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Consumer Rights in the Age of Steam
July 3, 2012 9:31 AM   Subscribe

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that people can resell used software licenses. Rock, Paper, Shotgun speculates about what this will mean for gaming, an industry which has embraced digital distribution wholeheartedly.
posted by gilrain (77 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The specific rule seems to be that if a license is sold indefinitely – i.e. not a license for a year, or similar – that the rightholder “exhausts his exclusive distribution right”.

I'm guessing that will lead to fewer indefinite licenses. "Here, download our major blockbuster AAA game for free! It's $49.99 for a year's license to play it."
posted by yerfatma at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, this is going to get complicated. Although, I can see it working like the Arkham City Catwoman thing ad absurdum. They sell you a "game" except you need a unique unlock code to actually get to the content past the prologue or first level or whatever. Either that or every game is going to start require an internet connection, like Diablo 3, and selling someone a "game" will mean about as much as selling them the box.
posted by griphus at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well that explains why the Steam Summer Sale is not happening: if you can resell the download (perhaps for more than you paid for it), then there is no incentive for Steam or anyone else to sell it at a discount in the first place. It's not like they are paying inventory tax on it if they don't sell it at all.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:39 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cut to the Valve offices engulfed in flames. A printer breaks through a window and crashes into the car below.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Value could turn Steam into a flea market, with them taking a cut of every used game transaction. I'm sure their new in-house economist is crunching the numbers right now.
posted by thecjm at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


I wonder if the Humble Indie Bundles are going to happen after this, since people will just buy masses of bundles at 1 cent and then turn around and resell them for a massive profit.
posted by hellojed at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the Humble Indie Bundles are going to happen after this, since people will just buy masses of bundles at 1 cent and then turn around and resell them for a massive profit.

Can't they do that now?
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on July 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


My immediate thought is that allowing customers to resell software licenses is not the same as being required to provide an overly convenient mechanism to facilitate that sale. So e.g. Steam would potentially be obliged to provide a "relinquish license" mechanism for a game that'd allow some other user to then activate that license, but meeting that sort of requirement wouldn't necessarily means Steam would spin up a new Used Games tab on their interface. Byzantine compliance is still compliance, etc.

It's interesting that this totally inverts the baggage on physical vs. digital media; the lack of transferability is a hit I've always been okay with on my digital downloads on the basis that I've never been much of a reseller of games in the first place and I find the system otherwise worlds more convenient in almost every case than buying a box at a store. Trading in used games means potential scratched-media bullshit, missing manuals/extras, etc, but at least you can buy/sell used, so there's the tradeoff, right? Except now maybe I can buy a nice mint condition copy of the bytes themselves, no scratched DVDs involved.

I'm guessing that will lead to fewer indefinite licenses.

Possible, yeah. Or a bigger push toward sidestepping the question by going into the streaming/rental model for downloaded games and F2P microtransaction-funded multiplayer games, both of which are already getting a lot of industry energy at the moment.
posted by cortex at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, um, this is probably a stupid question but most legal things manage to elude me: what happens if the digital distribution company hosts their operations in a country which does not recognize this ruling? Can they simply ignore the ruling and dare anyone to do something about it?

I mean, couldn't Valve just say "screw you, we're still banning your ass?" If they don't have any assets in the affected countries, what would be the downside for them? It's not like a US court is going to enforce the ruling. Would it likely become a matter of locking out payment venues, ISP-level blocks, or something?

I guess I don't understand the intricacies of having a "nexus" in a country, vs. the country in which a transaction is said to occur, and how these types of rulings get enforced.
posted by aramaic at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2012


In all cynicism, this just means a move toward more subscription analogies.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2012


Value could turn Steam into a flea market, with them taking a cut of every used game transaction.

Which would also be interesting. I suppose it becomes a further question of the legality of charging for the brokering of a license transfer. Said transfer would cost Valve nothing in principle and it'd be some easy side cash. How they'd approach the question of splitting that vig with the creators of the game is another wrinkle there, of course.

I wonder if the Humble Indie Bundles are going to happen after this, since people will just buy masses of bundles at 1 cent and then turn around and resell them for a massive profit.

