Region Locking: We Talk To A Lawyer

By Lewie Procter on August 19th, 2011 at 2:40 pm.

Hmmm!
On Wednesday, we reported that Square-Enix had decided to region lock the physical PC release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, within Europe. Then yesterday, they issued a statement saying that they had decided not to go ahead with the region locking. But what does it all mean? We knew that we didn’t like region locking and other artificial barriers between gamers and their games, but we hadn’t got a clue about the legalities of them. Luckily we know a man who does. Games lawyer Jas Purewal took time out of his busy day games-lawyering to give us his appraisal of the legal lay of the land with regard to region locking of the stuff that you buy. Here’s his expert opinion:

RPS: Square Enix had initially planned to region lock the physical PC release of Deus Ex Human Revolution within the EU. Lots of questions were asked about the whether this would have been in breach of EU trade law, what’s your take on that?

Purewal: Geographical locking of content in any format (e.g. DVD or digital) is legally uncertain at best. On the one hand, the publisher could potentially have a variety of legitimate reasons for wanting to geographically lock content, such as local classification/ratings laws (e.g. which could require different versions of a game or DVD for different countries) or for anti-piracy. On the other hand, imposing a geographical lock purely for commercial gain (i.e. to maintain artificial price differentials in different countries) remains controversial and could potentially fall foul of competition laws. However, to my knowledge this has not yet been tested in any of the major markets including the US or the EU, hence the legal uncertainty.

As far as Deus Ex Human Revolution is concerned, if the region lock had gone ahead then the legal test would have focused on the exact reasons why it had been put in place.

RPS: What kind of consequences could a publisher found guilty of region locking for commercial gain face?

Purewal: If a publisher was found to have engaged in anti-competitive activity (for example, by illegal price fixing) the consequences would vary from country to country and would depend on the seriousness of the activity. Generally though, it could mean: substantial fines, consumer lawsuits, bans on similar activities in the future or, in extreme cases, potentially even criminal investigation in some countries.

RPS: In the future, what course of action would you suggest to gamers wanting to import games from within the EU, but are confronted with region locking?

Unfortunately in practice there aren’t many legal options for gamers who want to play region-locked imported games (a hack or other workaround is an option but that clearly would be illegal). Gamers can of course still register their dissatisfaction in a range of ways, from contacting the publisher/digital distribution platform to just not buying the game or even (in the worst case scenario) contacting their local consumer protection body.

RPS: Would workarounds really be illegal? Some people had plans to use a VPN to spoof a UK IP address to be able to activate UK imported copies of Deus Ex…

Purewal: Tech workarounds, however well intentioned, can themselves cause legal issues worse than the one you are trying to avoid in the first place. For example, spoofing an IP address could cause legal difficulties with your ISP, the games publisher and potentially others involved in the game (e.g. Steam or other digital distribution platforms). So as a matter of law tech workarounds carry real risks, although clearly different people will have different views as to how important that really is to them.

RPS: Thanks for your time

You can read about Jas’ ongoing adventures in the world of video game law over at Gamer/Law.

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104 Comments »

  1. Squirrelfanatic says:

    Thank you for that interview Lewie, very informative.

    Edit: And of course thanks to you too, Jas. :)

  2. Dubbill says:

    [Crude pro-bono pun]

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      Don’t you dare be pro Bono! He is a twattard!

      ;)

    • The Colonel says:

      I’m pro boner heh heh. BONO’s boner that is heh heh. Bono’s boner for fame and money that is heh heh. If only Ireland could region-lock people.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      I wish we could region-lock Bono, and Jedward would be there too.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Region locking his taxes would be a good start.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    OBJECTION!!!

    Nope, I got nothing.

  4. Demon Beaver says:

    Hmmm….

  5. xavdeman says:

    “Would workarounds really be illegal?”
    Who cares, if you’d receive a region locked copy, would you NOT use a crack because it’s illegal? This is a prime example of the difference between law in the books and law in practice.

