German group sues Valve

Federation of German Consumer Organizations claims Steam users own the games they purchase and should be able to re-sell them.


The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) has filed suit against Half-Life maker Valve, claiming users should be able to resell the games they own.

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As reported by PCAdvisor, VZBV project manager Carola Elbrecht said Steam users should have the means to sell their digital wares, much in the same way that gamers can sell boxed products at their discretion.

"If I pay the full price for a game, then why am I not allowed to do with it what I want," Elbrecht said.

The VZBV reportedly warned Valve about potential legal action in September, but the company did not amend its practices to comply with the group's demands. Thus, the VZBV sued Valve in the District Court of Berlin this week.

A Valve representative told GameSpot that it has yet to see a formal complaint from the VZBV.

"We are aware of the press release about the lawsuit filed by the VZBV, but we have not yet seen the actual complaint," the company said. "That said, we understand the complaint is somehow regarding the transferability of Steam accounts, despite the fact that this issue has already been ruled upon favorably to Valve in a prior case between Valve and the VZBV by the German supreme court. For now, we are continuing to extend the Steam services to gamers in Germany and around the world."

The VZBV's prior legal entanglement with Valve went all the way to the German Federal Court of Justice. A judge ruled in 2010 that Valve's prohibition of user account transfers did not violate German law.

A European court ruled last summer that content creators can't prohibit post-purchase redistribution of work, no matter what end-user license agreement says.

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Avatar image for ACMC85

Wouldn't mind being able to buy a game second hand off steam. There are plenty of games, I finished playing and would like to sell myself. But, how would Steam factor this in? I think the real problem is keeping track of all that. Unless Steam gets some of the profits from selling.

Avatar image for fillup0

Technically, you can sell your account. Therefore you can sell the digital goods.

This is just bullying of the nature of digital distribution.

Avatar image for Legend002

Someone should sue Valve for not releasing Half-Life 3.

Avatar image for buccomatic

steam invented drm.

remember installing half life 2 for the first time?


Avatar image for finaleve

@buccomatic Steam did not invent DRM. Steam re-invented it. Things like CD Keys were pretty much DRM, just a cheap form of it. Steam just expanded on it...

Avatar image for Grenadeh

@finaleve @buccomatic No, and yes I'm necroing, they actually more or less did. Obviously CD keys were DRM first but they were easily worked around by a keygen.

Avatar image for MrGordons

steam offers crazy sales for older games (the games people would buy and sell 2cnd hand) I wouldn't expect to buy a game half price on the first day it comes out. The whole idea of digital is you own the rights to a COPY of an original. you can play the game but can't do much else with it.

Also steam pays for the bandwidth to supply millions of people with the game. I would never buy a 2cnd hand game from steam.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ae060efb3bf6

Folks buy used PC games? Been playing on the pc since 1987 and have never seen this.

Avatar image for frodo10

@Triton I bought a few but after i bought resident evil 4 used and went home to find that it didn't have a cd key i stopped buying them, nightmare because i had to look up online for a cd key for a game I'd payed for won't make that mistake twice.

Avatar image for jesuschristmonk

@Triton I got Splinter Cell for PC at a Goodwill-like store :|

Avatar image for AlexFili

What if the user could only sell for the value they bought it? So if they bought it for £7 then they shouldnt be able to sell it for more than 10% of its purchase price

Avatar image for mav_destroyer

Same issue with any digital content service. The tricky part, especially with Steam, is how to know if someone payed full price for a game or not. They put out a lot of discounts throughout the year, I'd say buying a game with 75% off is a fair trade off for not being able to re-sell it afterwards.

Also selling accounts/games opens up a lot of risks for piracy. How would Steam be able to tell if you kept a backup of the games' files on a separate media after you sold it?

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887

@mav_destroyer Time bomb DRM, perhaps. Parts of Valve's games break over time, meaning you'll have to sign in again to redownload those parts. That would be a good time to check your purchase list for steam products. and decide if you can redownload the parts or not. Thing is, this has been known to glitch, too.

Avatar image for Blue_Tomato

Building an auction house is not that easy, why would Valve put a lot of money and efforts into making this if it would actually decrease the sales of their full priced games?

I know I and a lot of others would simply just play through games, then sell it immediately after finishing it.

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887

@Blue_Tomato Because they have to do so to legally sell digital games in Europe. Businesses have to obey laws too, you know.

Avatar image for bloody-hell

This "problem" is not Steam specific - If you buy a game on a platform that SPECIFICALLY does not allow you to re-sell the game after you bought it (it's clearly stated in the EULA), but you plan on re-selling the game when you're done playing it, then DON'T BUY IT on that platform.