I don't feel like HIB is succeeding on the strength of the power to enforce game licenses to begin with, so that doesn't seem like a big issue. People like the HIB setup because it's flexible and fun and feels like a good thing to do, and is already cheap from the word go. It starts as a bargain.
posted by cortex at 9:51 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, um, this is probably a stupid question but most legal things manage to elude me: what happens if the digital distribution company hosts their operations in a country which does not recognize this ruling? Can they simply ignore the ruling and dare anyone to do something about it?

If you're doing business in a country, you're still subject to their laws in so far as your business in that country. A US court probably will enforce a judgment against them from a European court.
posted by kafziel at 9:51 AM on July 3, 2012


So to be clear, there'd be nothing preventing digital distribution companies from, say, selling 100 year licenses or something?
posted by dismas at 9:52 AM on July 3, 2012


Enforced first sale rights on these kinds of licenses should also mean that non-profit digital lending libraries are legal. I can imagine people setting up a PaperBackSwap-ish system for trading used game or software licenses that they don't use anymore without actually reselling them.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I look forward to the standard 99 year software licence.
posted by fings at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


One year? Hundred year? Let's say "forever minus one day" and be done with it.
posted by jepler at 9:54 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, does this mean that Europeans can buy back-end software licenses (HAVOK, Unreal Engine, autocad, SQL2012) from failed companies that did not make use of them?
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because I think AutoDesk & Microsoft & Wolfram might be a little irked by that.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:57 AM on July 3, 2012


Oh man, I really want to score me some low-cost engineering software licenses then!
posted by aramaic at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2012


Also Rosetta Stone are infamous for sending eBay takedown notices when customers try to resell their kits. This ruling puts a major hole in their business model.
posted by localroger at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2012


I get the feeling that this is hyped as being a more new development than it actually; as far as I'm aware this is already the case in the EU that software is a product, not a service and hence can be resold.

Certainly in the Netherlands it is, as Arnoud Engelfriet explains here, but in Dutch.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:02 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


HIB distributes its stuff DRM-free; last I checked, even the official download link had no authentication beyond an infinitely reusable key e-mailed to buyers (which means you can easily "pirate" the games from HIB's own site). There was never anything but the buyer's conscience requiring them to pay money, so this won't change a thing for them.

Steam, though. Hmmmm.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:03 AM on July 3, 2012


People like the HIB setup because it's flexible and fun and feels like a good thing to do, and is already cheap from the word go.

HIB and gog.com in games, and a number of book publishers have apparently found that if you offer fun, treat your customers like human beings, and sell at a reasonable price point, that many customers will buy your products.

Of course, it seems by this ruling that if you sell your Steam or Origin game, that Valve and EA would be entitled to disable the game on your computer. The license is transferable but not copyable.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:03 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


TwelveTwo: Because I think AutoDesk & Microsoft & Wolfram might be a little irked by that.

The suit that decided this was brought by Oracle, who sued a company selling used licenses of its enterprise products... so yeah, it'd apply to them too.
posted by gilrain at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2012


HIB and gog.com in games, and a number of book publishers have apparently found that if you offer fun, treat your customers like human beings, and sell at a reasonable price point, that many customers will buy your products.

However, both HIB and GOG disallow the transference of games between accounts. Yes, you can, just like you can share Steam logins and passwords, but it's against their EULA.

Of course, it seems by this ruling that if you sell your Steam or Origin game, that Valve and EA would be entitled to disable the game on your computer. The license is transferable but not copyable.

Many first sale advocates would in fact be entirely happy with the ability to freely remove games from their steam account in order to gift them to someone else's.
posted by kafziel at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2012


It is too bad it is only in regards to software, because this would twist iTunes and GooglePlay into curly straw shapes.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:08 AM on July 3, 2012


It means a lot less money for game development. Companies make games to make money. For a lot of reasons, far beyond pirating and now-legal license sales, the era of blockbuster games is coming to an end.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:09 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, it seems by this ruling that if you sell your Steam or Origin game, that Valve and EA would be entitled to disable the game on your computer. The license is transferable but not copyable.