    • JasPurewal says:

      You might not say that if your Steam account was shut down, for example?

    • Premium User Badge

      TheApologist says:

      Isn’t it more the difference between legal advice, and what you do with the legal advice?

      Legal advice doesn’t tell you what to do, only what the legal consequences might be of doing it.

    • JasPurewal says:

      Absolutely – I tell you what the pros and cons are and then you guys decide what you want to do :)

    • xavdeman says:

      @JasPurewal: If you use a crack you’re not using Steam, no account to shut down.
      @TheApologist: Yes. That’s what I said on a more abstract level. What this article tells you is how the black letter law is. But good legal advice should also tell you how the legal reality of the moment is. The reality is: if a company screws me over with illegal region locking, I’m going to use an illegal crack to circumvent this.

    • Urthman says:

      Purewal seems to be very open to that perspective, xavdeman. He basically says, “You could use cracks. That can potentially leave you open to getting trouble with the law. It’s up to you whether you care about that or not.”

      If he had some moral problem with cracks, he’d probably not even mention them as an option.

    • Thomas says:

      Yeah that’s what you say, i’m more inclined to believe that Valve doesn’t really care that much, the Deus Ex leak would’ve easily been tracable to your steam account(Yes, that’s including people who used the crack)

      Though i’d generally hold the work of a real release group over that of some anonymous group, even they can fail, like they’ve done in the past, most notably with Black & White where the crack still phoned home, and Lionhead actually went to trouble of doing something about it.

    • skinlo says:

      Two wrongs don’t make a right though, if someone murders your best friend, that doesn’t mean you can then go and kill the murderer, even if many would feel you are justified. You might get a slightly more lenient sentence (I don’t know), but you will still be going to prison.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      Similarly though, most people don’t mind smoking cannabis that much, because most sensible people the law is non-sensical.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Skinlo – You would probably get in a lot more trouble because revenge murder is probably pre-meditated.

      Crimsoneer – I don’t want to start a debate on this but if people really knew what it did to them, they probably wouldn’t – some 40% of mental illnesses in a hospital near me are due to medium to heavy cannabis use.

      Sorry completely off topic

    • Thants says:

      I’m sorry, but no. Cannabis use didn’t cause 40% of mental illnesses in a hospital near you.

    • R10T says:

      Althought I like my mental illness.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      Heh %. So there’s 10 in total there and cannabis was the cause for 4 of those. Or 1 guy, and he’s almost halfway there cause of cannabis? Either way, 10 or 1000 people, a tiny part of the population compared to the number of people who smoked or ate it without any ill effects.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Long term and chronic alcohol use causes neurological damage, memory loss, and many other symptoms mimicking those of mental-illness. Cannabis has no such issues. I would appreciate you cite any material that proves otherwise.

      “Alcohol dementia, which is sometimes associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, is a form of dementia caused by long-term or excessive drinking resulting in neurological damage and memory loss.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_dementia

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Pull / shut down internet connection before playing cracked game, don’t ever get banned/sued.

      How is this so hard. Oh wait, us modern people “need to has always on”.

      I think if you’re that far gone, you should suffer the consequences anyway.

      As for idiocy: The state thinks it’s a good idea to put dead babies and loud and clear statements of “THIS PRODUCT KILLS YOU, ADMITTEDLY” on a package AND SELLING IT LEGALLY, but then strictly regulating what you may or not put in normal food, various products.

      Either something is poison and kills your population and it should be protected from it, or not. You should not as a protector(the original “job” of a community/state) give poison to your own people/population.
      That’s about as sick and disturbed as it gets.
      Alcohol is similiarly bad, but that you can at least drink at 1 glass a day and not get cancer / negative stuff from(red wine=contains anti-oxidant and blah), whereas basically from cigarette 1 you are inhaling black death.

  6. diamondmx says:

    Hasn’t it been proven (iPhone unlocking) that cracks can be legal if they are circumventing unreasonable/anti-competitive limitations on a product you own?

