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Valve Sued In Germany Over Game Ownership 384

An anonymous reader writes "The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZVB) has sued computer game distributor Valve because it prohibits Steam-gamers from reselling their games. Steam users own the games they purchase and should be able to resell them when they want to, just like owners of traditional card or board games can, said Carola Elbrecht, project manager for consumer rights in the digital world at the VZVB, on Thursday. But while those traditional game owners can resell their games whenever they like, Steam users often cannot, she said."
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Valve Sued In Germany Over Game Ownership

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  • First Post! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:10AM (#42759011)

    Shame I can't transfer it to another article...

  • Trade-offs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bifurcati ( 699683 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:18AM (#42759033) Homepage
    Having strong property rights of "things" has always been a huge part of our culture. However, in the same way that piracy is hacking away at traditional entertainment business models, perhaps there needs to be some give & take here. For the prices Steam offers, I'm actually willing to give up my right to resell the games - as long the games were truly free of all other DRM (I hate it that they're not...).

    The biggest drawback, as I see it, is longer term not being able to pass the games on to family/friends to play. Perhaps an option is to have a higher tiered pricing which gives you the ability to resell the game later?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What? Steam games are almost always overpriced. They get affordable when they go -50% or lower. Its always true for any "non-western" country, but from what I can tell on sites like HotUKDeals ans such - it should be also true for others. Steam is not cheap. I still have around 100 games there, but I wait for bargains, never ever buy at full price.

    • They're only cheap if you buy them on like -75% deals and even then I do mind my rights. Every company would love to go to subscription models for everything but you might as well be a slave at that point. It's good for people to reassert our rights every so often.
      • Re:Trade-offs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:18AM (#42759787) Homepage Journal

        It honestly wouldn't surprise me if one day the bottles of Heinz Ketchup have a tiny-print on them that states that the product is licensed for home use only.
        At present, this is probably not legal, but laws change, and usually to favor big business who can buy lawmakers.

        The first sale doctrine is being eroded, and not all that slow either. It's not that long ago that it was self-evident that the buyer could do whatever he wanted with his purchase, and it required a double signed contract to impose clauses. First, the contract became a one-way contract, not signed by the seller. Then the buyer's signature was no longer needed - breaking a seal or clicking a button was enough. Now, licensing has become the standard for digital goods, even delivered in physical form, and you have to hunt with a microscope to find the legalese that tells you that you're not buying anything, just paying.

        Scary, indeed. Greed breeds greed.

        • Re:Trade-offs (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Loosifur ( 954968 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:32AM (#42759837)

          "It honestly wouldn't surprise me if one day the bottles of Heinz Ketchup have a tiny-print on them that states that the product is licensed for home use only."

          You mean like the "Not For Individual Sale" labels on most bulk-packaged items?

          • Re:Trade-offs (Score:5, Informative)

            by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:53AM (#42759929) Homepage Journal

            You mean like the "Not For Individual Sale" labels on most bulk-packaged items?

            No, that is for a company to avoid labeling each unit individually. I.e. improving profits by cutting costs.
            The buyer can still sell the individual packages, he just has to provide the next customer with the mandated labeling.

            What I'm talking about is a future where a restaurant (or soup kitchen) can get sued because they served soup licensed for home use only, without paying extra licensing fees.
            It's not as far-fetched as you might think - the beer and soda industry already tried it a few years ago, suing a pub that bought bottled beverages cheaper at a local supermarket, arguing that those cheaper bottles were not intended for re-sale. A few more battles, and big business might even start winning. Because the general public can't be arsed to care, as long as it doesn't appear to affect them.

    • I have very few games from steam, but the only ones that were inexpensive were those that were over 5 years old. The discount on new games is no where near the price point necessary to be considered "renting". If I pay $40-60 on a game, then I want to be able to lend or give it away to a friend. I did not say resell because too many Steam fans think it's all about Valve vs Gamestop instead of Valve vs customers.

      No way can their be a higher tier pricing as you suggest, the prices are already high. Compar

    • So am I, on two conditions.

