because I can see music producers claiming you don't own that copy of music, you only bought a license to play it. I suspect that eventually the law makers will step in and modify the laws -- the court in September even hinted that the legislature might want to consider the matter and plug this particular hole in the law.

I would like to add to my previous email:

In a software agreement under the indemnification clause does when you agree to indemnify them from and against any injury, claim, damages, losses, expense, and liability refer to paying them if they ending paying money like in a lawsuit because of you breaking terms of agreement? If so is it enough to no longer have the games installed and destroyed?

Or is it if you do something like I did that you have to pay them? This legal stuff I think is difficult. I know what I did was wrong. I want to put these past sins behind me and be right with God.

Here are some stuff I read

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-indemnification.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indemnity

Yes, law is difficult. In part, they do it on purpose because it keeps lawyers employed, but mostly it is because languages are ambiguous and law is trying to use language to be precise.

You are reading the indemnification clauses backwards. Those clauses are there to protect the software company from being sued because you misused their product. For example, there are products which encrypt messages. That has a perfectly good and legal purpose. But what if a criminal uses that product to cover his tracks in committing a crime? Who is reasonable? The indemnification clause is to say that you take on all responsibility for any misuse of the product. So if software maker XYZ gets sued because you misused their product, then you are agreeing that they can bill you for their expenses. It has nothing to do with them suing you for having bought a used copy.