A New Case Questions First Sale Doctrine and Digital Media – Might Mean Used Games are A-OK

Image from Wired.com

So, hot on the heels of my article about the used game business and the move to digital distribution comes a court decision that will have a significant impact on whether the used games business will continue to have a business, and whether something like Xbox720s no used rumor is even an option. 

So the article on Ars Technica is about Capitol Records Inc vs. ReDigi, Inc.  ReDigi is a pre-owned resale service for digital music.  Capitol Records sued ReDigi last month for copyright infringment, and asked for a preliminary injuction — which means Capitol asked the judge to just say they were right without going it going to trial. 

Faced with this, Judge Richard Sullivan of a New York court denied the preliminary injuction – meaning that it has to go to trial.  The ruling was rather … brief and not horribly informative.  Basically, all we know is that Judge Sullivan considered previous cases, first-sale doctrine, and the legal theory of those who have legally obtained copyrighted theory have the right sell it (which is currently in contention). 

The Ars article also cites a few other cases, both for and against the media and first-sale doctrine. 

So, why does this matter for games?  Well, there’s a couple reasons. First, the willingness of Judge Sullivan to send the case to trial means that there’s significant doubt in his mind as to the validity of Capitol’s argument that ReDigi is engaging in copyright infringement.  Even the judges unwillingness to give a preliminary injunction is a win for the ReDigi company.  What will hopefully come out of the case will be clarification of consumers rights when buying licensed content–and hopefully in the consumers favor. 

The ideal situation would be that selling used media (music, movies, games) would be protected by the First Sale doctrine, which means that after the first sale, the content creator no long controls the content and the purchaser can do whatever s/he would ike with the content as long as it’s not infringing.  In this case, the purchaser should be able to sell their “license” of the software without the permission of the original content creator. 

So, if the case comes out where media is protected by first sale doctrine, the Xbox720 unability to play used games would likely be seen as a circumvention of the first sale doctrine, which would probably lead to a minimum, a lengthy legal battle and at most, a force recall to remove the used game restrictions.  It would also mean that so decried used games business would continue happily along, providing their services to consumers. 

Additionally, platforms depending on the outcome of this case, platforms like Steam, Origin, and Impulse could also begin to sell “used games” to people at a discounted price.  In the case of Origin isn’t such a big deal per se, but for Steam and Impulse would essentially be digital visions of GameStop’s brick and mortar stores.  In fact, with GameStop’s 2011 acquisition of Impulse might point to GameStop already putting these pieces in place. 

Overall, it’s a really exciting possibility toward getting greater consumer rights when it comes to digital media, which is an increaseingly sensitive and timely subject as more of our media is managed and owned “digitally.” 


Silicon Sisters’ COO Interview

Silicon Sisters Logo

Over at Ars Technica is a brief interview with the COO of Silicon Sisters’, a Vancouver-based game developer “by women, for women,” Kirsten Forbes. The article is brief and not very detailed in terms of what the developer is working on, but does help shed some light on their vision for the company and what kind niche it hopes to fill in the coming months.

Forbes states within the interview that, “There is no desire Silicon Sisters to exclude males.  There’s just a desire to explicitly include females.”  That’s a pretty important distinction and puts a pretty positive tilt on what the company hopes to achieve–gaming with women in mind, but not at the exclusion of men.  Hit the throwback to read the whole interview.

Silicon Sisters: gamer women for women gamers

Google in Talks with Social Game Makers

There’s an article over on ArsTechnica about Google, Inc. talking to some of the biggest name in social game makers — presumably to help with their new social platform which as of yet unnamed, but which there’s some unconfirmed speculation will be called Google Me.  Not much else there at the moment, other than it’s poised to be a competitor to Facebook, but not a Facebook clone.

Check it out:
Google social gaming service reportedly in the works

Sociologists and World of Warcraft

Virtual Worlds Journal Cover

Alright, so I’m a bit behind on this one – but last week Ars Technica featured entitled “Sociologists Invade World of Warcraft, see Humanity’s Future.”  The post is a bit sparse on details, but features a series of blurbs about the various academic gaming literature currently available.  I’ll be adding the books to the ‘Books’ page as I get it up and running.

Ars also gives a shout out to the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research in the article.  It’s a good source of general information, most of it around SecondLife, but there are occasionally some other tidbits of academia that expand beyond it.  It hits my gReader, so I think it’s worth a looksee.

Other than that, I’m not going to retype the article for you — click on over to Ars to check it out.