Valve’s two-year long court case with German consumer advocacy group VZBV (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband) regarding the selling and transferring of digital accounts and the re-selling of digital goods has been dismissed by the Berlin court. Valve was taken to court by VZBV after a European Court of Justice ruling in 2012 decided that consumers do have the right to re-sell copies of digital media just as they can with physical disc-based media; something Steams end-user-license-agreement expressly forbids. Essentially, VZBV wanted to force Valve to add a marketplace within the Steam service that allows users to buy, sell, and trade already purchased games and even entire accounts in a manner not too dissimilar to the way in-game items and trading cards are exchanged now.
That sounds like it could be a good thing, so why did Valve fight so hard against it? That answer is unclear, as details regarding Valves argument have not been made public and likely involve a few industry secrets. It has been said, however, that Valves business not only serves consumers, but also protects the rights of the Intellectual Properties it sells. Steam is a form of DRM after all and publishers could find a different way to sell their games or simply drive up the price if they don’t agree with their goods being part of a re-selling system. It has also been said that Valve is denying the consumers their rights and is acting against the law – European law in this case. I will avoid speculation as much as possible here, since court cases are rarely so black and white when it comes to right and wrong, but I will say that Valve has proven to be a trust-worthy company and that this does not mean that there will never be a form of game trading. We can already share, stream, and gift games on Steam, but to open a used game market under court order against Valves will and control would not be in the best interest of us, the users. Should such a market be made a part of Steam, best it be under Valves terms and seek to serve both the customer and the publishers.
This has not been the first time this issue has resulting in lawsuits, and certainly won’t be the last. VZBV can still appeal the judgment. But while American courts remain undecided, European courts are in a state of mixed decisions. For example; When asked if the German courts have ruled in violation of the aforementioned European Court of Justice ruling regarding the rights to re-sell digital media, the legal-firm Osborne-Clarke replied:
“The judges’ comments at the oral hearing held a few days before the verdict transpired do indicate that they do not consider the doctrine of exhaustion to be applicable to digitally distributed computer games at all.”
“Even as far as physically distributed games are concerned, and the doctrine of exhaustion must indubitably be applied, the court seems to agree with the BGH that the doctrine of exhaustion does not render the no-transfer clauses in Valve’s terms of service unenforceable.”
What do you think? Should Valve allow you to buy and sell the games you own on Steam? Or is the whole thing a bad idea? Let us know in the comments.