Is it legal to rent out my notebook to others so they can use Software installed on it?


4

E.g. there is AutoCAD and Corel Draw installed on my Notebook. I bought those Apps some time ago. Can I let others use it and charge for it (per minute?)?

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asked Nov 1 '10 at 20:55
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Philobus
116 points

1 Answer


6

It will depend on the terms of the End User License Agreements (EULA) for the applications in question. Generally speaking, the answer is no. You would be violating the terms of the license agreements; several large software providers have default license terms to prohibit this. For example with Microsoft products you need a Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA), not their common retail version EULA, before you can 'rent out' Microsoft software.

Your intent would likely matter as well. If you do it just once, to help a friend, nobody is likely to care. If you're essentially trying to build a recurring business primarely based on giving people cheap access to AutoCAD without AutoCAD seeing any money, then the courts would likely go harder on you.

So, to clarify:

  • What you mention is not possible with the regular retail versions of most software.
  • Read the retail EULA of the specific software in question as your first step, and see what it says.
  • In principle, if the retail EULA is prohibiting multi-user use, then nothing is stopping you from approaching the software vendor and obtain the software with a different license (and price). With license terms which permit this use you could then rent out their software.

As always, please go see a qualified lawyer about this, don't take the words of a layman as me. But one thing, as an entrepreneur I will say don't try to build a business that is very directly positioned against the interests of large software vendors -- they have large legal teams and are not afraid to use them.

answered Nov 1 '10 at 21:41
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Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points
  • @The NeoTycoon: What do you mean? They have signed a different license agreement with the original rights holder, much like Microsoft offers its software under both a regular retail EULA and a SPLA license. They're not just buying the 39.95$ retail copy of the game and renting that out, if that's what you mean... – Jesper Mortensen 9 years ago
  • @ NeoTycoon @ JesperMortensen Many thanks for your valuable comments. The business idea behind it is: When I am not using my notebook,but it is online: I would like to let others use it via the internet. So others could use my AutoCAd software (charged by usage in minutes), e.g., remotely. So I wondered whether such a thing could be legal. I think it might be useful for many people. – Philobus 9 years ago
  • I found the EULA for AutoCAD 2009 on the internet, and I think they've thought about this possibility too, already: 3.2.3 Transfers. You may not distribute, rent, loan, lease, sell, sublicense, or otherwise transfer all or any portion of the Autodesk Materials, or any rights granted in this Agreement, to any other person without the prior written consent of Autodesk. – Philobus 9 years ago
  • 3.2.4 Hosting or Third Party Use. You may not Install or Access, or allow the Installation or Access of, the Autodesk Materials over the Internet, including, without limitation, use in connection with a Web hosting, commercial time-sharing, service bureau, or similar service, or make the Autodesk Materials available to third parties via the Internet on Your computer system or otherwise. The foregoing does not prohibit Network Version VPN Access in accordance with the terms of Section 3.1.2(b) (VPN Access for Network Versions). – Philobus 9 years ago
  • You'd be walking a very fine line. One could argue that you are charging for teleconferencing only and that the EULA violates the First Amendment (weak arguments)... Well, after seeing those terms explicitly they've sealed it pretty tightly. There are plenty of other services you can provide legally via VNC connection though. Not sure if you need a special license with the operating system provider... – Henry The Hengineer 9 years ago
  • @Neo Tycoon Which other services are you thinking about? Generally I must say, the idea is attractive. So to say a "cloud ready to go" - millions PC's out there with apps ready to use. I ll really have a lawyer check whether this maybe is a case not covered by EULA. I can rent out my car, my bicycle, my appartment, my lawn-mower. So why should I be prohibited renting out my PC? – Philobus 9 years ago
  • The car, bike, apartment, and lawn-mower analogies don't work so well in the realm of software. See the Psystar case I mentioned earlier. They used the same arguments. No dice. It'll save you the trip/consulting fee I think. – Henry The Hengineer 9 years ago
  • @philobus: Well done, you already know AutoDesk's position on this. Regarding "I can rent out my car .. why not my PC": Be careful with this line of thought. The Government isn't looking out for your best interests, it is looking for economic growth. The strong legal rights in patents, copyright and more are seen as facilitating growth, so they will be upheld. So you can rent out bicycles because they were invented in another era, but don't expect the same rights to apply to software, DNA engineered crops, medicine, etc. – Jesper Mortensen 9 years ago
  • But I can rent out my LCD-TV, my notebook with no software on it, my dentists equipment, my digital cam, my iPad..... Software seems to be the only thing on earth where it is prohibited. – Philobus 9 years ago
  • Just found the following: since 1/2010 Microsoft offers "Rental-Rights-Licenses" for their Office Products. They are intended to offer Internet-Cafes and others a legal way (before it was illegal) to let their customers use Office products. It cost about 80$ to convert a normal license..... – Philobus 9 years ago
  • And...WHAT IF I sell the software to someone else. He can work with it. When he finished working with it (e.g. after 30 minutes): I buy it back...? – Philobus 9 years ago
  • @philobus - all user agreements are different and some do not allow the transfer of 'ownership' since they didn't sell you the software but sold you the right to use it under agreed upon circumstances. – Jeff O 9 years ago
  • @philobus , @Jeff Oresik: +1 to Jeff Oresik about some software licenses being non-transferable. Additionally, say you sold the AutoCAD license for 100 USD, what if the other person don't want to sell it back but keeps it? And you can't 'sell' your license for the full price, no customer would hand over several hundred dollars to you for a short-term lease against only your promise to buy the software back. @philobus, you're chasing a bad idea here. – Jesper Mortensen 9 years ago
  • @Jesper Dear Jesper, the idea is not really that bad ;-) Think about the millions of PCs and notebooks online all the time. They are a cloud with SaaS, ready RIGHT NOW. They are immediately accessible. It would help many people using software without spending much money. It would provide PC owners with additional income. People could access those Desktops/Apps even through iPads. – Philobus 9 years ago
  • Now if you marketed the VNC/remote connection as a way for others to give you generic tech support and they "happened" to find AutoCAD on your computer and used it, that would be in a legal grey zone. Of course, without real marketing, few would discover the benefits... and why would they pay to give you tech support lol – Henry The Hengineer 9 years ago

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