Tag Archives: Copyright

Landmark EU ruling permits resale of digital downloads/licenses [updated]

A political map of Europe, overlaid with the stars of the flag of the European Union and a pair of golden scales in the middle

So, here’s an interesting divide between USA law and EU law. In the USA, you almost never buy software or video games. No, the license says you’re only buying a license to use the software (which is conveniently being loaned to you free-of-charge on a disk or as a digital download or whatever) under limited circumstances as laid out by the license. Did you buy a copy of Windows or Call of Duty or whatever? No. The paperwork says you bought a right to use that software until the publisher says otherwise, and that the software remains the property of the publisher.

This arrangement has been upheld by US courts on a number of occasions, so no, you’re not buying those games. They’re just loaned to you under a limited set of circumstances. This holds doubly true for digital downloads, in the main.

What makes this a bit weird is that the USA’s Uniform Commercial Code (variations of which exist in most countries) has always maintained that once a purchase has been made, no further conditions can be imposed. That is, any license agreements and the like have to be agreed to before the purchase takes place and not (for example) once you open the box or start installing. US Court rulings on End-User-License-Agreements (EULAs) and shrink-wrap/click-through agreements say much the opposite, however, and it is what is ruled in court that matters.

And that brings us to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has basically ruled that all those EULAs, and click-through license agreements are basically bunk as far as this is concerned and that you actually did buy the software itself.

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I can’t tell you what piracy is doing, but it doesn’t seem to be killing the industry

Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718 depicting the battle between Blackbeard the Pirate and Lieutenant Maynard in Ocracoke Bay (cropped)

The fact is that despite the movie and games industries bemoaning rampant and uncontrolled piracy of their products, both industries are burgeoning. The movie industry is “suffering” under record revenues, and the games industry revenues have grown more than 300% in the last decade (to more than double that of the movie industry).

And yes, rampant and uncontrolled piracy is happening – yet the industry is getting more money over the counter than ever before. It’s difficult, then, for the industries to show how much they’re being hurt. Would their record revenues be higher? By how much? Nobody knows the answer, but thanks to France, we can take a guess.

You see, back in 2010, France introduced stiff anti-piracy legislation that (after a bit of a rocky start in its early months) reduced online piracy by a whopping 66%. How, you might ask, did this affect sales?

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