The thing that makes this even more poetic is that the ruling comes from a case brought by Oracle. You remember them; they are the company that wants to copyright and patent APIs so that someone cannot produce a similar result. Just last month Oracle lost in their attempt to squeeze hundreds of millions of dollars from Google over what amounted to nine lines of code.
This time Oracle tried to go after a company in Germany named UsedSoft. As you might imagine UsedSoft resells software and its accompanying license. What really bothered Oracle (and is going to drive a few other companies we can think of crazy) is that UsedSoft was also reselling downloaded content with the available license key.
Many companies have moved to an online distribution system in order to help stop piracy and also to maximize per unit profits. You see if you have to down load the game to install it (and some installers remove the installation files once complete) then you cannot give it to your friend or resell it. If someone wants the game they are (theoretically) forced to buy it.
Although the case has not been concluded Germany’s Federal Court of Justice did ask for an interpretation from the EU Court of Justice, which is the highest court in the EU. It was this court that ruled that purchasing software online does not remove your right to sell the software if you are no longer going to use it. Just as you can resell a physical book, CD, DVD or Software you can now resell your downloaded content too.
Although this ruling only covers the 27 countries in the EU it is a big victory for consumers as more companies are moving to the “software as a service” and online model to shore up their profits. We actually expect to see further development on this outside of the EU as well. Right now there are a large number of complaints over people not being able to trade in or resell their used games once they do not want them any longer. Many publishing companies are moving to block this by limiting the number of installs or locking the installation to a specific user account. There is a growing movement that feels these moves (and the move to online only) are exceptionally anti-consumer. Now we just have to see if anyone in the US Government will listen…
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