Digital Rights

Before I jump in here and tell you stories, I want to say a few things.

I sincerely want you to read this.

It is the official press release from the European Court. I want you to read it and form your own opinion.

I am nowhere near smart enough to say what this could mean for the future; I can only share with you my experiences as a gamer who had to rely on second hand games when she was a kid. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten any games at all. I can only share with you what was said by the courts, and I can offer you my views on what might happen in the next few years.

I do hope you read this all the way through. I hope you learn something. I hope that this ruling starts to make a difference for the development and distribution of games.

I first started gaming when I was 4 years old. My younger brother and I were given a Sega Master System II. It came pre-loaded with Alex The Kid in Miracle World. Our passion for gaming was ignited.

As the years went on, more consoles were released into the market. Bigger, badder systems with huge game libraries. We couldn’t  afford to buy a computer at the time or buy  the consoles brand new, so we’d trade in our old ones. Hand over a Super Nintendo with 20 games and get your N64 for almost half price. If game trading didn’t exist, I don’t think I would be sitting here typing this story. We were poor and I don’t think I ever played a brand new game, at least not until I was 16 or 17 and bought them on my own.

Game trading and the sale of second hand games has been a huge part of the gaming scene for decades. I like to think of it along the same line as buying used books. Done with your game and know you won’t play it again? Want something new to engage you? Take in your copy of Banjo Kazooie and trade it in for a price reduction on your new game, or take the $10-15 they give you for it and go see a movie. I hear The Blair Witch Project just came out, because it’s 1999 and movie tickets don’t cost $40million yet. I’m not gonna judge you, it’s your money.

Big publishers do not like this practice. They’ve been trying to kill it off for years. It got worse when they realised that almost everyone has the internet now. Always online DRM, limited activations/installs, DLC only being available to people who bought the game brand new.

The argument can be made that those measures are taken to fight off the terrifying internet pirates, but that is only part of the reason.

A lot of publishers see second hand game sales as lost profits. They don’t like that, not in the slightest, so cue the above mentioned protection they throw into their games and you get this almost anti-consumer mess of DRM, limited installs, and 3 guys in black suits from the publisher sitting there watching over your shoulder while you play.

This caused a lot of negative feedback from the gamer community. Yeah it could be considered the vocal minority just stomping around and being noisy, but they’re starting to have their concerns taken seriously.

On July 3rd 2012, the European Court ruled that “the exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by such a licence is exhausted on its first sale.” Meaning that publishers cannot fight or oppose anyone who wants to re-sell or trade games.

Once you’ve bought your game, that’s it. If you’re in Europe it is now against the law for companies to try and stop you from selling your games.

“That’s great, if you live in Europe and still buy games from brick and mortar stores, but this is the digital age. Internet dragons and digital distribution! How does this affect that?”

The most interesting part of this ruling? This new law also applies to digital copies of games.

Not only that, but the new owner of the “UsedSoft” is entitled to download the game from the publisher with all its original sale content.

“Oh!’ you say.”What about the EULA we all sign when we buy and install a game?” Oh you mean the part where it says we cannot resell or otherwise distribute this game? The part that is now in contradiction to European Law?

Well, the EU court thought of that too. Here is possibly the best quote from the ruling:

“Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy. “

The way I read that says EULAs are now null and void retroactively.

This is huge. Platforms like Steam, Origin, and GOG.com etc. now have to figure out a method to allow European customers to sell and trade their digital games to continue opperating in the EU.

I don’t think publishers will be terribly happy about this considering the size of the digital market these platforms have.

I would love to see this happen. The amount of games I personally have on Steam is silly. I don’t play a lot of them and know a few people who would love to receive my copies.

Let’s look at an example. I’ll use the Steam platform, because half of the infrastructure is already there:

  • Select a game from your library you no longer want. Check off a little box that now reverts it to an inventory item, like when you get a game gifted to you.
  • You can now send it to another user, maybe with a CoD option.
  • Funds would be loaded into the Steam Wallet. So if you sell a game for $10 the cash goes right into your Steam Wallet.
  • Valve may or may not charge you something like $1 for every transaction involving money.

This method is just an example, and if something like this went live it would be confined to European users at the moment. I am hoping that this really takes off and starts to change the way people and companies see digital products. This would be amazing if it made its way across the board. It may even lower the scary numbers people see of pirated game copies.

That is what I think.  What about you guys?

Do you think the European Court made the right call? Any thoughts on the re-sale and trade of digital games?

