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]