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EU Rules That Digital Game Downloads Can Be Resold

Jonathan Lester
EU, Law, Pre-owned

EU Rules That Digital Game Downloads Can Be Resold

Worried that digital distribution will kill the pre-owned market? Well, the situation has suddenly become a lot more interesting. The Court of Justice of the European Union has not only ruled that pre-owned sales are a legitimate business (dashing publishers' hopes of outlawing the practice), but they've also decided that players have the right to resell digital download games, stating that "the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale" of games downloaded from the likes of Steam and Origin.

Here's the judgement:

An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his 'used' licences allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet.

The exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by such a licence is exhausted on its first sale.

The principle of exhaustion of the distribution right applies not only where the copyright holder markets copies of his software on a material medium (CD-ROM or DVD) but also where he distributes them by means of downloads from his website.

Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy - tangible or intangible - and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right.

Such a transaction involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy. Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.

Of course, it will only be legal if the seller deactivates their own copy.

Deeply interesting stuff, but since the ruling isn't technically binding, we're not convinced that Valve will be rushing to add a pre-owned section to Steam just yet. But it will help to steer future laws made on the matter. [via MCV]

Add a comment5 comments
Bodzilla  Jul. 4, 2012 at 11:34

I'm more interested in the effect this would have (if enforced) on DLC, in particular the day 1 'bonus content' and online pass types that were devised to garner extra money from second-hand physical market, or curb it at least.

davidpanik  Jul. 4, 2012 at 12:06

This is interesting - how does this affect/conflict with other types of DRM? For example, am I now allowed to resell music I've bought from iTunes (not that I do)?

My bigger issue with Steam is the lack of refunds - if I download a game only to find it doesn't work, then surely as long as I've not run it several hundred times, then I should surely be due a refund.

soulleech  Jul. 4, 2012 at 18:57

This is interesting. How would you be able to sell a game downloaded on Steam in the first place? Surely it's specific to your account?

Billcolio  Jul. 4, 2012 at 23:50

@david I've bought a few things on steam, Ghostbusters springs to mind - that my pc far outweighed the minimum specs. However, it didn't run at all. - Contacted steam and they refunded it no probs!

And yeah the only way that this will actually work if steam etc put in a system to allow it, which is highly unlikely.

Last edited by Billcolio, Jul. 4, 2012 at 23:51
davidpanik  Jul. 5, 2012 at 08:58

@Billcolio Ha - I wish I'd known that. I'd just read their T&Cs, saw the hardline on no refunds and had assumed there was no point in trying. Thanks for the info - good to know for the future!

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