A sketch of the proposed world
More Details Here

It perhaps seems odd suggesting software companies must decide in advance how many licenses to issue, and then they cannot control the price except through timed releases and improving quality, and cannot dilute the owners.  Imagine telling a government it cannot print money at will and simply declare its foreign exchange rates!  "Why not? says the dictator, "I have the power to print money and give it to my relatives and friends!" 

Software  licenses would now be turned from comestibles back into durables. Because there is no difference between the primary and secondary market for digital goods, the licenses would trade like stock on the stock market. Just like other securities,  license prices are volatile and driven by quality,  market perception, and number of copies known to be available or in reserve. If infinite copies are available on  auction, the bid will stay at 0. 

The same content might exist for multiple platforms in multiple versions and on multiple media tokens, all of which help create demand and interoperability incentives, but neither the content nor the tokens are the license. There would be no fees for upgrades other than a media fee for shipping a physical token or connection charges for download of different versions of the content which fall under the same license.

To enable the content you must present a valid license, which is verified via an internet broker. Disabling the software is a registered event as well, which must preceed transfer. Each license will have a periodic heartbeat - monthly or annually - to verify it is the only version of that serial number in operation. Rather than allowing black market CD’s which act as media-tokens to change hands like bearer bonds and bank notes and be installed everywhere, ownership transfers, like on the stock market, are done through trusted brokers, and capital gains are subject to taxation.

No new laws or regulations are needed: Simply actions by a few software or shareware  companies, who realize they are doomed because a bigger monopoly wants their niche. Nothing would make a customer calmer than the right to sell equipment which doesn't work out. Nothing would make a customer more loyal than ownership. Who would throw away a permanent right to use Lotus Notes for an annual rental of Microsoft Exchange? 

It would take less breath-holding than Netscape's Mozilla gambit to say:

We hereby forego upgrade fees and  limit the quantity of licenses to {specified}, install network based copy-protection,  and reiterate our customers legal right to own and transfer licenses  through {specified} license-brokers on {specified} market. We will continue to improve our product and make it available to licenseholders, and will charge for services and consulting.
Our collective social understanding of stock markets, norms of behavior, fraudulent transfers (i.e. claiming a fixed bug as a new product), splits to increase the volume and lower individual price, mergers (new suites), hyped information (vaporware) and insider trading, international participation, government regulatory need, enforcement costs, etc. all transfer from our collective experience dealing with corporate securities. The regulatory, fraud, and anti-counterfeiting structures are in place and only need to be adapted. 

Companies issuing licenses must withhold large fractions for sale later to raise capital for further development, if their profits from consulting and  technical support do not suffice. A single developer might offer only 10,000 shares, and a small company might only issue 100,000 shares in order that the market risk investment in its brand-less product. If demand causes prices to rise, Splitting will reward both the creator (holding reserve shares), and the early adopters. Penny software markets might arise to deal with the reputation problem for unknown individual artists. 

On the other hand, a large company with a good reputation for quality and support might issue one billion licenses and only sell 10 million, keeping 990 billion in reserve. If the market values those reserve licenses at a going rate of $100/copy, those reserves are a significant war chest and can be used in valuating the company's actual stock.

This proposal works for shareware companies, who would make more money if consumers could observe how much volatility there was in a market, buy the license, try it, and resell it if they didn’t like it, rather than the current sequential temporary free installs. Besides the “try and buy” box, shareware needs a “uninstall and resell” box. 

Finally, this proposal works for the Open Source movement as well, which suffers from the fact that commercial software pays much better. Some see the OSS as a communist movement to deny creative people of the value of their labor and destroy the market for software. PURLS can be used as a solution to the joint tenancy problem for software. Imagine the next project after Linux, in which talented and hardworking volunteers receive (initially worthless) securities for their efforts: 

“We are launching an open source project. There will only be 1M permanent licenses ever issued. Those who contribute and those who adopt early and provide feedback will earn resellable licenses."
 Copyright © 1999 J. B. Pollack