      They shouldn't force me to install another client before I can even play the game. I bought a couple of games in a Steam sale and was very unhappy to have to install two new steam competitors just to be able to play. I chose not to, since you then spend half your life waiting for updates to complete, and turning the bloody things off in your systray.

      And they should allow me to gift my games to friends when I am finished with them.

    • Re:Trade-offs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Niedi ( 1335165 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:38AM (#42759661)
      Simple solution: They shouldn't try to fool people into thinking they are actually BUYING the game. Rename it to say "license the game" or "rent for an unlimited time" or whatever. I'm fine with their non-transferable model as long as they do not try to tell me I'm actually buying the game. Because if I buy something I expect to actually own it and be able to give it away anytime I want.
    • Uhhhh...I thought that was what those 75% off Steam sales were for? I don't care about reselling the games because frankly the vast majority I'm getting for cheaper than renting the console version so honestly who cares about resale? I think the most I paid for a single purchase was $17 and I got all the Crysis games for that!

      To me the prices that you get by going steam make it well worth not having resale which honestly would be such a pittance that it wouldn't be worth the effort anyway. And if I want to

    • However you may thing it acceptable there is a motive why abusive practices like these cannot be allowed. The distribution market is far from being a free competition market. It is dominated by a few huge distributors. Without laws forcing them to behave they can pretty much make deals between themselves and use the policies they want regardless of what users want.
    • We, as a society, give copyrights to people and limit what they can do about this. They can profit enough with traditional sells. There is no motive to allow for things like limited licenses.
  • and sell it too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Of course I can. I have done that for years with physical games.

      And I can do it with cars, books, DVDs, CD, and basically everything else that is not turning into shit while I use it.

    • by allo ( 1728082 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @05:24AM (#42759297)

      a game is nothing you consume. Its like a book. you read/play it once, then you sell it to the next person for a cheaper price.

      • Or perhaps let's go further. Since a book do suffer some degradation over time much more than a digital copy that can be copied and used for years and the information suffers no degradation as long as it is kept redundantly we should declare the whole business of selling digital products by copies completely illegal as an act of fraud. Sure, selling a DVD/BR with pretty prints and box is a different ball game, but not because of the content but the packaging.

        This is not about the right of re-selling but the

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lord_Breetai ( 66113 )

      Haven't you heard? The cake is a lie.

  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:26AM (#42759063)

    Back in the days when you bought games individually, you could share them around the household. So if I had bought say, a copy of unreal tournament 3 and call of duty 2, I could play one, and my wife could play the other on her pc (real example! if you prefer, substitute mate or brother for same effect)

    Now, with two online game equivalents on my steam account, we can only play one, as both require being online. Even if it came in a box from retail for cash, you often still end up with a steamworks copy. Just giving my wife access to my steam account so we can juggle offline mode between us violates the ToS which theoretically means they can shut down my account and deny access to all my games, or make most of them non playable online with a VAC ban. Same applies for creating a new steam account for each game; not only would that be a giant pain in the ass, but trying to register the same card for multiple accounts risks the lot getting disabled.

    They already have the ability to transfer licences between accounts with the gifting system, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to transfer my games to my wife so she can play them when I'm done with them, other than greed.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:43AM (#42759125)

      The simple answer is boycott products with DRM. Don't give those companies any money otherwise they will think DRM is acceptable.

      • by arbiter1 ( 1204146 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:47AM (#42759155)
        then you are boycotting pretty much 75-80% of the games released now days. they all have some type of register/online activation system.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @05:07AM (#42759233)

          Suck it up. Seriously, are people today so pathetic that they can't go without playing some games?

          • by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:29AM (#42759827)
            Nope. Suing them to hell seems better to me as the law don't allow for their practices.
          • by jareth-0205 ( 525594 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:44AM (#42759881) Homepage

            Suck it up. Seriously, are people today so pathetic that they can't go without playing some games?

            Wait, so as far as you are concern as long as it's not an 'essential' item then it's fine to have to make a choice between complete boycott and giving away long-held consumer rights?
            The whole article is about games. Non-essential things. We shouldn't have to choose, art and entertainment is what makes life worth fucking living, it is not something that should be so easily dismissed as a triviality.