...who would think otherwise?

----

It is too bad it is only in regards to software, because this would twist iTunes and GooglePlay into curly straw shapes.

The precedent for this is now clear; it's almost exactly the same case but with a different bit stream.
posted by jaduncan at 10:12 AM on July 3, 2012


Maybe, maybe not. I'd be more likely to buy a game before it hits the $2-5 sale level if I knew I could get some of that money back if it turns out to suck. As it is, the specter of Left 4 Dead, impossible to remove from my account but never to be played again, reminds me weekly of the risks of dropping a lot of cash on a game I can't get rid of.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:13 AM on July 3, 2012


It means a lot less money for game development. Companies make games to make money. For a lot of reasons, far beyond pirating and now-legal license sales, the era of blockbuster games is coming to an end.

Yes, it's like when the VCR killed Hollywood blockbusters.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:13 AM on July 3, 2012 [27 favorites]


It is too bad it is only in regards to software, because this would twist iTunes and GooglePlay into curly straw shapes.

Interesting - TBH I'm not seeing why books or music or other electronic IP wouldn't fall to the same logic.

Oh - also mobile apps, that's undeniably software already.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on July 3, 2012


XQUZYPHYR: I'm pretty sure every Hollywood movie since has lost money.

I've been noticing used games that would be impossible to install or play (like recent Valve or Blizzard titles) pop up at garage sales, flea markets, and used book stores lately. I was figuring that if anything, things would go the other way and all books/movies/games would end up being non-transferrable, so this is a welcome ruling. Hopefully we follow suit on this continent, but I'm not holding my breath.

Of course the most important question here is can get Diablo III from someone in Europe for cheap?
posted by ODiV at 10:28 AM on July 3, 2012


"can I get Diablo III"
posted by ODiV at 10:28 AM on July 3, 2012


XQUZYPHYR: I'm pretty sure every Hollywood movie since has lost money.

Just ask anyone with a percentage of the net.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:29 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: You can email Valve support and get them to take a game off your account. I don't think you'll get compensated or anything for it, but if you really want something gone it's an option.
posted by ODiV at 10:29 AM on July 3, 2012


I can? Now I'm torn between banishing it from my sight and keeping it as the aforementioned warning to my future, free-spending self.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:32 AM on July 3, 2012


It's not like a US court is going to enforce the ruling.

Not directly, but if a European court issues an injunction against them they can try to enforce it in the US.

I don't actually think this is a big deal. In many European countries this has always been the case but the software upgrade cycle is too fast for this to make much of a difference. Most sales of blockbuster games happen over a few months when they're first released and by the time that people have gotten around to offering them second-hand no-one will want them.
posted by atrazine at 10:33 AM on July 3, 2012


atrazine: "Most sales of blockbuster games happen over a few months when they're first released and by the time that people have gotten around to offering them second-hand no-one will want them."

Especially since most modern games seem to be cutscene-laden "Press X To Win" affairs. Very high production value, very low content.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:37 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this ruling would mean that I could sell the licenses of my (ridiculously large) Steam library now to someone in Europe now?
posted by Slackermagee at 10:41 AM on July 3, 2012


There's a lot of weird implications here.

Other than feeling good, would there be any benefit to buying a download new vs used? At all? Maybe buying it used will be prohibitively inconvenient?

That certainly makes any kind of discount extremely weird. I guess they'd have to say "limit 2 per customer" or something? Or maybe if you're tricky about a time-limited sale, you could sell more to resellers than the market would actually support, and get more cash than you'd ultimately make "normally", and get it up up front?

This has a lot of differences from actual objects. Storing and transporting objects has a cost that owning and transferring licenses do not. You still have to have money tied up in licenses, and you run the risk that a new version or whatever will be released making your old version obsolete.

If this doesn't apply to digital music or movies, then I would think that would be a huge mess for games. Which contain music and movies.

Oddly, this seems like it makes non-drm software less appealing - how can a buyer be confident a reseller has the license they're claiming to sell you?

