ProCD v. Zeidenberg

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Software Licenses   >   Articles   >   ProCD v. Zeidenberg


ProCD v. Zeidenberg

ProCD v. Zeidenberg was an important US court case concerning the enforceability of EULAs and Click-through Licenses. The case was decided by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1996, and over-turned the decision of an earlier court.

ProCD sold a product on CD-ROM, SelectPhone, containing information compiled from more than 3,000 telephone directories. The company sold the product to both commercial and non-commercial users, charging the former a price premium.

Matthew Zeidenberg, a student, purchased a copy of the non-commercial CD-ROM, apparently unaware of any of restrictions on use of the product. The packaging did however state a license agreement was enclosed. In any case, Zeidenberg installed the software and subsequently created a commercial website using the information from the CD-ROM (this information was ruled not to be protectable by copyright based on the precedent of a prior case about telephone directories, Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Services).

The case turned on the issue of whether Zeidenberg had accepted the terms of the click-through license. The court held that Zeidenberg did in fact do by clicking through - Zeidenberg "had no choice, because the software splashed the license on the screen and would not let him proceed without indicating acceptance". The court further stated that if Zeidenberg did not wish to accept the terms, he could have returned the software.

Note: The text of the court decision refers to a "Shrink Wrap License". The actual license in the case was in fact both a Shrink Wrap License and a Click-Through License, since it was provided in both the manual, and displayed within a software screen.

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