            • No, his point is that it shouldn't hurt that much if you have to go without certain games because of their DRM-laden nature. He said some games, not all games. Buy stuff from GOG for example and you don't' have this problem. Sure it's not necessarily the latest stuff, but you at least stick to your principles even if it means not playing the latest SimCity for example.

              If people are to addicted to games to refuse to buy/play certain titles due to user-hostile actions by the developers/publishers, then honest

              • The point is that we, as a society define the privileges we give to copyrights owners. I don't see why we should go out of our way to allow these kinds of licensing, especially when they go against laws made to protect consumers and guarantee their rights.
              • But it's not 'some' anymore, it's most. And it's getting worse. Once GOG run out of past games to trail, what then?

                First sale rights did not come about because a mutual agreement between consumer and manufacturer was made, it came about because laws were passed to define what is right. We cannot get to a reasonable balanced state by free market negotiation, we have to have consumer protection laws to keep companies from forever screwing people over.

        • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @05:12AM (#42759259)

          That's ok, because 75-80% of today's games are crap anyway.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            That's ok, because 75-80% of today's games are crap anyway.

            Too bad they are not the same 75-80%. The games the producers expect to be popular will undoubtedly be the most draconian.

          • Only 75-80%? Theodore Sturgeon would like a word with you.

        • then you are boycotting pretty much 75-80% of the games released now days. they all have some type of register/online activation system.

          That sounds easy enough to do. Let's see, I just turned 45 half a month ago. Assuming I can make it another 45 years, there is a metric buttload of games on a wide variety of platforms (from Amiga or older to Wii, plus the arcade classics on MAME) that I have yet to get caught up on. As long as I have the hardware to run them on, I can easily go the rest of my life without ever purchasing a new game. Heck, now that I'm thinking about it, I am almost tempted to pull the Vectrex out and play a few rounds

        • Given a choice between choosing inferior (old and/or low-budget) DRM-free games and becoming Valve's bitch, I choose the inferior games. They're good enough for me.

          I bought a couple of games from Steam before I wised up, but I've spent more time begging Valve's tech support to pretty please let me play the games I bought than I have actually playing them.

          DRM opponents basically won in the music industry, and if we would stand up with regard to games, we could win there too.

    • by lxs ( 131946 )

      I could play one, and my wife could play the other on her pc

      So Steam has actually improved your marriage?

  • by ghotihed ( 928294 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:27AM (#42759067) Homepage
    I think it's even worse when they're disallowing physical media. I specifically purchased a game for my son (Portal) so that when he was finished playing it, I could uninstall it from his computer and install it on mine so I could play. But, even though it was purchased at a store (Wal-Mart, Target, something like that), and it came on a physical disc, uninstalling it from his computer is not enough. It's already been registered and locked to his Steam account, and after several communications with Valve, they refuse to disassociate it from his account.

    If it was just a download, then I could sort of, kind of see the restriction. But purchasing a physical object, like a book or a DVD or a CD-ROM, should allow one to disassociate the application from one account and sell it on to the next person to associate with their account.
    • by mr_jrt ( 676485 )

      ...which is why I've had to stop buying most games now that so many are using Steamworks. I cancelled my Aliens vs. Predator preorder when I found out, and now I won't be buying Aliens: Colonial Marines. Such a shame...but I refuse to have to ask permission to install software.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:31AM (#42759081) Homepage Journal

    In the west, Communism is decried in part because it doesn't respect the concept of personal property. None of 'your' stuff is owned by you. So why, given that, should we accept for even one second a culture where we only rent and license things from corporate owners? We can't even be said to own the license since there are so many ways a 'permanent' license can just evaporate.

    • Exactly. People are short sighted though and think the rent model allows them to have more crap than they can really afford and it might sometimes but them you'll eventually lose it all.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:44AM (#42759131)

      Communism didn't quite work in the material world, but for digital things it's just what the doctor ordered: everyone gives what they can, everyone gets what they want, since there is no scarcity coming from limited nature of natural resources.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        But that's not what's happening. Even when you fork over big bux for a digital thing, you don't end up owning it. It is kept artificially scarce. If you can't give money, you don't get anything. If you can, you still don't get ownership, they just let you use it until they say stop.

