The High Court of Paris (aka the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, or “TGI”) has ruled against the digital games magistrates at Valve, siding with a French consumer rights organization in a lawsuit over Steam users’ inability to resell the games that they purchase on the platform. European Union law dictates that all goods, physical or otherwise, can be resold as used without permission from the original manufacturer — today’s ruling confirms that Valve is not immune to or exempt from this EU standard.
Valve, for its part, plans to immediately appeal the ruling, which will send the four-year-old case down another lengthy legal rabbit hole, delaying Valve’s mandate to comply with EU law even further. “We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it,” a Valve representative said in a statement to Kotaku. “The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.”
The original lawsuit, brought by French consumer protection organization UFC Que Choisir (aka Union fédérale des consommateurs, or “federal union of consumers”), argued that Valve was in violation of a multitude of European Union consumer rights protection provisions, which the TGI agreed with. In addition to allowing Steam users to resell their digital games, the court also mandated that Valve allow users to withdraw funds from their Steam wallets upon request. Additionally, Valve must clarify some of the language relating to when and how users can lose access to Steam and/or its games for Terms of Service violations, and Valve must reduce the amount of ownership it claims over user-created mods and other content.
None of that will happen anytime soon of course, since TGI’s ruling is on hold while Valve crams the case back through the appeals process. The High Court of Paris was not compelled by Valve’s argument that Steam is a subscription service (it’s super and obviously not???) and is therefore exempt from the EU consumer protection laws in question.
Steam does not provide a qualitative service in exchange for a monthly/weekly/otherwise regularly scheduled fee, so it’s not that kind of subscription service. It also doesn’t provide content in exchange for a free membership, ala the ad-supported levels of Hulu or Crunchyroll, so it’s not a subscription service in that regard either. It’s just a website that sells things, and while you do have to register an account to buy the things its selling, the same can be said of Amazon, eBay, Best Buy, Walmart, Newegg, or any other retail website in the universe.
Valve knows that this argument is ludicrous, of course — it has to. The actual goal here isn’t to win the lawsuit, it’s to delay a final ruling for as long as is legally possible, thus maximizing the amount of time that Valve can profit from disobeying European Union law before it is forced into compliance. And make no mistake, Valve isn’t some rogue operation for acting like this. This is how Capitalism is supposed to work. It’s an inherently anti-consumer system, and if it weren’t for the governments of the world forcing billion-dollar companies into compliance, we’d still be eating tainted human meat sold as pork sausage.