German judge: Valve can block the resale of Steam games

A German judge has today ruled that Valve can ban the resale of Steam games. A German consumer association had filed a case against Valve, because the company prohibits the resale of Steam games in its user agreement.

The German consumer association Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband attempted for the second time to get the court to rule that gamers are free to resell their digital copies of games.

In 2012, the European Court of Justice already ruled that the second-hand sale of software, both in physical and digital form, is permitted. The exhaustion doctrine states that a rights holder, such as a developer, may not influence the distribution of its product after the initial sale. Since the Court’s ruling, this has therefore also applied to digital copies of software. As a result, the consumer association saw its chance to negotiate the same for digital copies of video games.

However, the German court has now ruled that Steam games are more than just software because of their audiovisual components. As a result, the judgment of the European Court of Justice would not apply to Steam titles and Valve is still free to prohibit the resale of a Steam account in its user agreement. Valve does not have to facilitate the resale of individual games either.

Law firm Osborne Clarke has reported extensively on the case. The law firm does add that the consumer association can still appeal against the ruling.