EU courts say consumers can resell digital games

European courts have made a huge ruling that can possibly effect the future of digital distribution. Their ruling has declared that consumers have the right to resell their used downloaded titles, and that companies legally cannot prevent you from doing so.

“An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his ‘used’ licences allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet,” says the press release issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union (which you can read here). The ruling came about during litigation involving developer Oracle and their attempts to stop software reseller Usedsoft. The court stated that even if a consumer agrees to an End User License Agreement, then the consumer is still legally allowed to resell his particular title, and the original creators are not allowed to oppose it.

There is a catch to the whole process, though. As per the document, “Furthermore, the Court states that an original acquirer of a tangible or intangible copy of a computer program for which the copyright holder’s right of distribution is exhausted must make the copy downloaded onto his own computer unusable at the time of resale.” Essentially, the person who sells the used digital copy of a game must take steps to make sure their own copy is unplayable on their end, which likely means uninstalling the program, or some other such measure. Doing otherwise would violate the new owner’s right of reproduction from his end, which, unlike the exclusive right of distribution, is not exhausted from the first sale.

While this ruling is coming from Europe, it may still have an impact on services in NA such as Steam or Origin, ones that make their businesses purely through digital distribution. One of the primary perks of the process (for companies at least) was that it wasn’t possible for consumers to resell their games. With this ruling, all of that could change. Although it is already possible for Steam users to trade games for items such as TF2 hats, or even other games, it currently isn’t possible to actually resell those same titles. It is unsure whether NA courts will follow this ruling or not, but it would be wise to hold off on getting rid of most of your Steam library for the moment.

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