    Edit: Of course there’s the whole “You don’t really own this thing you bought” issue, as well – but I’d love to see that hold up in a court case.

    • JasPurewal says:

      Good point – there are a few little signs here and there around the world that governments will help consumers rather than big business when it comes to tech anti-competitive practices. You /could/ see a similar result if games region-locking ever got high enough on the agenda – but I think I was pointing mainly that this is all just untested atm so we don’t know for sure

    • diamondmx says:

      On a somewhat unrelated note – any tips for a consumer to force Steam to refund From Dust, seeing as it’s both completely crap and missold?

    • xavdeman says:

      @diamondmx says: 08/19/2011 at 15:06. Yes, I am a law student. Steam should refund you.

    • Kaira- says:

      Steam however has pretty strict “no refunds unless canceling preorder”-policy. You could try, but it would seem that Steam doesn’t give refunds.

    • JasPurewal says:

      Legally it is going to be hard to get a refund just because a game isn’t what you expected it to be in terms of quality – usually the successful arguments for a refund relate to its physical condition. Still, worth trying. There’s also the possibility of a complaint to a consumer protection body if a developer had “missold” the product- thought that would more be to achieve GREAT JUSTICE than a refund.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Wouldn’t the sale of goods act cover people in the UK?

    • Premium User Badge

      Tom De Roeck says:

      Didnt Valve start refunding all From Dust games if it was due to the false information Ubisoft was giving out pertaining to its’ DRM?

    • xavdeman says:

      @Kaira- says: 08/19/2011 at 15:26 , well… that’s just against the law. Products should answer to the claims made by seller and manufacturer.
      @JasPurewal says:08/19/2011 at 15:27, this isn’t about From Dust not being “what you expected it to be in terms of quality”. The manufacturer made an explicit claim about the product’s DRM. This turns out to be an error. If someone bought the game based on this claim by the manufacturer it will have to be refunded. (there are other measures that Steam could take, e.g. repair; like remove the DRM so the product answers to the claims made by Steam, but that is not likely to happen)

    • Kaira- says:

      @xavedman

      Oh, I do agree that it’s plain wrong. Not sure about the law when it comes to digital producs, being a commoner that I am, but Steam enforces “no refunds”-policy. And I do think that if the product doesn’t match what was promised (in this case, the DRM), one should be entitled to refund.

    • xavdeman says:

      @Kaira- says: 08/19/2011 at 15:40. In virtually every law system I’ve encountered, from the oldies like Roman law, to concepts like EPCL and DCFR (potential future law system resulting from comparative law analysis in the EU) this has been the case. Also, the law makes >no< distinction with regard to digital goods. The problem is, with games you pay for a license. Basically it states you can play it, nothing else. Still, you should get a refund, because the product you licensed doesn't posses the qualities that were promised to you (DRM-free). Also, it's not legal under EU consumer protection to withhold rights like warranty and refunds within the license, you can try (like Steam is doing), and there are no punishments for trying, but if a customer takes you to court you will be forced to pay legal fees and the refund (although no customer will take Steam to court, so that's the law in practice right there).
      EDIT: @Lewie Procter says:08/19/2011 at 15:29 , I have insufficient knowledge of UK law to make that call.

    • johnpeat says:

      re: The Sale of Goods Act

      It’s rarely, if ever, used in relation to software because of the endless complexities that software tends to throw up. The basic tenets of it certainly apply when you buy a game but there’s something quite important about HOW the SoGA applies.

      SoGA applies to the transaction/contract between you (the buyer) and the seller (retailer/online/digital dist) and has NOTHING to do with the manufacturer/publisher or anyone else.

      When you buy something, it must be “of merchantable quality” (not broken) and “fit for the purpose” (works as described and as you’d expect it to) with the latter being the interesting bit.

