September 2013

Click-accepting online terms sufficient to transfer copyright ownership

In order to transfer copyright ownership, the US Copyright Act requires that the transfer be evidenced by a signed writing. 17 USC 204 (a transfer of one or more of the exclusive rights of copyright by assignment or exclusive license “is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent."). A recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has now established that online terms of use purporting to assign copyright ownership of user generated content are sufficient to effectuate such a transfer. Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. v. American Home Realty Network, Inc. (4th Cir. July 17, 2013). 

Are the GPL's inheritance obligations enforceable in Europe after the UsedSoft decision?

On July 3 of last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a decision in UsedSoft GmbH v. Oracle International Corp. that possibly calls into question the enforceability of open source licenses such as the General Public License (GPL). The CJEU held that the provision of software via internet download constituted a sale rather than a license of software, thus exhausting the software licensor's right to control subsequent use and distribution of copies of that software. In so ruling, the CJEU, perhaps inadvertently, cast doubt on the enforceability of inheritance (or so-called "copyleft") obligations of the GPL – or at least one experienced practitioner believes so, as evidenced by a recent posting.

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