A French court has ruled that Steam must allow users to re-sell their digital games. French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir brought the lawsuit back in 2015.
The court rejected Valve’s defense that argued Steam is a subscription service. According to Numerama, the court found that Steam sells games in perpetuity, and not as part of a subscription package.
The ban on reselling games is therefore counter to European Union laws on digital goods that are designed to block prohibitions on “the free movement of goods within the Union.” According to EU law, all goods, including software, can be sold used without the permission of the maker or the original seller.
The court clarified that any resale of the game must be of a single copy, and not of duplicates. According to the ruling, Valve has three months to amend its terms of service, though this is likely to be delayed during the appeal process.
Valve is appealing the ruling.
“We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it,” Valve said in a statement to Kotaku. “The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.”
However, if their appeal fails, it will dramatically change the way Steam operates in the EU and indeed the industry as a whole. Other digital storefronts would also be forced to follow the ruling.
The ripple effects may be widespread. If the lawsuit succeeds, it could also affect business in the US as well. Treating American consumers differently than Europeans may well spark a consumer backlash, especially if it affects more than just Steam.