The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that publishers cannot stop you from reselling your downloaded games.
More specifically: “An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his ‘used’ licences allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet.”
The Court said the exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by the license is “exhausted on its first sale”.
The ruling means that gamers in European Union member states are free to sell their downloaded games, whether they’re from Steam, Origin or another digital platform – no matter what End User License Agreement has been signed.
The ruling continues: “Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.”
The ruling suggests that if you’ve bought a license for a game off your mate, you’re within your rights to download it from the publisher’s website. “Therefore the new acquirer of the user licence, such as a customer of UsedSoft, may, as a lawful acquirer of the corrected and updated copy of the computer program concerned, download that copy from the copyright holder’s website,” the Court said.
Whether Valve and EA will make changes to their websites to reflect the ruling remains to be seen.
The ruling in more depth:
“Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a licence agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that rightholder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right. Such a transaction involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy. Therefore, even if the licence prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.”
There is one condition, however. If you resell a license to a game you have to make your copy “unusable at the time of resale”. Now you will do that, won’t you?
“If he continued to use it,” the Court explained, “he would infringe the copyright holder’s exclusive right of reproduction of his computer program. In contrast to the exclusive right of distribution, the exclusive right of reproduction is not exhausted by the first sale.”