Is This Mine of Yours? The Effect of the Rulings in Vernor v. Autodesk and the Library of Congress on the Determination of Who Owns Software Copies

June 16, 2012

In July of 2010, the Copyright Office issued a ruling that allowed owners of iPhones and other cell phones to reprogram their devices to allow the use of lawfully-obtained programs not approved by their phone manufacturers. Despite the ruling, however, the Copyright Office was unable to determine whether the copies of the programs loaded onto the phones were licensed to the users or owned by the users. In September of that year, the Ninth Circuit decided Vernor v. Autodesk, allowing copyright owners to simply add language to the license agreements in order to give users a license instead of ownership of the software copies. This recent development discusses that decision’s impact on licensing agreements in light of the Copyright Office’s iPhone ruling and why the test in the Vernor decision may be completely unnecessary in the future.