      • by progician ( 2451300 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:19AM (#42759613) Homepage

        Actually, "Communism did not work" argument is a bit of a stretch since the "Communism" did not attempt to be what it claimed to be. State ownership is still private property as far as the communist argument goes, since communism is not simply against the personal ownership of things, but the use of production facilities for non-collective benefit. The state owned factories can be used for appropriate profits only for a small minority, or can be used to fund activities that directly goes against the interest of all workers: like wars.

        Communism with capital C, was and is a way where capitalism has been always heading: completely socialized production (i.e. manufacturing at large, employing large crowd of workers in a single economical entity... see the development of factories in the very early capitalism) for the benefit of a small class of individuals and building social hierarchy on the basis of the production. The USSR, China weren't so much incompatible with the market-fundamentalist capitalism of the USA after all, rather a forced modernization from virtually feudal state to wage-work and socialized, industrial production of profit.

        Communism with small c, is and was a movement that aimed to destroy the artificially imposed scarcity which capitalism depends on so much. It is quite characteristic that any time technology makes it possible to reduce the resource cost of production, it creates panic, meltdown, and eventually use of force to recover the scarcity (using whatever legal device is available in form of copyrights, patents, non-disclosure enforcement in the area of digital production), or actively promotes new areas of scarcity to recover the losses of profits. The tech industry is the best example how technological development in capitalism is restrained by imposing scarcity, secrecy and lies on the larger population.

      • by dabadab ( 126782 )

        For the life of me, I can not fathom why this "there's no scarcity in the digital world" bullshit is so popular on Slashdot. Of course, there is. There is a scarcity of new content. You can make almost unlimited number of copies of old stuff but for new stuff, you have to invest scarce things (if nothing else, someone's time) and that makes it scarce.
        And frankly, I don't think that anyone shouting "there's no scarcity" would be happy if the only source of his gaming would be another copy of Super Mario Bros

    • In the west, Communism is decried? Really? Why are there so many Marxists in our universities, then? Where is this decrying occurring?
  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pookie13 ( 832250 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:34AM (#42759103)
    As a Finn I have waited for this to happen somewhere in Europe. I guess the legislators don't play games or at least buy them from Steam. I hope that this changes how digitally distributed games are seen in light of ownership before every purchase is somehow locked to buyers dna. Tinfoil hats ahoy! :)
    • This totally makes sense. Wish they would also prohibit disabling single player games for violating terms of use. If I don't use a device in accordance with it's manual, a company is in their right to refuse repairing it refuse connecting it to their network. But taking away all games is just ridiculous. Heck, taking an analogy to the world of physical things it's as if company reps came to my home and took, without any compensation, all of the devices made by their company just because I spilled water on m

  • Taken from the official Steam license. [] You may not sell or charge others for the right to use your Account, or otherwise transfer your Account, nor may you sell, charge others for the right to use, or transfer any Subscriptions other than if and as expressly permitted by this Agreement (including any Subscription Terms or Rules of Use). 2. LICENSES A. License Terms. Steam and your Subscription(s) require the automatic download and installati
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:56AM (#42759199) Homepage Journal

      Contrary to popular belief not all things put on licenses are enforceable and not all rights are possible to give up in exchange of a cheaper deal(essentially this is the whole basis of consumer protection laws).

      OTOH.. it's technically possible to sell your steam games. you just have to sell them all at once(sell the account. you can change the realname if you ever put one in..).

    • Yeah, but if the law in Germany says otherwise, then it is the law that applies. That's the difference between laws and contracts (of which a license agreement is just a small part) and it's actually impossible to have a contract to break the law; contracts must be lawful or they are simply not contracts by definition. Even if the agreement says that it is not conducted under German law, German consumers will have the right to use German law anyway. (Well, probably; I've not actually checked what the relevant law says, but there's a lot of similarity in this area across different EU members and I know that UK law is very clear on this point.)

      The real question is not whether there's recourse in law, but how any ensuing judgements would be enforced. An unenforceable ruling really isn't much use.