      “As described”‘ in this case would refer to what you were told by the retailer (not the publisher or the developer) about the product. In the case of a shop, this means what’s written on the box. In the case of an online/DD game – what it says on the game’s shop page.

      If what you buy differs from/fails to do what that suggests it should (or fails to work in the way you’d expect games to work) then you might have a case – but if the box/page told you that it was limited (online only/region locked) then you don’t – simple as.

      Note: Steam will always refund pre-orders BEFORE launch but getting refunds once a game is released is MUCH MUCH harder so if in doubt, cancel now.

    • Archonsod says:

      “It’s rarely, if ever, used in relation to software because of the endless complexities that software tends to throw up.”

      IIRC Software has always been considered a service by the UK courts.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      @johnpeat
      “SoGA applies to the transaction/contract between you (the buyer) and the seller (retailer/online/digital dist) and has NOTHING to do with the manufacturer/publisher or anyone else.”

      Oh trjp, I never tire of correcting you on the Sale of Goods Act. Thanks to the way Directive 99/44/EC was implemented in the UK, statements made by the manufacturer/publisher are explicitly incorporated into whether goods are considered as described and of satisfactory (not “merchantable”) quality. Of course that’s obvious if you’ve ever actually read the SoGA rather than relying on whatever third hand wisdom you can dredge up from google, but that wouldn’t be your style would it?

      @Archonsod
      “IIRC Software has always been considered a service by the UK courts.”
      You do of course have some cases to cite to back that up with, or are you just guessing? It’s been *ages* since I checked but it definitely wasn’t settled when I did.

    • TWeaK says:

      The problem with trying a legal fight with Steam is that their contract (ie the terms you agree to) is based in Washington State USA and as such you’ll have a lot of difficulty getting an EU or other nation to deal with it. I can’t remember nor can be bothered to find the case, but I do remember there was a ruling in the EU courts that they couldn’t enforce anything on Steam, as they don’t have any legal presence in the EU.

  7. JasPurewal says:

    Thanks Lewie. And yes, I’m enjoying my ongoing adventures in the world of video game law :)

  8. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    This was really useful – thanks Lewie and Jas

  9. Chris Evans says:

    Very interesting, nice to shed some light on this :)

  10. Sensai says:

    Interesting read, thanks.

    You should have also asked him about From Dust and whether Ubisoft can get in any kind of legal trouble for literally lying to thousands of people.

    [Edit:]

    Actually, went to the site and I’m going to email him myself.

    • xavdeman says:

      I’m a law student form Holland, Ubisoft can’t get in any trouble from disgruntled gamers (unless they run a store of their own?). They can however get in trouble with retail and online stores. The reason is that the stores have to refund any product sold under the influence of their lie (you should call it an error, lies are hard to prove). That’s because claims made by a manufacturer about the product can be assumed by the buyer to be claims by the store. So the buyers should ask for a refund by the stores. The stores can then claim damages from Ubisoft. Be aware that none of my posts are legal advice. Law in the rest of the EU may be different, and I have no understanding of USA consumer law whatsoever on this subject.

    • Sensai says:

      @xavdeman: Thanks for the info. I’ll just continue to pester Valve and Steam about it then, even though it seems that they’re not at fault. Hopefully they’ll be reimbursed from Ubisoft. It really pisses me off that a company can lie make an error so grave and not get in some kind of trouble for it.

    • Milky1985 says:

      I am not a lawyer in the UK but i have worked in retail.

      I believe the responsibility is with the retailer (in the case of From Dust, it would be steam). As the retailer is hte point of sale any confilicts about the product go between the retailer and the consumor, this is the same for warrenty etc.

      They wikll then pass it up the line until it finally gets back to the company who makes the damn thing. For any warrenty etc issue you deal with the retailer as the primary point of contact and i beleive its the same for any sales info.

    • diamondmx says:

      @sensai It was a lie, don’t sugarcoat it. There is no way it was an honest mistake. They profited way too much, and their statements were way too clear.

