The rise of software and software licensing has led to another phenomenon: the attempted enforcement of software licenses through copyright law. Over the last fifteen years, content creators have begun to bring copyright suits against licensees, arguing that violation of license terms withdraws the permission needed to run the software, turning the use of the software into copyright infringement. Not surprisingly, courts have rejected this argument, and both the Ninth Circuit, in MDY v. Blizzard, and the Second Circuit, in Krause v. Titleserv, have developed new legal rules to prevent copyright enforcement of contract terms. This iBrief explores software licensing in detail, analyzes the courts’ responses, and concludes that the Ninth Circuit’s approach to copyright enforcement of license terms is preferable to the Second Circuit’s approach because it is supported by legislative history, more straightforward, and more likely to prevent future content creators from enforcing their licenses through contract.
Justin Van Etten, Copyright Enforcement of Non-Copyright Terms: MDY v. Blizzard and Krause v. Titleserv, 10 Duke Law & Technology Review 1-16 (2011).