Steam Digital Resale Ruling “Flies in the Face” of EU Law Says Industry Trade Association

Sep 23, 2019

Last week, a French court handed down a ruling that has the potential to radically alter the way we buy and play video games and other digital media. Basically, the District Court of Paris struck down several sections of the Steam user agreement, most notably the part that states that Valve is only selling people game subscriptions. The court determined that Steam actually sells game licenses, and as such, consumers ought to be able to resell them.

This could have wide-ranging effects, possibly hastening the gaming industry’s move to subscription services and derailing new services like Google Stadia before they even get off the ground (for more on the implications, check out Wccftech’s in-depth analysis). Ah, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves! Powerful forces are lining up against the ruling, with the Interactive Software Federation of Europe insisting it “flies in the face of established EU law”.

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This French ruling flies in the face of established EU law which recognizes the need to protect digital downloads from the ease of reproduction allowed by the Internet. Far from supporting gamers, this ruling, if it stands, would dramatically and negatively impact investment in the creation, production and publication of, not just video games, but of the entire output of the digital entertainment sector in Europe. If Europe’s creators cannot protect their investments and their intellectual property, the impact on both industry and consumers will be disastrous.

Despite what the ISFE says, the question of whether digital goods can be resold is far from a settled matter in Europe. In fact, EU copyright law has traditionally stated that a copyright holder’s rights only apply to the first sale, with the selling of used books/movies/etc being fully legal. That said, there is debate over whether this applies to digital goods, with a high profile case concerning the reselling of ebooks currently before the Court of Justice of the European Union. So yeah, this could go either way.

For their part, Valve has promised it will be business as usual for Steam as they appeal the ruling

We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it. The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.

Which way do you think this will go? Which way do you want it to go? Do you want to be able to resell your digital media, or would the fallout not be worth it?