    • PopeJamal says:

      @diamondmx

      If you’re “certain” that it was a lie, then it’s obvious that you’ve never worked at a multi-million(billion?) dollar corporation. The left-hand actually knowing what the right-hand is doing is actually the exception not the rule. PR people say things that aren’t true all the time. Developers often say things that haven’t been “approved” by PR. It’s one big circle of inefficiency that helps them say “Sorry, we didn’t mean it!”.

      Plausible Deniability

    • Frye2k11 says:

      xav managed to squeeze in a disclaimer in his post. You will go very far in the legal world my friend!

      ( I am no psychologist, nor an expert in legal matters, predictions I make, however successful in the past, are NO guarantee that your career will indeed take off like an Apollo (TM) rocket.)

  11. clownst0pper says:

    Wonder how much he charges per hour…

  12. Salt says:

    We Talk to a Lawyer should be a regular segment on RPS.

    It seems that stories about anti-competition (Steam and Origin), trademarks (Mojang and Bethesda) and copyright (perennial piracy) are fairly common. Their comments threads are very often filled with internet people discussing matters of law. It would be nice to read more interviews like this with a “proper lawyer” to shine some light on them.

    • 4026 says:

      That’s a great idea for an RPS feature. I’d like to see that too.

      On the other hand, of course, it does rather end up more or less repeating what Jas is writing on his own site. For instance, here’s his take on the whole Scrolls thing you mentioned.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Seconded, as an internet armchair lawyer who is not actually a lawyer (I believe that combination is the specific one which gets me most internerd points) I find this sort of stuff really interesting.

      Of course, unfortunately (but also part of the charm) you’re never going to get a committed answer on anything, it’s all a beautiful field of grey open to interpretation at six minute charging intervals :o)

    • PopeJamal says:

      That sounds like a good idea, but in practice, I think it will be a big letdown. There will be so many qualifications, and differences between regions and countries that you might not be much more informed at the end of the article. It’s all about legal precedent, and any situation without a clear legal precedent will be subject to “Wealthy Man’s Justice”. The guy who throws the most money at the problem wins.

      Having said that, Mr. Purewal seems like the most straightforward lawyer I’ve ever heard, so “Cheers!” to him for that.

  13. Snargelfargen says:

    Seems like Square Enix made a pretty good move by removing the region-locking and coming out with a clear statement days after the news broke.

    Ubisoft could learn a thing or two. But instead they are going to be in the spotlight for weeks thanks to their retracted and conflicting statements.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Astatine says:

    “Spoofing an IP address could cause legal difficulties with your ISP”? What does that even mean? Typically an ISP will assign you an IP address block or a single address, and if you send packets claiming to come from a different address, they’ll just drop them…

    I’d like to know the legal status (in jurisdictions X and Y) of using a proxy server in jurisdiction Y to claim you come from there whilst running the game in region X. He hasn’t defined this, just suggested that it “could cause legal difficulties”, not helpful :/

    • xavdeman says:

      This seems to be a mistake of the author. No ISP I know of prohibits the use of VPN software or proxies over their connections. Changing your real IP address (trying to trick the DHCP server of your ISP) hasn’t been possible since at least the early days of the internet.

    • JasPurewal says:

      Basic answer: if you use tech workarounds to circumvent software restrictions that a third party (e.g. Steam) has put in place then you could be sued by that third party for a range of legal infringements. You also run the risk (albeit a theoretical legal risk) that your ISP would shut you down, both for breach of its T&Cs and so that the ISP can itself avoid any legal liability for your actions. You raise a good point and I could discuss it in lots of detail, but that’s the basic answer.

      Obviously everyone needs to make up their own mind about what they would do in this situation, but the point I was trying to make is that using hacks/workarounds/whatever would run real legal risks and therefore I wouldn’t recommend it. Better to exert consumer pressure on the publisher.