If your only reason to do that is because the game is too expensive, then wait for a sale, it takes about 6 to 12 months after a games release for it to drop -50% to -75% in price and buying a game for around 7,50 EUR to 15 EUR does not make me want to re-sell it anytime anyways. (even if I don't like it or have no use for it anymore)

I don't see a problem Valve specific here and that group could redirect their lawsuit towards the entirety of the gaming industry perhaps, because every account-bound game you buy which requires online activation (aka "Online DRM") must not be re-sold. (if that's in the EULA)

Lawsuits like this should be fun in combination with EA's, UbiSoft's and other's plans of "gaming as a service", where all you "buy" (full price) is just a usage permission which can be revoked at any time for any reason, locking you out of all your games. (best example EA's "Origin" platform - one bad forum post, caught cheating in any game or just being randomly accused of anything and access to all your bought games is denied)

Please, by all means, extend that lawsuit on the entirety of the gaming industry, because by Mr. Elbrecht's logic : "If I pay full price for SimCity (2013) why am I not allowed to do with it what I want" (play it offline, mod it, etc.) -> Because it's still their product and you have to follow their rules if you want to use it.

Avatar image for IRUNSTREETS

It would be nice to have a "thing" on steam where the users can put what they want to sell from their account and let it there with a price set. Everybody should be able to see the prices and the games offered. When someone pays for your game they would use steam wallet. This should be done automatically. When you receive the money in your steam wallet your game should disappear from your Library. This will not make Valve weak because people will use those steam wallets to buy from them further. Maybe to make things good to valve a tax of 1% 2% 3% of the received price should go to them for hosting their service. In the old days your paid for a game, played it, sold it. Now you pay 50 bucks for games that are account bound and after a while they just "sit there gathering dust."

Avatar image for so_hai

Oh really? And how many copies can I sell of the files that I own?

Avatar image for smkfreak

i do think they have a point. It's not like that the system couldn't be implemented, you should be able to re-sell your game, and after that you would no longer have access to it on your account. The only problem I see is how do you regulate the prices, since it is user-based. The issue of not having this implemented is with the game companies themselves, since they are not making money on used-game sales , I do not think they are quite keen on the idea of having digitally distributed games resalable.

Avatar image for gameguy182

I think people should be able to trade games on steam any way they want but re-selling digital content sounds ridiculous.

Avatar image for jhcho2

If this German organization wants to find fault with consumer's inability to resell games, they'd have to go against the whole industry....not just Valve. Even if Valve somehow manages to allow consumers to resell their games, many publishers still do not make such a thing possible. Almost all PC games nowadays require users to register their cd key to either a Steam, Blizzard or Origin etc. account. Selling the physical copy means squat if the cd key is tied to the original user's account. And unless the resale of a game has a contractual clause implying the transfer of cd-key, there's nothing much anyone can do. The industry as a whole has made attempts to deliberately prevent people from reselling games. No single company or network is solely responsible for it.

Avatar image for dRuGGeRnaUt

I don't mind steam. I only buy games when they are EXTREMELY cheap. Even still, I would love to see a site/service like GoG with more new releases and such. GoG's system is absolutely amazing, and respectful to their customers. I've gotten a few free games from them, like the old fallout and stuff. all DRM free. I buy anything i want from them and dont feel bad about doing.


On a side note, in the past year i have bought so many "humblebundle" like packages its insane, and i like getting to decide how the money is split too.. The deals are nuts for some of those packages, and in the end, every body wins, a charity, the devs, the hosting site, everyone.

Avatar image for Thunderstarter

I understand being upset that, when purchasing a game from Steam, we'll get the "you're paying for service, you don't own this" thing, but how the heck are you supposed to sell "used" data without it being in a physical form?

I'd totally understand being able to sell the game back to Steam when you're done playing for credit toward a new one, if that's what this group wants.

Avatar image for shenhua1337

@Thunderstarter Same way you'd sell a key, as it was already explained here. You pay Valve to be able to use the game. So when you want to sell, you don't just sell the data, you sell the ability to use the game the same way you bought it.

Avatar image for surrealme

@Thunderstarter and Valve is supposed to then let the new "owner" download the data at Valve's expense?

Avatar image for shenhua1337

@surrealme@ThunderstarterBut if you meant that "why should the new owner have the same game as the original one" and not that the bandwith is the issue, then there are measures in place so that only one user can use one game linked to his account. Ergo, there's no practical difficulty in making this reselling happen.

Avatar image for shenhua1337

@surrealme @Thunderstarter Why not? Wouldn't the original owner be able to download the data as many times as he pleases? So basically with change of the owner, there's no difference in this matter.

