Here’s yet another attempt to retrofit first sale rights onto digital media. I’m not sure what the German term for “first sale” is, but Cinema Blend reports that the German organization VZBV has been working hard in the German courts to force Valve to support it for the computer games it sells via Steam, allowing resale or trading of previously purchased digital titles.

The VZBV (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V., or Federation of German Consumer Organizations) is a non-governmental body that acts as an umbrella organization for 41 German consumer advocacy groups. It filed a cease-and-desist against Valve’s subscriber agreement last year, and is trying to get the courts to set a date to intervene. A VZBV representative expressed confidence that when this happens, Valve users will finally get to re-sell their games to others.

Valve has, of course, done a great deal to revolutionize the way computer games are distributed, runs frequent sales where games go for ridiculously low prices, and simplifies game management and reinstallation. By keeping its prices low and its service good, it is able to operate profitably in places like Russia, where digital media piracy is far more common than not. It has also launched game publication services Greenlight and the Steam Workshop that make it easier for developers to submit their own games to the store.

Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the fact that none of these services are sustainable without Valve, and there have been increasingly stringent methods of keeping a lockdown on the way gamers and users interact with Steam, including limiting how many of the same applications on Steam can run at one time, as well as claims that offline mode may have been patched with a two week check-in requirement. The reality is that Valve has everyone by the balls and ovaries when it comes to these kind of user policies, including whether or not you want to give away a licensed game in your library or resale the title.

(Someone ought to tell Cinema Blend that “resale” is not a verb.)

Now, is it terribly likely that the VZBV’s plans will come off? Not being German, I don’t know much about which way its legal system is likely to lean. But honestly, I would be very surprised if anything came of this. Even if it did, it wouldn’t necessarily translate to other parts of the world, like the US. I would also be surprised if the majority of users really cared about being able to re-sell their games right now, though I think more people do want to be able to play them simultaneously on multiple machines. But that being said. from the general standpoint of consumer rights in digital media, it will be interesting to see what happens.


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