One of Europe's major courts dropped a bombshell on the software and gaming industries when it ruled that customers have the right to resell digitally downloaded software. We've got that story, a sad Lord of Hell, and free stuff in this week's Dish.
Digital Resale... Now What?
The European Union's Court of Justice has just ruled that customers have the right to re-sell software, including software that has been obtained via a download. This ruling has major implications in Europe, and will likely have repercussions around the world. To my knowledge, there hasn't yet been a serious court challenge against restricting digital resale in North America, but the European ruling might spur on consumer rights groups.
Currently, most PC digital distribution services do not allow gamers to transfer their software ownership, and none of the three major console companies allow the resale of games purchased in their online stores. There's simply no way for a digital buyer to legally transfer game ownership to another person, and some analysts believe that this restriction has kept digital software sales from outpacing physical retail.
There could be unintended negative consequences of this ruling, however. The ruling applies to software that is sold for an indeterminate amount of time, so companies could start treating all downloadable games as rentals, requiring players to pay periodically in order to retain access to their games. It could also be a nail in the coffin for single-player games, as publishers attempt to keep groups of players from passing a copy of a game around by focusing mostly on multiplayer experiences.
There will surely be appeals and other rulings ahead in Europe, but this sets a fascinating legal precedent for the industry. I'm very curious to see what happens next!