    • xavdeman says:

      @Astatine says: 08/19/2011 at 15:23, Your question “I’d like to know the legal status (in jurisdictions X and Y) of using a proxy server in jurisdiction Y to claim you come from there whilst running the game in region X.” is indeed very complex. You’d (also) be subjected to the criminal law of the jurisdiction of the place that the servers are that authenticate your location and proceed to grant/deny you access to the game. Depending on the territory the spoofing may net you exactly zero problems, or a lot of problems. You can’t expect a chart of all legal systems with an answer to this specific problem from Jas or me (for free, that is. ;)

  15. JackShandy says:

    Games Lawyer? Isn’t that like Golf Builder, or Boat Accountant?

  16. Premium User Badge

    Diziet Sma says:

    In your final question you state using a VPN. Spoofing could I suppose cause a problem, however using a VPN is absolutely not spoofing.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Coming soon: We Talk To A Person Who Understands Complicated Network Stuff

    • Alexander Norris says:

      That’s not really the point – circumventing the region lock in any way, such as using a VPN to have an IP that comes from a foreign country (which you can do quite easily, if your office is in the UK or US and you use the company VPN from outside the UK/US), is technically a breach of the EULA, which could get you into trouble.

    • johnpeat says:

      From the PoV of the person who’s systems you are accessing, using a VPN is the same as ‘spoofing’ an IP address – it’s attempting to disguise who/where you are.

      If Steam say they don’t want you to do that – they can then delete all your games if you do it.

      Doesn’t matter what you call it – doing it can have repercussions (is what they’re saying).

    • WPUN says:

      Using proxies is NOT illegal, at least in the US, Canada, and the EU. Their EULA may forbid you from using such, but that’s a paper thin argument. For example, the EULA may forbid resale, but any US citizen that wants to do so is protected by US first sale doctrine.

    • CMaster says:

      Using a VPN or proxy isn’t illegal in most places.

      However, pretending to be located somewhere you are not for a business transaction might be considered fraudulent.

  17. TheMoo says:

    From the article: (a hack or other workaround is an option but that clearly would be illegal).

    I’m actually a bit curious about this one, clearly hacking the game yourself to circumvent stuff like region locking is not very legal (reverse engineering the software and whatnot) , and steam’s policy on changing game files is also vague at best.

    But let’s say we’re talking about a non-steamworks title, is downloading and installing a crack to a game you bought legally considered illegal? And if so under what clause? You didn’t decompile or crack open the source you merely copied a file that replaces the executable. Also how is it different from modding a game that doesn’t have nicely integrated mod support, from a legal perspective?

  18. Alexander Norris says:

    So does this mean we can sue Steam for regional pricing?

  19. Arkhos Doomstar says:

    So how does this reflect on regional pricing? As an Australian I pay a heap extra for a lot of games on Steam (my chosen provider) but I’m not sure why publishers are able to.

    Why should I pay $90 as an Australian for Skyrim instead of $60 for a US citizen. Why is it legal to sell to different markets when the cost are the same to the publisher (if they somehow have to pay extra to push the bits here I’d be glad to pay it)?

    Now, the above is (I think) a legitimate issue (however this is the first game that annoyed me in price difference enough to test the gifting of a game from a US account holder so I only paid $60) so even though I circumvented it in this case I haven’t in any other.

    • xavdeman says:

      I can sell anything for any price I want to. To assume otherwise is to agree that there is such a thing as a justium pretium. No (sane) lawyer would allow this kind of principle to exist in any current day legal system. What is at issue here is the inclusion of region locking software. This prevents you from getting a lower price at a regional competitor. This is basically anti-competitive behavior and reminds me of a recent Slashdot article: http://apple.slashdot.org/story/11/08/19/0126240/Pricing-Apple-Defies-Australian-Government
      Seems like the Australian government needs to make some laws to prohibit this kind of price fixing, but it seems to be too busy with being the industry’s bitch for it to do anything like that.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Unfortunately governments aren’t very good at keeping up with technology.