Avatar image for ThePowerOfHAT

Here's the thing: it shouldn't be up to Valve to create the means for games sold through Steam to be resold. If you buy something, finding a way to sell it to someone else is your own responsibility, not the responsibility of the original seller. If I buy a new camera from and decide after a period of time that I no longer want it, isn't required to provide a platform from which I can sell it again. If I buy a bag of chips from Wal-Mart and want to sell it to somebody else, I can't go to Wal-Mart and say, "Hey, provide me with a means of transferring the ownership of this bag of chips to this other guy." That's because it's my property now, and if I bought it from a particular seller with the knowledge that I wouldn't be able to use their services to sell it again, it's not the seller's duty to retroactively give me a way to do so. If you want to be able to resell something you purchase, purchase it in a form that you yourself will be able to sell it in.

Avatar image for FIamed

wow, just some people trying to make some quick cash by suing a successful company this world is getting pitiful

Avatar image for ColdstoneX3

@FIamed just to point out, they are taking them to court over what they consider to be a invalid EULA agreement, they are not trying to make money off of this, they are trying to improve the consumers rights, even if i dont neccesarily agree with them

Avatar image for ottumatic

@ColdstoneX3 @FIamed

And they are damn short-sighted if they thought they are protecting consumers's rights. The only real winners out of this debacle are the lawyers and policy makers. Companies will respond with more sophisticated DRMs or exclusive / essential content unlocks upon 1st point-of-sale, look no further than what Activision and EA has been doing.

Avatar image for Altazen

@FIamed what quick cash? from reselling games they bought?

only unsuccessful company can be sued?

Avatar image for Mr_BillGates

Considering MMORPGs are exploiting these gullible PC gamers, I'm not surprised they would fall victim to overrated Steam.

Avatar image for Thunderstarter

@Mr_BillGates "...overrated Steam"

Says someone with the Apple logo as their user icon.

Avatar image for tgwolf

Yeah, well...WELCOME TO THE WORLD of DLC and digital games! Things work a bit differently in this new generation of gaming...some stuff isn't what it seems. LEARN THIS LESSON!

Avatar image for Ultramarinus

They should rather sue Sony and Microsoft who are developing systems to literally stop second hand gaming in the next generation. Those are the guys who sell everything for full price even many years later.

Avatar image for Altazen

@Ultramarinus got proof? and those system arent even announced and released yet. Sueing something base on speculation.....LOL.

There is a difference between console unable to play used games and unable to resell games you own online.

Avatar image for SomeOddGuy

@Altazen @Ultramarinus I suppose I can back his comment up with this one since this did cause massive backlash with Sony a couple weeks ago. Whether it means Sony is serious about it or just brainstorming ideas is one thing, but the fact it exists means it's at least being considered.

Plus as a mention of your latter comment, GameStop threatened to refuse copies of Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D over the fact that it doesn't allow you a means to erase save data(they still did anyways...) and had also shown heavy annoyance to the whole online pass system rolled out by a few publishing companies.(including Sony, especially notable with the original retail release of DC Universe Online) Being unable to play used games on another console is essentially the same as being unable to resell a digital game since nobody but the purchaser of the new product can ever play the game.

Avatar image for tgwolf

@Ultramarinus ALL IN GOOD TIME...hopefully.

Avatar image for Augurae

**** Valve. **** Steam. **** Newel.

I haven't bought a steam game and neither did friends, because of their stupid digital prices and schemes (except for dirt cheap sales).

In truth, this is like for piracy: piracy brings in more money than ever to game industrials, except indie are also beneficing from it. Well they also beneficed from second hand game selling.

Imagine if steam directly allowed you to buy the games you bought at a starting lower price, to other users, except they are charing a transfer fee on the way, like paypal or kickstarter do ?

Except, it's all about control: they want to lock users into more and more greedy closed schemes and milking even though they don't realize they are loosing customers and promoting hacking.

Avatar image for fillup0

@Augurae "Stupid digital prices"

Dude the games are dirt cheap compared to physical copies.

Avatar image for jmr1986

@Augurae Losing customers and promoting hacking? Stop drinking cool-aid bro

Avatar image for parrot_of_adun

@Augurae Something tells me you know a little less than you need to about steam.

...Or really anything you mention.

Avatar image for DarkRaven0021

@Augurae Indeed talk about conspiracy theory nut-job. What's it like spending just one day in this kids world?

Avatar image for jenovaschilld

@Augurae lol this above post will soo be on feedbackula

Avatar image for Whiskey3romeo

Then they shoulda bought it from a retailer instead of steam.


Avatar image for CANOFOWNAGE

Even if they win this, the only real change is Valve's departure from anything German. No one wins in this situation.

Avatar image for aussiemuscle

I don't know why Valve didn't move to head this off. maybe they think they can't loose? What Valve should have done was offered online trade-back, that way they don't have 'second-hand' games being sold, but users can get something back when they've finished playing a game, which can be put towards new games.

Avatar image for Darnasian

@funktail007 @d12dotcom @fanirama Because someone else is buying the game on their service idiot?