Confusion over European second-hand download ruling

Digital download retailers have called in the lawyers following a shock EU decision that could legitimise second-hand sales in the download space.

The ruling followed a dispute between Oracle and UsedSoft. UsedSoft was selling second-hand licences for Oracle software, so Oracle took the firm to the European Court of Justice. The Court decided that once a product has been sold, the consumer should have the right to sell it, as long as they stop using the product themselves.

This decision may have a lasting impact in the download space. Giants such as Origin and Steam may now need to implement systems that allow customers to sell-on their games.

If the decision is upheld, download-only games could start appearing legitimately on trading sites such as eBay.

It could also put an end to the temporary ‘75 per cent’ sales that the likes of Steam run, as consumers can buy the product at the discounted level and then sell it for more once the price has gone back up.

This could shake up the industry and change the current dominance of Steam and Origin,” said Green Man Gaming’s Paul Sulyok.

This would have an impact on both digital delivery and customer service. There will be a need for a regional code validation system, which could pose a real challenge.

Consumers download lots of games that they might not actually play. We see this all the time. I know people that have 100 games and have played, maybe, 30 of them. If these people know they can sell those 70 unplayed games, they will. But this could be a good thing if it helps facilitate new sales.”

Yet there is a lot of uncertaintly about the ruling. One digital boss at a major games publisher told MCV he was still trying to work out how this could change things, if at all.”

It is not clear how individual territories will interpret the law. And questions remain over how this will impact freemium and mobile games.

It is too early to speculate precisely what the parameters are as the case has raised more questions than answers,” said Nav Sunner, a video game legal expert at Wiggin.

One such issue is that I don’t think the European Court is expressly compelling publishers and digital distributors to actively build mechanisms into their platforms that allow for the ability to resell used downloaded software. However, there is the beginnings of a nod in that direction, in which case it would have substantial impact. I believe we will be hearing a lot more about this in the coming months.”

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