      Fortunately, some of the older government initiatives like legalising “grey” imports can help one get sweet sweet gaming for very little monies if one is prepared to wait a little.

      When you can legally import games from the UK or EU (or Hong Kong, or anywhere really) for half the price or less of it at Australian retail, I’m amazed there’s a retail games industry here at all. When it costs less to get a game shipped all the way from Europe than it does to download it over the interpipes, you know publishers are just screwing you and don’t care.

      So stop supporting them.

  20. Kdansky says:

    I still don’t get how using a crack on something is illegal. If I buy a book, I can write in it. If I buy a Picasso, I can paint over it. If I buy a car, I can add spoilers to it. If I buy a PS3, I can break it open and mess around with the cabling (voiding the warranty, of course). And as far as I know, that falls under “right to own property”, and is pretty central. On top of that, writing code is the same as typing text. So technically, I am expressing myself, which falls under freedom of speech and art too.

    Why can’t I modify software? I write code daily anyway. That’s like telling a mason that he is not allowed to replace a brick in his wall, which he bought.

    And more ridiculously: If I own a games company, and I buy my own game, I am not allowed to rewrite parts of it, despite having written the thing in the first place?

    If anyone would bother taking this to court, the EULA people would have a very hard time.

    • xavdeman says:

      @Kdansky says: 08/19/2011 at 16:12 , you’re not buying the game, you’re licensing it. There’s your answer.

    • CMaster says:

      Unfortunately not. Breaking copy-protection is specifically a crime, regardless of the (legally untested) EULAs.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Directive
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_and_Related_Rights_Regulations_2003

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      Because you’re not sold “the book” or “the game”. You’re sold a license to use it in a certain way. It’s very different. People are always saying EULAs are legally unproven, but nobody is going to bother challenging them anytime soon. So yes, it’s wrong. You agree to certain terms and conditions.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “Unfortunately not. Breaking copy-protection is specifically a crime, regardless of the (legally untested) EULAs.”

      The DMCA covers that but obnly in america where the mafia i mean the mpaa have control i mean influence over hte law makers

      So every should behave in the USA , kapish!

      (the other two linked didn’t seem to have anythign about breaking copy protection for your own use) and are EU not uk anyway.

    • CMaster says:

      Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society is an EU directive – basically a European Council decision that requires all member states to implement a national law carrying out what it describes. The copyright and related rights act linked is the UK implementation of said directive, which according to wiki includes:
      “the new section 296ZB creates the criminal offenses of:
      – manufacturing for sale or hire, importation, sale or distribution of devices or products which are primarily designed or adapted for the purpose of the circumvention of technological measures;
      – providing, promoting, advertising or marketing a service the purpose of which is to enable or facilitate the circumvention of technical measures.”

      Technical measures means DRM or other copy protection. Also, I didn’t know where Kdansky was from, so wanted to try and cover wherever.

      Also, EU law overrides member state law, and has done for a long time, so EU law is effectively UK law.

    • maddmonkey says:

      The idea that we are licensing and not buying ALL digital products/games is just silly. I read up on the Autodesk v Vernor case, which seems to be the most recent case dealing with this issue and I suppose publishers would like to be able to re-classify all sales as licenses, as the resale market would be eliminated completely. Anyhow, I don’t see how the legal situation (esp. in the EU) is anything but unclear on the issue.

      That aside, if a product is sold and not licensed, would the DRM/crack use limitation still apply?

    • Kdansky says:

      Well, seeing as I’m from Switzerland (DMCA is insanity to begin with) which has very different laws (we are legally allowed to pirate games, as long as we don’t upload them) on that regard, it does not matter much anyway (to me). And I do not care so much about pirating games, as the ability to modify code on my drive.

      But still, I am not allowed to modify a (binary) text when I am licensing it? How is that even sane? If you grant me permission to read your code, I can make a copy of it (for example in my brain, or in my main memory, or in any of my four levels of cache), then I can modify that. In fact, I must modify it to begin with when reading it into main memory, or else it would not run. You can’t forbid me to modify it! That is not how software works.

