There seems to be a PR campaign against France's Steam reselling ruling (update)

Steam (Image credit: Steam)

What you need to know

  • A few days ago, a French court ruled that Valve had to allow gamers to resell their digital purchases on Steam.
  • This is similar to what Microsoft proposed with an always-online Xbox One in 2013.
  • It seems like there's an anti-France campaign in the works criticizing the ruling.
  • No one is discussing its pro-consumer implications at the moment.

Updated September 20, 2019: When asked if Valve or another sponsor with a vested interest was directly involved in crafting this message, an ISFE spokesperson said, "We want to encourage future game development so gamers have access to games in the future. This ruling would, long-term, diminish the availability of new games if perfect digital copies can be made easily and infinitely and if developers are not incentivized to invest in new content."

On September 17, a French court said that Valve needed to let its consumers resell their digital games in the country. This concept was initially proposed by Microsoft when the Xbox One was revealed in 2013, but curiously enough, faced intense backlash from gamers and brick-and-mortar retailers.

In the wake of this ruling, it seems like parties with vested interests are sending out a lot of anti-France emails to media outlets. While we've received a handful, the most prominent one has to be from an organization called ISFE. ISFE claims that it represents Europe's video games industry and "gamers are at the heart" of what it does. Surprisingly enough, the email doesn't acknowledge how this is a pro-consumer move. You can read an abridged version below.

A French court ruling... in a case brought by the French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir against Valve found that purchasers of video games on Valve's digital platform, Steam, are permitted to resell them. This ruling contradicts established European Union (EU) law and should be overturned on appeal. Simon Little... of ISFE said, 'This French ruling flies in the face of established EU law which recognizes the need to protect digital downloads from the ease of reproduction allowed by the Internet. Far from supporting gamers, this ruling, if it stands, would dramatically and negatively impact investment in the creation, production, and publication of, not just video games, but of the entire output of the digital entertainment sector in Europe. If Europe's creators cannot protect their investments and their intellectual property, the impact on both industry and consumers will be disastrous.' According to EU copyright law, when it comes to digital and streaming services, every use must be subject to the authorization of the rightsholder and copyright does not expire with their first sale, as it does with physical goods... This is not the case with digital downloads which are subject to the 'communication to the public right,' meaning that the purchaser does not have a right to sell them... without the copyright owner's permission.

This seems like a very narrow interpretation of the law, especially when the statement acknowledges that you simply need "the copyright owner's permission" to resell the digital game. In order to operate in France, developers and publishers may need to give permission. How this plays out in the inevitable appeal remains to be seen.

We've reached out to the ISFE to ask them if this was a sponsored post and other details behind this mass email against the French ruling. It's highly suspicious that an organization that puts the gamer at the center wouldn't laud this pro-consumer move.

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

  • The whole thing that I find troubling here is: You've got many who (rightly) criticize online stores whose names we all know, because they sell likely ripped off keys. Remember that whole story about a developer calling the most well-known of these out on it? Yet those same developers are expected to be OK with selling one copy of their game and then that copy selling again for a reduced rate. So what's the actual answer besides France just yelling about something?
  • So Valve can double dip on every game now?
  • That ISFE release seems like come from game developers -- they obviously don't want people pirating their games. I think they're probably right in the long run that this would be bad for gamers, but not necessarily in the way they suggest. Asher, have you seen anything about the law that supports your assumption that the intent of this law would include getting permission from the developers (copyright holders) as you say? From what I've seen (admittedly it's not been very clear), this law feels like it's intended to give consumers re-sale options with no thought to the developers, so without evidence to the contrary, I would not expect it that permission to be required under this law. I think the most likely outcome of allowing unlimited digital resales, is lost sales, which would drive further proliferation of microtransactions and other ways for the developers to digitally monetize their games post-sale. I know many people are fine with these, but I personally hate them. For me, as primarily a fan of single player games with no microtransactions, I want profitable game companies so they can afford to keep making the big, expensive, immersive, open world games like Fallout, Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, Witcher 3, etc. Nothing destroys immersion like loot boxes or microtransactions.
  • I don't know anything about this other than what is in the article, but it seems to me like the idea is, "if you want to sell this game at all in France, you must tacitly give permission for digital resales" and that is what the ISFE complaint is coming from.
  • IMHO, being able to resell a Game should not have been been a thing, to begin with. The way I see it, being able to resell a Hammer KINDA makes sense as you lose all value when it leaves your possession and only one person can ever use it at any given time so yeaaaaa the creator of the hammer hasn't reaaaally lost a sale but a Game is different, especially Narrative driven ones. Take NieR:Automata for an example which has ONLY a Story, no Multiplayer so once you've played through it ( maybe twice ) you're basically DONE with it and have barely any reason to play it again in the near future so reselling it makes technical sense from a Customer PoV and unlike with Hammer example you're not loosing out on the Experience you've had while playing it. The person who bought it from will have the same Experience as will the next one should it find another buyer and so on. With this, more than one person can experience the product but only once will the Developer get paid for his work which, in my books, is wrong. I also like to think that Games being sold Digital NOW is a big wrong ( being sold Physical ) done right anyway since the game was never Physical, to begin with - Only the transport Medium was and you'd be hard-pressed giving a **** about an empty Floppy, CD, DVD, BRD, USB-Stick, right? You never bought the Box or the Storage, you bought the Game.
  • This ruling is not pro consumer but a thoughtless anti-consumer action. It’s side effects if allowed to pass will, at very minimum force relentless anti consumer practices of ingame monetisation schemes to increase a hundred fold just to keep up with lost revenue. But most significantly is the impact on indie devs for who the difference is very likely to be the difference between ever being able to make another game. The biggest companies will be hurt but they’ll survive on predatory monetisation. The small fry will become extinct and we’ll be left with endless soulless clones developed purely according to perceived trends. I won’t say that the people responsible for this outcome should be shot, but they should be moved into careers where their mental shortcomings and lack of foresight can do no harm.