French Court Says Valve Must Allow Steam Users To Resell Games

Back in 2015, Valve got sued by a French consumer organisation called UFC-Que Choisir (not to be confused with non-French, non-consumer organisation the Ultimate Fighting Championship). UFC-Que Choisir had a multitude of bones to pick with the longtime Steam steward, the biggest among them being that Steam doesn’t let users resell their games. Four years later, a French court has ruled in UFC-Que Choisir’s favour. Valve plans to appeal.

According to the French gaming site Numerama, as well as UFC-Que Choisir itself, the High Court of Paris ruled in UFC-Que Choisir’s favour earlier this week.

If Valve’s appeal fails, this ruling stands to have ramifications not just in France, but across the European Union. Specifically, the court didn’t find Valve’s defence that Steam is a subscription service compelling. As a result, the court declared that users should be allowed to resell Steam games.

The court ruled in favour of UFC-Que Choisir on other counts, too. In its original suit, the organisation had also taken aim at the fact that, if a user leaves Steam, Valve would keep whatever currency was left in their Steam Wallet. The recent ruling states that the company will instead have to reimburse users who request it. Valve must now also accept responsibility when users say an item on Steam caused them harm, even if it’s in beta. Valve’s rights to users’ mods and community content will also be diminished, and the company will have to clarify the conditions under which users can lose access to Steam for poor behaviour.

If Valve refuses to change its rules and post the court’s decision to Steam within a month, it will have to pay a fine of up to 3,000 euros (around $4,900) per day for up to six months.

Again, though, Valve, plans to appeal the ruling. “We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it,” a Valve representative told Kotaku in an email. “The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.”

So don’t expect any major changes in the near future. Still, it’s notable that UFC-Que Choisir scored this victory, and it could very well lead to changes on Valve’s platform. A 2014 Australian court ruling, for example, led to Steam’s current refund policy. Similarly, the company began to go after the 2.3 billion dollar Counter-Strike gambling ring that sprung up in its backyard in 2016 only after lawsuits began to trickle in. For now, however, the appeal still lies ahead, so probably don’t go around trying to pawn off your old, digital-dust-covered games just yet.


Comments

    If Valve refuses to change its rules and post the court’s decision to Steam within a month, it will have to pay a fine of up to 3,000 euros (around $4,900) per day for up to six months.

    So that works out to what, less than AU$1m? That's probably small potatoes for Valve anyway if they decide to just ignore the ruling.

    But this is not just an issue for Valve, though - you'd have to assume that this ruling would have implications for all digital stores, so Valve, GOG, Epic, Playstation, XBox, Nintendo, Apple, Google, etc, as well as anybody who sells their games on those stores.

      Yeah I was thinking the same thing, they're gonna get a lot of push back, even from local companies like Ubisoft.

    Publishers: “We’re moving to an all digital future so that gamers can’t resell their games at bricks and mortar stores! More profit and control for us!”

    France: “Hold my Chardonnay.”

    This is interesting and definitely a story I’d have been wanting to follow if I knew about it earlier. I wonder if everyone will avoid selling in France, much like loot boxes in Belgium.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but with Steam you don't actually own the game instead you have purchased a licence to install and run the game. Are the French implying that you can onsell the licence? If this is true then not only games are impacted but also a fair chunk of business software.

    If I purchased a licence for Microsoft office for x amount of years under the French ruling does that mean someone can sell that licence to another?

      The CJEU ruled in 2012 that unlimited-duration licences are a sale, and thus first sale doctrine applies, allowing the buyer to resell their licence without restriction. That case was with respect to Oracle, so it certainly applies to business software and not just games. The 'unlimited-time' part was important in the ruling, which is why most companies have moved to timed licences with periodic renewal in the last 7 years.

      Valve's case here may be different to a simple licence transfer though, given that Steam is a service and not just a download point for the software. Steam's other included features add complications that weren't present in the 2012 ruling, which may lead to a different outcome on appeal.

    I'm not sure on this, whilst I like that I could resell my games, game costs will rise (no more Humble Bundles), and MTX will get worse as well.

    This is not good.

    2nd hand games sales hurt the industry as a whole, as the developers don't get paid for the resales...

      Ah, but you're missing something. The games a digital. Meaning that when steam transfers owners, the developers are free to demand a cut of the resale. That's actually decent news for developers, given that normally they stand to get zero from resale.

      If I think about it, you could end up with a much softer tail on sales. Instead of it being early adopters vs people who wait 6-12 months for sales, you rapidly see games trickle down the heap to those who can't or won't pay full retail, thus getting that money to developers much sooner.

      What are you talking about? Every other item can be sold to someone else after you've purchased it. Cars, houses, books, CDs, etc. Why should games be any different?

        Because games and digital goods don't degrade after purchase.
        There is no difference between a 2nd hand game and a 1st hand game.

        Unlike a car, that might be half worn-out or have suspicious stains on the inside... etc

          I fail to see why the fact that a digital good doesn't physically degrade should mean the creators are entitled to a percentage of the value every time it's sold forwards. The goods still devalue over time, the same way a car does.

          If I am the first person to sell a diamond, should I get a percentage of every sale moving forward? It's the same physical good moving forward - the carat, cut, etc. all remain identical. What about if an artist creates a painting? Should a painting kept in original condition entitle the artist to a commission every time the painting is sold on? What about mint-condition comic books?

          There's zero reason to connect the degradation of an item to the original creator reaping benefits every time it's sold on.

    I suppose it would be nice to transfer games I no longer play to my kids accounts and take back their pocket money in return.

    This hurts a lot of game developers.

    As an ex-employee of EB Games, I hated the way we were always told to push for second-hand sales over new copies as 100% of the profits go directly to the company.

    Smaller game developers already struggle with Steam's (and others) 30% profit take. This is not good news.

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