Valve sued in Germany over game ownership

Users should be able to resell the games they own, says the Federation of German Consumer Organizations

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZVB) has sued computer game distributor Valve because it prohibits Steam-gamers from reselling their games.

Steam users own the games they purchase and should be able to resell them when they want to, just like owners of traditional card or board games can, said Carola Elbrecht, project manager for consumer rights in the digital world at the VZVB, on Thursday. But while those traditional game owners can resell their games whenever they like, Steam users often cannot, she said.

In theory, a Steam user could download a game, burn it on a CD and resell it, she said. In most cases, though, buyers wouldn't be able to play the game they purchased because the games are linked to a user account and without the key for that specific account, online only games are not playable, she said.

Because Valve forbids its users to sell or transfer their accounts to another person, the exchange of games that can only be played online is impossible, she said. This means that a Steam user only partially owns games, Elbrecht said. "If I pay the full price for a game, then why am I not allowed to do with it what I want," she added.

Valve was warned in September by the VZVB to change this practice, but the company did not comply with the federation's demands. Therefore, the federation sued the company in the District Court of Berlin on Wednesday.

Valve did not respond to a request for comment.

The VZVB sued the game distributor for similar reasons once before, Elbrecht said. That case went all the way to the German Federal Court of Justice, which ruled in 2010 that Valve did not violate German law by prohibiting the transfer of user accounts.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), however, ruled in July that the trading of "used" software licenses is legal and that the author of such software cannot oppose any resale.

While the CJEU's case is not exactly the same as the current litigation against Valve, the VZVB reckons that the ruling gives sufficient basis for a new lawsuit, Elbrecht said. She expected the litigation to go on for years, and it will probably end up at the federal court again, she said.

Nevertheless, a new lawsuit is useful, she said. Besides raising awareness of the issue and possibly changing the minds of the judges, the litigation is also meant as a signal to other game distributors that have the same practices, she said.

While Valve was unwilling to change its practices on this point, it promised to change the way it gets users' consent when it changes its terms and conditions. The last time Valve changed the terms and conditions for Steam, users were unable to play their games if they did not accept the new rules, Elbrecht said. Valve promised to adjust the mandatory consent to let users who don't want to accept the new terms in the future to still be able to play their purchased games.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags valveCivil lawsuitsgameslegalSteam

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?