Carina spends her time yelling at a variety of things, from video games and lag, to clouds and those kids on her lawn. All efforts to convince her that she is no where near the right size to be an Asura have failed, resulting in some... disturbing conversations.
  • http://twitter.com/dohcheezits Doh Jesus

    Sweet mother I hope it makes it across the pond to the states. First thing I would get rid of would be probably SIN

  • MMO_Doubter

    If you buy something – it is yours.

    ELUAs be damned.

    Good ruling.

    • David Alcon

      I agree. I have always hated the whole “licensing” thing, and the notion that I am paying for the privelage of playing their game.

      • Old Ben

        You’re still licensing the game. You can’t start making copies and selling them. This decision just says that you have the right to transfer your license to someone else.

  • http://www.video-game.tv/ Jaxxy

    I am wondering how this effects the MMO industry. Does this mean if I have a digital download of say Rift. I can now sell/trade my Rift if I am in Euroe? Also can Publishers come after US customers who get a used digital copy of a game from someone in Europe?

    Jaxxy

    • Rinaxas

      That is one of the things I am keen to do more research on. Could you legally sell your MMO account? As for the publishers going after people in the US or other parts of the world for buying a game from someone in Europe… That seems a little too anti-consumer. They’d lose out in the long run, people would flip out.

      • Old Ben

        You should be able to resell the original game (with the registration key – which was part of the original product) as long as you’re willing to give up access to your account.

        However, your account isn’t actually part of the game you bought, so that would be a different issue, treated as “a service” and probably covered by laws about control of personal data. 

        So, if you sold your copy of the game, the publisher would probably be allowed (possibly even required) to erase all your personal data (including your characters and virtual possessions) before creating a new account for the new owner.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Willi-Enderle/1668850948 Willi Enderle

    Sometimes its good to live in Europe :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1260066056 Steven Diaz

    I’d get rid of every game I have.  I’m tired of all of them.  This would be so amazing here in the US.  Companies currently have too much control over our purchases, this needs to be put in place here NAOW!

  • Nick Wise

    MMO credit buyingselling is now all above board, let’s pick WoW, if I buy gold I can get a permaban .. however no longer !! Mr Gold Farmer sets up a new account with a 30 day game card OR free with purchase play, sends X Thousand gold to that account … now sells that account all above board to whoever wanted the gold who then transfers the gold to their own toon !!! I like the idea of selling old games i no longer play but could have a negative impact.

    • http://twitter.com/dularr Dularr

      If you can actually buy the account and not just the CD key.

      Wouldn’t you still be permaban for purchasing a gold farmer account and transferring the gold to your existing account.  You could get permaban on both accounts.

      • Old Ben

        No one gets banned for buying gold. Blizzard isn’t going to do anything that might make them lose subscriptions. 

  • http://twitter.com/Diogo_Pereira10 Diogo Pereira

    So what happend if i buy World of Warcraft from blizzstore? can i sell my account? is it legal?

    • http://twitter.com/dularr Dularr

      Probably means you can unlink your copy of World of Warcarft from your Batlle.net account, and then sell the CD key for World of Warcraft to someone else.   The new owner can create a new Battle.net account and link World of Warcraft CD key to their new account.

      If you wanted to play WoW again, you would need to purchase a new copy of WoW.

      Will be interesting to see that ends up being an acceptable solution to the court.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristian-Vekve/1310595046 Kristian Vekve

    Wait … does this mean .. that i can .. LEGALLY sell my WoW account on EU ? 

    • Nisarg shah

       You can resell the game key for new account. But not your account. License is governed by EULA, and your account is governed by Terms of Service (ToS).

      I don’t see anything about being able to sell account.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nik.nieuwenhuis Nik Nieuwenhuis

    Awesome, finally some good news for us EU gamers!

  • samhainous

    I’m interested in knowing what impact this will have on the next gen consoles and how Microsoft and Sony will handle their online downloads. Supposedly the rumor is the next age of console systems will BoA games you play. Making it impossible to re-sell or trade whatever you buy. This law will squelch that idea completely I would think and hopefully put a stop to it in Mer-i-cuh.
    I’m not political but this is a good time to remind people to  totes vote or some junk brah!

  • http://twitter.com/dularr Dularr

    So many scams. Will scamers start selling free to play World of Warcraft accounts?  Will they sell premaban accounts?

    How about hacked accounts. Will scamer hack someones account and sell it to a new gamer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Azimov-Valinor/100001723160042 Azimov Valinor

      This is not about accounts, it is about the software itself. 

  • Jado Cast

    The smartest thing Steam could do, is set up a trade post built into the service so they can post people’s who want to sell their used digital copies of games, and take a cut for being the go between.  Basically becoming a digital gamestop without the risk of inventory.  

