Valve have triumphed against a consumer rights lawsuit that sought to undo the no-resale clause in Steam’s terms of service. A German judge has ruled that the copyright laws which allow the sale of second-hand game DVDs do not apply to their digitally-distributed counterparts.
German consumer group VZBV first issued Valve with a cease and desist order in September 2012, after a change to Steam’s EULA ensured that customers wouldn’t be able to bring class action lawsuits – i.e. those filed by a group of complainants, not individuals – against the distribution company.
The following January, VZBV filed a lawsuit at Berlin’s district court – alleging that Steam users’ inability to sell on their unwanted games clashed with existing copyright law’s doctrine of exhaustion – which permits the resale of physical media like games.
The Regional Court of Berlin had other ideas, however. They ruled this week that the doctrine of exhaustion doesn’t make Valve’s no-transfer clause unenforceable.
“For video game industry stakeholders in Germany, the EU and beyond, this ruling may not be entirely surprising,” wrote legal firm Osborne Clarke. “It is another strong signal that digital and hybrid distribution strategies limiting the potential for software piracy and protecting distribution networks against grey imports are feasible and the contractual clauses implementing them will be enforced by the courts.”
In short: it’s now a little less likely that you’ll ever be able to sell on digital games, on Steam or anywhere else.
It’s far from clear cut whether that’s a bad thing or not – a second-hand Steam market could mess something awful with Valve’s slashed-price holiday sales, for starters, encouraging publishers to keep prices higher for longer. What do you lot reckon?