In the decision made on 3 July 2012
, the European Court of Justice clarified the ramifications of the exhaustion doctrine for program copies. According to the decision, the sale of software licences for programs of corporeal and non-corporeal nature is legal as long as the sale is comform with a number of parameters (ECJ, decision from 07/03/2012, file no. C-128/11, Curia, marginal no. 55). Moreover, the purchase of a software licence is accompanied by the transfer of rights for the succeeding buyer of the licence, who may download the corresponding software legally and in its latest state (ECJ, 07/03/2012, file no. C-128/11, marginal no. 85).
Because the creator's right of controlling the program's distribution is exhausted after selling the program, every suceeding purchaser of the program is the rightful owner of the program, according to section 5 par. 1 of the directive 2009/24 (ECJ, 07/03/2012, file no. C-128/11, marginal no. 80). Accordingly, it is legal to resell software which has been purchased on a data medium or via download. The seller merely has to meet the condition of rendering his program copy unusuable (ECJ, 07/03/2012, file no. C-128/11, marginal no. 70).
This condition is supposed to prevent the unauthorized reproduction of the program, i.e. that two program copies are in use at the same time. By making the program copy unusable prior to selling the corresponding licences, e.g. by deleting or destroying it, the exclusive right of the creator to reproduce the software is not violated, according to section 4 par. 1a of the directive 2009/24. Furthermore, the legal conditions for the resale of the program are met if the seller does not split up a licence into its single components (ECJ, 07/03/2012, C-128/11, Curia, marginal no. 86). In the case of a Microsoft Office licence, this means that Office cannot be split up into Excel, Word, and Power Point, but has to be offered as a whole package.