Unless a software publisher thinks this will benefit them, I think this just encourages everyone to time-limit their license. Adobe's model is the future, I guess.

Does that mean we can sell our metafilter accounts? If not, then can't you stop selling the software, and start selling accounts that give access to the software?
posted by aubilenon at 10:41 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other than feeling good, would there be any benefit to buying a download new vs used?

Codes for unlockable content!

Sorry, the cut and paste feature for Microsoft Word 2016 has not yet been unlocked! Please provide your unlock code or purchase one from the Microsoft App store!
posted by ODiV at 10:45 AM on July 3, 2012


Oh god... The specter of Pay To Play bullshit looms large.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It means a lot less money for game development. Companies make games to make money. For a lot of reasons, far beyond pirating and now-legal license sales, the era of blockbuster games is coming to an end.

That seems incredibly unlikely. As long as millions of people want to play a given blockbuster game and the people creating it can figure out a way to convert that into revenue there will always be blockbuster games. Television has had way more disruptive changes happen to their industry (huge proliferation of competing networks, less dominance of advertising, all sorts of timeshifting and content sharing technologies, etc.) and yet there are more big expensive television shows being produced today than ever. Even if game sales literally dropped to zero, a Kickstarter-type model could still raise massive amounts of money for new games that enough people are willing to pay to get produced.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:47 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I hope this doesn't result in some channel subscription bullshit where you pay a fixed monthly fee for access to a library of games and you can't just buy the ones you want. Like cable TV.
posted by aubilenon at 10:51 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other than feeling good, would there be any benefit to buying a download new vs used? At all? Maybe buying it used will be prohibitively inconvenient?

I think how much of an issue this is depends a lot on new release dynamics and whether there's any sort of legal, super-slick used games digital marketplace.

Like, if you want to go and buy a game used when it's just out, you could go looking for quick resales at a discount from people who tried it and hated it on day one and don't mind losing some money on the deal, but that's gonna be less reliable than paying full retail and knowing you'll have your copy ASAP while your enthusiasm is peaking. And being able to preload the game, for that matter. So big sales at release seem like they'd remain the norm, with sales basically being at the level of saturation of customer interest.

Down the road does get more interesting, though, because all of a sudden you are indeed looking at a battle between formal retail discount pricing from first-sale outlets like Steam and informal or semi-formal used game sales from individuals or used retail outlets.

I think convenience will always be a big factor on a lot of fronts, and someone may be more inclined to impulsively drop some cash on a deep discount sale from a known quantity a year or two down the line than to go bargain hunting on eBay or whatever. People like predictable, smooth purchasing experiences and will pay a premium for that.
posted by cortex at 10:54 AM on July 3, 2012


I wonder if the Humble Indie Bundles are going to happen after this, since people will just buy masses of bundles at 1 cent and then turn around and resell them for a massive profit.

Remember, they can already get the games for free to begin with, so the whole Humble Indie Bundle thing is really a donation in disguise. This is more or less true with all digital goods; the major difference here is that the Humble Bundle people have actually figured it out, and are making millions through that realization.

You're not really buying the games, since they're not copy-protected, and are easy to get for free, so you have no reason whatsoever to give Joe Reseller any money. Either you give it directly to the Humble Bundle, the original game creators, or you pirate them. You have no reason to give Joe a red cent.
posted by Malor at 10:55 AM on July 3, 2012


Ironmouth: "For a lot of reasons, far beyond pirating and now-legal license sales, the era of blockbuster games is coming to an end."

Yes, because Halo 3's blockbuster status was reliant on a non-existant used market...
posted by pwnguin at 10:56 AM on July 3, 2012


Hmm, that wording is ambiguous. I'm not saying that Humble Bundle created the games, I'm saying that there are three options...giving to Humble, giving to the original authors, or just copying the bits without paying anyone except your power company and/or ISP.
posted by Malor at 10:58 AM on July 3, 2012


aubilenon: Other than feeling good, would there be any benefit to buying a download new vs used? At all? Maybe buying it used will be prohibitively inconvenient?

