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.

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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.

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