Suppose entity X offers some software (maybe for free, maybe for a price) bundled with some terms of service. Suppose person Y (after paying any relevant price) installs the software following X's instructions. Suppose Y then breaches the terms of service. Has Y then infringed copyright (assuming it is not considered fair use)?

This answer presents the following argument:

  • Installing the software constituted making a copy of it.
  • This copy was only authorized by X on the condition that Y complies with the terms of service.
  • This condition was not met, so the copy was not authorized, so it infringed copyright.

This surprised me since I imagined (maybe incorrectly, IANAL) copyright infringement to be a more serious issue than ToS violation. This article also seems to contradict the above:

However, if a company violates a license by, for example, failing to purchase additional licenses through the publisher, instead of through an otherwise authorized reseller, then the violation could form the basis of a breach-of-contract claim, but not a copyright claim – none of the exclusive rights would be affected by failure to follow specified payment or transaction terms.

  • The second quote seems to be about a dispute over how a license fee is paid. That is not a parallel situation. Feb 5, 2020 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


Copyright infringement occurs if you make a copy without authorization. I don't believe you can retroactively revoke someone's authorization to copy because you don't like what they did later. Therefore, it would seem that your scenario would not be infringement.

It may, however, be a breach of contract, since you promised certain things in exchange for that authorization to copy but did not uphold them.

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