The 'feeling good' is the core of digital transactions, since 'free' is usually an option. There's typically not much benefit to buying a digital good at all, except that you know you're supporting the authors. Yet, billions of digital goods get 'sold' anyway.

It's really not going to be much of an issue.
posted by Malor at 11:02 AM on July 3, 2012


The 'feeling good' is the core of digital transactions, since 'free' is usually an option. There's typically not much benefit to buying a digital good at all, except that you know you're supporting the authors. Yet, billions of digital goods get 'sold' anyway.

Well, many people would like to proceed legally when possible. Certainly companies don't pay for enterprise software to feel good - they do it because they don't want to break the law and they don't want to get sued.

Why do people today buy used games instead of just pirating them now?
posted by aubilenon at 11:06 AM on July 3, 2012


Ugh. I hope this doesn't result in some channel subscription bullshit where you pay a fixed monthly fee for access to a library of games and you can't just buy the ones you want. Like cable TV.

I don't understand how this is much different than what's already in place with a digital marketplace. If you cancel or abandon your Steam account, you lose access to the games you purchased and downloaded on it. The same goes for DLC and an XBox Live account. You are already subscribed to this service; in the case of the former the subscription fee just happens to be zero.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:08 AM on July 3, 2012


You are already subscribed to this service; in the case of the former the subscription fee just happens to be zero.

The incentives to cancel a subscription with zero associated cost are more or less absent, though. The cash is the difference. Not to say there aren't problematic long-term aspects of that centralized permissions-giving approach even with a free service like Steam, but something that's costing me nothing a month is a lot less likely to get formally cancelled than something that's costing me five or twenty or fifty bucks every month.

If I don't use Steam for the better part of a year, it's just sitting there doing no harm to my bank account.
posted by cortex at 11:12 AM on July 3, 2012


You are already subscribed to this service; in the case of the former the subscription fee just happens to be zero.

Steam/DLC/App store model: Pay for game once, play game whenever you want forever. You need a (non-paid) account to authenticate your downloads, but with Steam, Microsoft and some other DLC providers, you don't need authentication to use the game once you have it; the worst that can happen even if you do abandon your account or the provider goes under is that you can't re-download the files from their server anymore.

OnLive/"cable TV" model: Pay a monthly fee for all the games you can eat. If you don't pay the fee every month, all your games go away.

That's not just a difference in subscription fees.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:14 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


but with Steam, Microsoft and some other DLC providers, you don't need authentication to use the game once you have it

I was under the impression that with both Steam and paid DLC you literally do have to have constant authentication. You can't use earned items in TF2, for example, or access account-linked DLC on XBL without connecting to their servers for authentication.

I don't see how there is structurally or functionally a difference; in both cases you have signed up to use a service that stores the functional access to the software and canceling said signup means you no longer have full use of said content.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:23 AM on July 3, 2012


"Free" sometimes entails a fair bit of additional risk of malware, bugs, not getting what you think you're getting, or lack of access to updates. When I buy or subscribe to something digitally, I'm paying for shopping convenience, risk-protection, and someone to blame if the quality is less than reasonable. While I could sift through bittorrent sites for what I want, it often would be too much like work and not worthwhile when the item is only $2-10 anyway.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:30 AM on July 3, 2012


With Steam it's a bit more complicated; you have, depending on the game, situations that range from "you must have Steam running and authenticated to play this game" all the way over to "seriously, just run thegamename.exe in DOSBOX, nobody cares". So you're not going to trivially be playing TF2 independent of Steam, but a lot of games (particularly older games) ship as basically self-contained packages that Steam volunteers to help you run.

And there's an offline mode for Steam that specifically functions (though how well is something someone with experience using it a lot can better address) to obviate the permission issue for games that don't have some specific mandatory online aspect.

There's still gatekeeping involved, but there's matters of degree here. And Steam vs. Xbox Live is a bit of an apples and oranges thing given the relatively lack of portability of content on a first-party console vs. a library facilitation on as many beige boxes as you care to install Steam on.
posted by cortex at 11:33 AM on July 3, 2012


Anyway, someone jump to it and build me a license clearinghouse and market place, and run it all through Europe. I want me a cheap copy of Mathematica. Also, a job? I would love some shares in that company.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:35 AM on July 3, 2012


And there's an offline mode for Steam that specifically functions (though how well is something someone with experience using it a lot can better address) to obviate the permission issue for games that don't have some specific mandatory online aspect.