      • by azalin ( 67640 )
        There are are quite a number of options available to the court. First and most probable would be a fine. Beyond that I'm not sure about the power this court wields, but it is possible they could prohibit retail stores from selling physical media that require steam.
        It will probably end with a fine that needs to be paid until they change their terms or stop doing business in Germany (this includes retail games, with mandatory steam). Some publishers might reconsider using steam if this means they loose a lu
    • Companies do NOT get to supersede national law. That's what congress is for.
      There is such a thing as an illegal contract. That's why contracts usually contain a boileplate clause that even if one clause of the contract may be illegal, the rest does still apply. And a TOS isn't even that.

      So suing to find out if this can actually be considered legal is an absolutely valid course of action. In fact, it is the only one.
  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:50AM (#42759169) Homepage

    People here in Australia often bitch about Valve because of the regionalised pricing of video games - it's not uncommon for some games to cost almost 2x as much as they do in the USA (given the strong value of our dollar).

    However, it's not Valve that sets the prices for the games - it's the publisher.

    In this case I don't know if Valve are just honoring requirements set by the publishers, or if this just a part of their platform. Either way, I think Steam would be a much tougher sell to publishers if one of the features they provided to gamers was the ability to sell your account at a discounted price to someone else.

    (If you want to sell games on Steam, my advice would be to separate out game purchases into different email accounts. Then you can sell the email account and the associated games. I'm sure it's still against T&Cs to do that - and it's a giant pain in the ass - but at least it means you can buy and sell Steam games in discrete chunks.)

    • Valve does set some prices, they charge the developer just to use Steam. As I heard it they require the developer to use Steam on all variants of the game; that is if you use Steam with DRM for online distribution (a good idea) then they disallow you from having a physical copy without Steam (bad idea) or from using alternate online distribution means. (some games use Steam to distribute w/o DRM though)

      Your idea about multiple accounts is one way. But it would be much easier if Valve just treated custome

      • by mog007 ( 677810 )

        if you use Steam with DRM for online distribution (a good idea) then they disallow you from having a physical copy without Steam (bad idea) or from using alternate online distribution means.

        That's not true. Let's pick a semi-recent release, FTL. Development was funded through Kickstarter, and the game is available from three digital distributors. You can get it on Steam, GoG, or direct from the developers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @06:19AM (#42759447)

    Not being able to resell a game is nothing compared to the fact that we can lose all our games anytime with Steam. The license agreement say that Steam can change it whenever they want for whatever they want and if we refuse the new license agreement, then the only option is to close the account and lose all the games we "bought". No refund. We own nothing with steam and considering the current license agreement contains clauses which are clearly abusive (they can do whatever they want with whatever information they can gather from their spyware, err... I mean client software), I'd say Steam is one of the most evil company I ever saw.

  • by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:19AM (#42759795)
    I see this as an opportunity for Valve to get Steam installed on just about every PC. Make it so you can "gift" used copies of the game to other Steam accounts.

    This will ensure just about every gamer has Steam. The ability for a gamer to make an impulse purchase is now there. Increase in sales.

    Let's face it, if someone is looking for a used copy of a game, their urge to play it probably isn't real high.
    • Ultimately, I think the compromise that we will get is that you will be able to resell used games, and you, the distributor, and the publisher will all get a cut. It's unfair for the publisher to get anything -- it doesn't right now, with physical media-only resales -- but you know they will fight and fight to prevent resales at all. The only way they'll ever agree to it is if they get something in return. Unfair though it might be, I don't see any solution that doesn't result in them getting a piece of

      • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
        I don't even want to resell used games.. once I buy a game I consider it a sunk cost. However, if my brother wants to play it or just try it out for a bit, I would like to be able to gift it to his steam account, losing my ability to play but giving him full access.

        No exchange of money required. If he wants to give me $10 next time I see him, so be it.
  • I'm guessing if this is allowed, you should be able to sell iTunes Music as well.

    The main problem I see with this concept isn't that games will get sold, the problem is that they will be given away. Fox example if you had 1000 games, they could be shared between 10000 people, just swapping back af forth whenever needed. It is unlikely that everyone plays this game at the same time, you will create a mentality that allows thinking like "Oh I can buy it somewhere else anyway" and in the end the profits will d

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson