Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Germany Call Valve to Task Over Changes to EULA

Looks like it might be time to force an issue.

You may remember a month or so ago I commented on Valve changing its TOS. That was of course not the only thing that Valve changed. Around the end of August they also changed the EULA, and although it's taken about a month, it's been made clear by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (or vzbz for short) that it's none too happy with the changes that Valve has made.

On Friday the vzbz asked Valve to explain and change its current EULA, which both cuts-off people who attempt to opt-out from their games, and also fails to feature a mechanism by which users can trade their used games to each other. You may remember that it was a European court that ruled that users do own their used games even in the case of the games being purely digital, and can trade them as such.

Basically, the issue here is that the vzbz does not agree with Valve's assessment that they sell a service -- that being Steam -- rather than a product -- the games you buy off of it. They argue that a EULA that cuts-off users from their games is unfair and indeed potentially illegal in terms of business practices. They have given Valve until September the 26th to respond to these allegations, at which point if Valve has not then there might be a court case brewing.

The reason that I'm citing this as a potential forcing of an issue is because this might be the first time that a company, let alone what is probably the largest digital distributor of games, will have to respond to the European ruling so frankly. It's extremely hard to say what stance Valve will take regarding this. If they were any other company then them coming down firmly on the side of giving as little support to them as possible would be the safe bet. With it being Valve though, I'm not so sure, they may look at this as an opportunity to corner a different part of the market and potentially gain dominance (as well as a cut) in what could become a rather large market.

I doubt that Valve is going to want this issue to head to litigation, but it also stands to reason that if the explanations they give the vzbz aren't good enough that it may happen anyways. I can't really see Valve abandoning the European market, and even if they did at this point it would be too late, as the damage has already been done in the eyes of the accusers.

It will probably be easy enough to change the EULA to make it fall a bit more in line to what the Germans want, but something tells me that the used games point is going to be one of contention. Whether or not this becomes a catalyst for something larger remains to be seen, but the spark is definitely there. Look for more news potentially as early as later this week, depending on if/when Valve chooses to respond.

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