It doesn't work well, and you can only switch to offline mode by first logging in.
posted by kafziel at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2012


My complaint is not the technical one about authentication or anything, my complaint is that if I want to watch Game of Thrones I have to pay for a ton of other crap I don't want to watch. I don't have any cable subscription at all now, so actually I'd have to buy access to a ton of networks, none of which I want to watch.

If I watched tons of tv all the time, that would be a great deal, but I don't so I'd much rather just buy what I want a la carte rather than pay for an all you can eat buffet. And actually if the cost is the same, I'd still rather just get what I want and send all my money specifically to those developers.

It's possible that I'm just a fuddy-duddy, though, and don't like new things.
posted by aubilenon at 11:56 AM on July 3, 2012


Somewhat interestingly, the COO of EA recently stated that he saw the future of video games as being free game clients along with lots of microtransactions in the games themselves, along the lines of recent free-to-play MOORPGs.

I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free. [...] I think there's an inevitability that happens five years from now, 10 years from now, that, let's call it the client, to use the term, [is free.] It is no different than... it's free to me to walk into The Gap in my local shopping mall. They don't charge me to walk in there. I can walk into The Gap, enjoy the music, look at the jeans and what have you, but if I want to buy something I have to pay for it.

Sounds like a fun game!
posted by whir at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a fun game!

Thankfully, EA is a well known source of crap, and can largely be ignored if you aren't interested in what they're hawking.
posted by ellF at 12:16 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Er, I meant to add that such a F2P model would potentially obviate the effects of this ruling, though I wonder whether access to, say, a DLC bonus level in-game could be seen as a sort of software license under this ruling, such that it would need to be similarly transferable between users (even in a single-player game).

Also, I'm officially starting the countdown clock on a treaty, written largely by software-industry lobbyists, which rolls this decision back; it will be rushed through congress in the name of job creation. I'm guessing three months or so.
posted by whir at 12:22 PM on July 3, 2012


The opening sequence of every game now will involve walking your character up to an arcade machine in his or her local shopping mall, inserting a quarter (which involves a real world microtransaction debiting your account for some value between $0.01 and $1.00), and pressing the "Player 1" button. At which point the camera zooms in on the arcade machine's screen, and the game you expected to play begins.

Full circle!
posted by jermsplan at 1:01 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


TwelveTwo: "Anyway, someone jump to it and build me a license clearinghouse and market place, and run it all through Europe. I want me a cheap copy of Mathematica. Also, a job? I would love some shares in that company."

I swear to god this will lead to massive databases where we have licenses to every song, game, furniture, book, and cat that ever purchased or gifted to us in our lives.

Licenses not transferable to family, children, or friends; while a long legislative back and forth session defaults to lending periods of 2 day non-renewable periods; stop and frisks will incorporate bar-code scanners of Nike's in poor neighborhoods, libraries are gone.

How is this NOT the true value-extracting end-state of post-scarcity capitalism?
posted by stratastar at 1:12 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The opening sequence of every game now will involve walking your character up to an arcade machine in his or her local shopping mall, inserting a quarter (which involves a real world microtransaction debiting your account for some value between $0.01 and $1.00), and pressing the "Player 1" button. At which point the camera zooms in on the arcade machine's screen, and the game you expected to play begins.

Full circle!


Yu Suzuki, once again, ahead of the times.
posted by Talez at 1:18 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are going to all kinds of fascinating consequences for this, aren't there?

Doesn't it screw up Creative Commons, as well? And how does it interface with TRIPS and the other international treaties?

Innnnnteresting.

