German Consumer Group Goes Toe-to-Toe with Valve

A German consumer advocacy group goes toe-to-toe with Valve over the company's policy against users reselling games.

A German consumer advocacy group goes toe-to-toe with Valve over the company's policy against users reselling games.
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A German consumer advocacy group has a bit of beef with Valve, and they’re taking it to the streets, dammit. Wait, what? Um. Nevermind. They’re just taking it to court. Not nearly as entertaining as a street fight. Poo.

The group VZBV isn’t cool with the Steam restriction on users reselling their digitally-bound games as they wish. Steam’s policy flies in the face of last summer’s European Union court ruling allowing such media to be sold among consumers, so long as the original owner no longer has access to it:

“Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right,”

The court continued:

“Such a transaction involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy. Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.”

The online gaming mammoth changed its user agreement in direct response to the verdict, such that users agreed not to pursue class action lawsuits. Users who declined were denied access to their merch. The VZBV is not cool with this, claiming that users were coerced and taken advantage of. 

The project manager for the consumer group, Carola Elbrecht, is prepared for the case to be tied up in the courts for some time, but believes that the case will eventually make its way back up to the high court for meaningful decision.

On their end, Valve is looking into changing their restrictive TOS. They are not considering changing their position on reselling games. Although they are aware of the suit brought against them, Valve’s Doug Lombardi claims that the company has yet to receive any official paperwork regarding the case.  In fact, he relays that this will not be the first tango between Valve and the VZBV, referencing a 2010 dismissal of the consumer group’s lawsuit. That was before the 2012 high court ruling, however.

“[…] we understand the complaint is somehow regarding the transferability of Steam accounts, despite the fact that this issue has already been ruled upon favorably to Valve in a prior case between Valve and the VZBV by the German supreme court. For now, we are continuing to extend the Steam services to gamers in Germany and around the world.”

I have a ton of games that sit in my library to die, just as I’m sure you all do. This could be a great opportunity for Steam to expand upon their new Community Market, and allow for the sale of more than just in-game accessories. 

We’ll update you as the case develops.

About the author

Imayen Etim

Imayen Etim is a freelance writer and GameSkinny contributor based in Gainesville, Florida. She can be contacted at imayen.e [at] gmail.com