  • mad.martha

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

    Does that include copies of Windows or OSX ? ……..

    There’s an interesting bomb for you ;)

    [MM]

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nae-Bodee/100002134184112 Nae Bodee

      Think that would come under an operating system. Completely different to a program.

  • http://twitter.com/FishBaitism Fish Bait

    This is good news, for customers & probably businesses too.
    Whilst it means a small cost of d`load servers, a blip if anything, they can make money from this.
    I`ve some games I won`t play, BF3, warcraft, Grid etc.

    If someone doesn`t want to pay full price for these & I`m never going to use them, they can buy them cheap.
    Most firms now do loads of DLC, expansions et al, so the new player would probably buy what I`ve no intention of getting in the long run.

  • http://www.video-game.tv/ Jaxxy

    As for how this will be implemented, at least with Steam, it should be rather simple and be put into effect rather soon. Steam already offers the ability to trade. Currently it is limited to only Steam gifts/games. It is also limited to only games that have not been installed/played yet and purchased as “gifts”. However, to lift those limitations I would think would only take some minor coding changes.

    Jaxxy

    • Fábio Capela

       Steam just needs to allow players to wrap their games or packages back into “gifts”; this, together with the systems already in place to send gifts, would already fully comply with the ruling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Azimov-Valinor/100001723160042 Azimov Valinor


    This is huge. Platforms like Steam, Origin, and GOG.com etc. now have to figure out a method to allow European customers to sell and trade their digital games to continue opperating in the EU.”
    One thing I see people getting mixed up with is that these distributors have no responsibility for the financial side of the resale.
    What they have to do is make it possible for you sell or trade your digital copy, and for the new owner to download the software.
    For Steam all they would have to do is let you remove a game activation code from your account so that someone else could then activate and download the game.
    That is not to say they wouldn’t want to expand the gifting system and be financial middle men taking a cut for facilitating the transfer.
    I would see that being a preferable option for people rather than buying a CD Key from some random guy outside of the system.

    GOG have a DRM free system in place so I don’t know how they would handle identifying individual copies for the purpose of letting a new owner download the software.
    What would be legal though is for you to put your software onto a DVD and sell that as long as you make your original copy unusable.

  • Imtabca

    This shouldn’t have a big effect on the new free-to-play games or many multi-player games, as the account is more important than the game.
    However, I would expect this will mean you’ll have to pay more for single-player games, especially the story based ones where once you finish the game and have figured out the secrets/puzzles the game is done, a least if you buy it from the publisher and not second hand.
    I would also expect what games go up on “Steam Sale” may change if they can be sold on.
    This could also really hurt some of the Indie game makers as some of the post release, word of mouth, sales will now dry up.

    While I can see some really good things coming out of this it may also have some not so positive effects.

  • Revanhavoc

    The future is going to be completely digital in distribution anyway, so this seems like part of that logical evolution.

  • http://twitter.com/videobuzzard David Manchester

    This is why Valve have made Steam is a subscription service not a digital download service ;)

  • Martin Westling

    This is good news!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000230691626 Marlo Ramirez

    Anyone know if the selling has to remain in EU or can it be sold to someone from another country?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Azimov-Valinor/100001723160042 Azimov Valinor

      You gain the right of distribution for that copy, so who you sell or trade it to would be up to you.
      You might still be subject to different international laws depending on what you were trying to sell where.
      Like if a game was banned in a certain country and you tried to sell it to someone who was in that country, but that is a whole different legal minefield.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rasmus.nielsen.75491 Rasmus Nielsen

    I think this is a good idea, and a step in the right direction of monitoring the”right” a digital retailer hefts on us, with their sales, the concept that when I buy something, I don’t have the right to do what *I* want to do with it (Other than making copies of my own and selling, which is a different boat altogether), was always something that made me very leery of digital purchases, here is to hoping that this trend moves from the gaming industry into other digital sales industries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000922697155 Joey G Marsala

    I actually prefer boxed copies of games because I like having a shelf full of games, and adding to my physical collection is some what satisfying. I personally want this in the US; then I could finally get rid of the copy of Portal that came with my Alienware, as well as those games that I bought during the winter sale that I played for a week and haven’t touched since…

  • http://www.facebook.com/guy.redner Guy Redner

    What are they going to do about DLC?  Will that get traded over as well?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LS6OU3Y3UPTLFGRQSF4B43QYDA J

    i hope steam denies europe any digital rights, and stop this madness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GodsSuperior Viktor Andersson

    I love this law-thingy! I own 150+ Steam games and only play about 10-15 of them, would be great to sell, or even give, some of them to someone that would appreciate them more…