But I don't think the whole game industry is going to fall over. PC games are essentially purchased on the honour system anyway, piracy is largely effortless.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2012


Next thought - Amazon will be all over this.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2012


Well, Valve has been doing quite nicely selling in-game items that you can get without paying if you're patient. Do the same thing with other types of DLC and you're not licensing, right, it's just a convenience fee.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:13 PM on July 3, 2012


Well, I have to admit I got on all legit on the last HiB, as it struck me as an incredibly cool way to do a donation, with the added benefit of getting something better than a bloody tote bag I will never use. And, yes, I used the Steam key option. I have purchased more than one game on Steam that I already owned media for as the convenience of not worrying about where in the hell the media and CD key ended up was worth the cost.
posted by Samizdata at 5:42 PM on July 3, 2012


TwelveTwo writes "Hey, does this mean that Europeans can buy back-end software licenses (HAVOK, Unreal Engine, autocad, SQL2012) from failed companies that did not make use of them?"

AutoDesk has had this covered for years. They started moving to a subscription model about 10 years ago and before that licences were effectively non transferable because new upgrade versions were deeply discounted vs. full retail versions and they required a chain of licensing back to a full retail version. Upgrade to AutoCAD 2000 from 13 and then sell your copy of 13 and you were in violation of your upgrade licence terms.
posted by Mitheral at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2012


So, Oracle was just behind the curve in business models then
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:48 PM on July 3, 2012


AutoDesk has had this covered for years. They started moving to a subscription model about 10 years ago and before that licences were effectively non transferable because new upgrade versions were deeply discounted vs. full retail versions and they required a chain of licensing back to a full retail version. Upgrade to AutoCAD 2000 from 13 and then sell your copy of 13 and you were in violation of your upgrade licence terms.

Not a problem; just transfer the whole chain.
posted by jaduncan at 2:12 AM on July 4, 2012


So, um, this is probably a stupid question but most legal things manage to elude me: what happens if the digital distribution company hosts their operations in a country which does not recognize this ruling? Can they simply ignore the ruling and dare anyone to do something about it?

I mean, couldn't Valve just say "screw you, we're still banning your ass?" If they don't have any assets in the affected countries, what would be the downside for them? It's not like a US court is going to enforce the ruling. Would it likely become a matter of locking out payment venues, ISP-level blocks, or something?

I guess I don't understand the intricacies of having a "nexus" in a country, vs. the country in which a transaction is said to occur, and how these types of rulings get enforced.
How would valve plan on getting paid if it's not legally operating in a country? There are lots of ways it could be enforced, you could just have credit card companies reverse any charges on the basis that people weren't getting the full legal product they paid for. You could levy fines and have those fines paid directly from credit card accounts in Europe, and so on.

If valve wanted to distribute its games for free in Europe they could do so, but unless they want to use bitcoin or something they need to make use of the financial system to get paid.
Hey, does this mean that Europeans can buy back-end software licenses (HAVOK, Unreal Engine, autocad, SQL2012) from failed companies that did not make use of them?
Probably not since those are distribution licenses. I.e. the right to resell your product with the copyrighted code needed to make it work. Same as the GPL is a distribution license rather then a use license.
posted by delmoi at 3:01 AM on July 4, 2012


Not a problem; just transfer the whole chain.

Which is fine is you intend not to use AutoCAD any more. Most people who already have a license though are locked into using it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on July 4, 2012


Upgrade to AutoCAD 2000 from 13 and then sell your copy of 13 and you were in violation of your upgrade licence terms.

Isn't that kind of what this ruling is about though? Certain license terms can be deemed not enforceable/legal? Presumably the resellers of Oracle's software were in violation of the terms as well.
posted by ODiV at 8:51 AM on July 4, 2012


Er, I don't know why I said presumably there. The licenses were definitely nontransferable according to Oracle.
posted by ODiV at 8:55 AM on July 4, 2012


Which is fine is you intend not to use AutoCAD any more. Most people who already have a license though are locked into using it.
Then why would you be selling it in the first place?

Isn't that kind of what this ruling is about though? Certain license terms can be deemed not enforceable/legal?
Right exactly. Just because someone prints it on a stupid card doesn't make it legally binding.
posted by delmoi at 12:46 PM on July 4, 2012


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