Public rights, private rights, and downloads

Rob posted earlier about a EU high court ruling that upholds the right of people who buy downloadable games to resell them. Many people will point out that this makes it much harder to pursue certain game-distribution business models. This is true, but so what? There are lots of business models that might thrive if only we abolish the rights of purchasers -- "I'll sell you clothes, but you are legally required to buy my special laundry soap" or "I'll sell you yarn, but you have to pay me again if you make socks out of it." Technology makes lots of things possible, but as between, "My business gets more profits at your expense," and "You get more value at the expense of my profits," there's no reason to default to the former.


  1. Counts for: TV networks trying to legislate DVRs out of existence (reminded of most recently with Dish’s Hopper)

    Especially for broadcast stations, networks have zero say over how we consume their product. When those consumption habits negate broadcaster expectations, that’s unfortunate for them, but also a sign that they need to reconsider their business model, not fight to enforce the model they just assumed we’d all follow.

  2. Incidentally, FaganPAC would like to remind you that laws against pickpocketing are taking food right out of the mouths 0f Dickensian orphans…

  3. I’m confused.  It’s one thing to say “you can resell that game you bought.”  But, does that force game producers to only support distribution systems that allow resale?  Or does the ruling really mean, “If you bought a game, and if you have some artifact that you are able to transfer to someone else — an optical disc, a cartridge, a file perhaps — then you are able to sell it”?  That’s a pretty substantial difference isn’t it?   Saying “you can sell that game cartridge” is quite different from saying, “Game makers, you are only allowed to distribute formats that facilitate resale.” 

    (BTW I’d like to resell the games I played in arcades in the 70’s; anyone wanna buy?)

    1. It’s hard to know how the ruling might apply, since it wasn’t about games but business software (Oracle, specifically) where there wasn’t anything preventing the transfer of the license except Oracle insisting it wasn’t allowed.  Mandating that software retailers must build functionality into their systems to allow resale would be quite a different thing (and without that, it’s largely a moot point, since the systems are designed to prevent transfer of the software in the first place).

  4. I love that BB seems to have their fingers on my pulse. Some of the content they post addresses my current situation. 

    Yesterday I returned something late to Best Buy, so I received a store credit. I asked a rep where their “Desktop computer games” were located. The selection was sparse. It got worse though. Once I started pulling titles, I was flabbergasted, things have really changed.

    I couldn’t buy a single disc that I could just load and play. 

    1. Some I would be interested in didn’t come with license. Some of the “games” were only access cards. 

    2. Others were  prepaid cards, and those seemed to be good for only 60 days…isn’t that a fucking rental?

    3. I either had to have internet access, be on the internet while I played or both.

    4. Registering an online account with a valid credit card was also required, I recognized STEAM, and another unfamiliar clouding system. 

    5. I still don’t understand this real currency trading for weapons and character upgrades at the gaming sites “auction house”. 

    Yep, I learned all this by simply scanning about ten titles. How has the definition between “I buy” and “Now I own” become so blurred? Based on my experience, this post really doesn’t mean that much, since many gaming licenses are “stored” on another server and the “owner” of the game is simply sent an access  key and the game is stored in the cloud.

    I find it disgusting that the industry is skewing the idea of ownership by placing a physical gaming jewel case/box on a store shelf when in fact the box doesn’t contain a license or any tangible gaming disc whatsoever.

    1. Part of that was probably due to Best Buy, like other electronic retailers, simply not selling PC games anymore (except a few token items).  But someone must be selling the disks because they still account for about half of PC game sales in the US.  
      It also sounds like they were heavily pushing Massive Multiplayer Online games, thus the pre-paid cards to pay the subscription fees, or to pay for items in free-to-play games.  (Last time I looked at the PC section of an electronics store, they had five or six boxes, three of which were the MMO “World of Warcraft.”)

      1. That’s good to know…it did take him some time to help me find it. When I meant sparse, it was sparse. Thanks for the info. 

  5. “This is true, but so what?”
    Since you asked… 
    The thing is, the game industry has already embraced revenue models that don’t primarily rely on, or even involve, selling copies of games: subscription-based MMOs and free-to-play online games.  So it’s no skin off their noses if the distribution models are upended – they’re already upending them.  The problem is that the revenue model dictates game mechanics.  The game mechanics have to support revenue generation, so certain types of games can’t be MMOs or free-to-play, and the online games tend to be quite similar for the same reason.  I’m afraid consumers lose out in this case if the game industry can’t make the full range of distribution models work.  Non-resellable downloads from services like Steam have also allowed for game sales at a tiny fraction the price of disk-based games.  If the distribution model survives, it’s still something consumers potentially lose out on.

    1. I understand. However, in general and not directed at you, customers used to have one agreement, what ever was on the box, the receipt or viewed on the copyright section of the cd/disc at start up. But now it’s two or more, and it shouldn’t be.

      Imagine entering a bar and you’re carded at the door, then you’re  carded  when you buy each drink. You have a hand stamp, but you’re carded every time you re-enter. We all know at the door is all that’s needed. 

      Plug and Play is dead, and all end users are treated like thieves.

      1. All those agreements are for things that started out largely as services for multiplayer functionality – carrots intended to persuade players to buy rather than illegally copy games.  They’ve certainly turned into sticks, however, as they’re now used to also discourage or prevent secondary game sales (for console games, at least).  There are still games without that cruft, but they’re not going to be the big-publisher releases, but indie games and certain Eastern European publishers (and, most likely, distributed via DRM-free downloads).
        The problem is that legally altering certain distribution models doesn’t address that at all, and in fact is more likely to make the problem worse – monetization of games moves to selling services rather than goods (so having secure online accounts becomes mandatory to play).

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