Digital First Sale Doctrine Ante Portas -- Exhaustion in the Online Environment
JIPITEC – Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law, Vol. 6., Issue 1., p. 23-71, 2015
49 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 7, 2015
The purpose of the article is to provide first a doctrinal summary of the concept, rules and policy of exhaustion, first, on the international and EU level, and, later, under the law of the United States. Based upon this introduction, the paper turns to the analysis of the doctrine by the pioneer court decisions handed over in the UsedSoft, ReDigi, the German e-book/audio book cases, and the pending Tom Kabinet case from the Netherlands. Questions related to the licence versus sale dichotomy; the so-called umbrella solution; the “new copy theory”, migration of digital copies via the internet; the forward-and-delete technology; the issue of lex specialis and the theory of functional equivalence are covered later on. The author of the present article stresses that the answers given by the respective judges of the referred cases are not the final stop in the discussion. The UsedSoft preliminary ruling and the subsequent German domestic decisions highlight a special treatment for computer programs. On the other hand, the refusal of digital exhaustion in the ReDigi and the audio book/e-book cases might be in accordance with the present wording of copyright law; however, they do not necessarily reflect the proper trends of our ages. The paper takes the position that the need for digital exhaustion is constantly growing in society and amongst businesses. Indeed, there are reasonable arguments in favour of equalizing the resale of works sold in tangible and intangible format. Consequently, the paper urges the reconsideration of the norms on exhaustion on the international and EU level.
Keywords: Digital Exhaustion, Umbrella Solution, Usedsoft, ReDigi, WCT/WPPT, CJEU
JEL Classification: K10, K11, K12, K19, K33, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation