US lawmakers seek to take copyright sting out of licensed software

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US lawmakers seek to take copyright sting out of licensed software

You Own The Devices Act (YODA) reintroduced.

Two United States politicians are again trying to make changes to national copyright law to allow consumers to sell, lease or give away licensed software that they have paid for.

Known as the You Own The Devices Act (YODA), the amendment to the US Copyright Act would prevent rights holders and licensors from imposing restrictions on resale, a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common as devices with installed software proliferate.

Currently, the US Copyright Act is written in such a fashion that license holders could take legal action against the original buyer of software - or devices that contain licensed code or content - if that person sells or gives it away, or dies and wishes to leave them as inheritance.

This is because a licensor does not relinquish ownership of copies of software in, for instance, mobile devices, and simply grants a buyer the right to use it. 

Corporate firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks enforces this with a "secondary market policy" for used devices, requiring them to be re-certified for a fee.

The proposed HR 862 amendment to the US Copyright Act was reintroduced by Democrat Congressman Jared Polis and Republican Blake Farenthold, who said an increasing amount of devices contained "essential software that make them run".

This includes smartphones and other devices, as well as music such as Apple-licensed iTunes tracks, Kindle e-books from Amazon, and other forms of digital content that presently may not be allowed to be passed onto others by buyers.

With YODA, the two Congressmen seek to strengthen the "first sale doctrine" in US copyright law that says buyers have the right to sell, lease, rent or give away works after purchase, but not copy them.

"YODA will bring our copyright laws into the 21st century and recognise that people can own and transfer devices without being strangled by paperwork and empty legal threats," Polis said.

The YODA bill was originally introduced by Farenthold in September last year, and welcomed by consumer rights advocacy groups. 

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