The EU Court has overruled the no-resale clause in software EULAs.
Used games have won quite a legal victory today in the European Union. Gamers’ ability to resell their games has been on the decline as more and more games have been either entirely or partially digital. After all, End User License Agreements – the semi-legal pseudo-contracts that most people blindly agree to while installing their latest digital purchase – often expressly forbid the customer from re-selling their digital copy. That changes with today’s ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has stated that buying and selling digital copies of any product is legal regardless of what the EULA for the product states.
While the original provider of the product – say, Ubisoft or EA – has no obligation to support the resale of its digital games, the ruling means that a third party company could swoop in and legally facilitate used digital software sales, at least in the EU. Whether or not such a company will form, or if a current distributor such as Valve or Good Old Games will step up to the task, is currently in the realm of pure speculation.
Regardless of whether used digital games become a reality, the ruling is a major blow to the power of the EULA, which has caused gamers more than a few problems in the past. Whether it’s the Steam user who almost lost his entire library over a PayPal dispute or the EA customer who earned a ban from all his EA-published games over a forum comment, these high-profile incidences have called into question whether or not customers who buy software actually own the copy they purchased or are merely licensing the use of the game. Today’s ruling clarified this question in favor of the customer; the Court explained that if a copyright holder both distributes a copy of the product and grants the customer unlimited uses of the product, the transaction “involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy.” That assertion alone could mean a lot for gamers’ digital rights as consumers in the future, particularly if the ruling is mirrored in other countries.