The European Court of Justice has made a ruling that could cause lots of problems for publishers in Europe. The highest court in Europe has ruled that game publishers cannot stop European consumers from reselling their downloaded games.
"An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his 'used' licences allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet," the ruling read. The Court said the exclusive right of distribution covered by a license is "exhausted on its first sale".
This certainly puts a fly in the ointment for companies like Steam. Now gamers in European Union member states are basically free to sell their downloaded games no matter where they are from: Steam, Origin or another digital platform – no matter what End User License Agreement has been signed.
The ruling goes on to say that even when the license says that a consumer cannot transfer a game, the rightsholder "can no longer oppose the resale of that copy."
The ruling also suggests that the person who buys that used game is within his or her right to download it from the publisher's website.
"Therefore the new acquirer of the user licence, such as a customer of UsedSoft, may, as a lawful acquirer of the corrected and updated copy of the computer program concerned, download that copy from the copyright holder's website," the Court said.
The only condition that the court put on reselling your digital games is that you no longer have access to it. Those that do continue to use it are infringing copyright:
"If he continued to use it," the Court explained, "he would infringe the copyright holder's exclusive right of reproduction of his computer program. In contrast to the exclusive right of distribution, the exclusive right of reproduction is not exhausted by the first sale."
You can read the entire ruling here (PDF). We will have to wait and see if companies such as GamersGate, Steam, and Origin will alter the way they do business to accommodate the ruling. Chances are they will not change a thing…