      And even if that were not technically impossible, I still am fairly sure that this would be unconstitutional to boot. You cannot forbid people to write text, and I can write it on any sectors on my drive where I damn well please.

  21. ChowTOdust says:

    Why dont you stick to reporting actual news?

    • Unaco says:

      Because they (the Hivemind) don’t want to. Is that a good enough reason for you? It’s their site, they can do with it as they please. From the About Section of the site…

      “RPS is about PC gaming – all of PC gaming, rather than just one of the weird and wonderful niches most other PC-centric sites confine themselves to.”

      See? It’s about ALL of PC Gaming here. The Hivemind don’t restrict themselves to the ‘actual news’ (what is the ‘actual news’ anyway? Press releases from Devs/Publishers?). Quite often there are features, and interviews with people in, or connected to, the games industry. Most people seem to appreciate them. They give us new information, they inform us, and educate us. If you don’t want to read these features, and want to stick purely to the ‘actual news’ you can just NOT click on the ‘non-news’ articles, or stop visiting the site.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @ChowTOdust: because what we need is for all of games journalism to be an endless repeat of PR, news releases and other pointless tripe, instead of actual fucking journalism.

      Please go sit in a corner and die.

    • CMaster says:

      @Alexander Norris
      Hey, it worked for the newspapers! Oh wait…

    • Dozer says:

      I find these stories more interesting than ones directly about games. That said I’m here under false colours – I’m not really a PC gamer anymore, my PC is too old and I can’t be bothered to upgrade it.

  22. Simplex says:

    I wonder if the fact that Steam prevent non-UK EU residents from accessing UK Steam store (i.e. pay in pounds) could be considered region locking. The mechanism is the same – prices on UK Steam store are usually lower then in the rest of Europe, so non-UK Europeans are locked out.

  23. hamster says:

    “If a publisher was found to have engaged in anti-competitive activity (for example, by illegal price fixing) the consequences would vary from country to country and would depend on the seriousness of the activity. Generally though, it could mean: substantial fines, consumer lawsuits, bans on similar activities in the future or, in extreme cases, potentially even criminal investigation in some countries.”

    Some discussion:

    Vertical price fixing used to be per se illegal under the Sherman Act (as in, illegal without need to look at actual economic impact) but this was overturned ever since Leegin (and actually even in a few “non-definitive” cases before that). Subsequently, the court must apply the “rule of reason” and weigh all surrounding factors and consequences.

    Note that vertical price fixing refers typically to the case where a manufacturer sets a min/max price that its distributors/retailers are constrained by.

    Which is a strange argument to make specifically against regional locks because local retailers are (i’m pretty sure here) already constrained by minimum resale price maintenance (RPM). I suspect this is why games are already all sold across the board at $49.99 or $59.99.

    So if local price maintenance is permissible, why isn’t international price maintenance? What I mean to say is that of course, they can both fall foul of the act but RPM for local games have been around for ages.

    And forgive me if i’m mistaken (it’s been a while) but isn’t it necessary to prove dominant market power?

    As for criminal ramifications, well the Sherman Act does stipulate a criminal prosecution section, but from what i recall, some prosecutorial policy paper was released in which the FTC maintained that they would only pursue cases through the civil route (and generally through an affected plaintiff: which means triple damages).

    • xavdeman says:

      @hamster says:08/19/2011 at 16:39, I have nothing against allowing companies to stipulate certain prices for certain regions, which is regional price differentiation. But I am against software techniques that prevent a piece of software I bought in [cheap country] to be played in [expensive country], which is region locking. This strikes me as being contrary to what a free trade zone is supposed to be. Fuel doesn’t detonate when crossing the border between Germany and Holland, either.

    • CMaster says:

      @hamster
      Publishers/distributors setting a minimum price that stores could sell for would be illegal in the EU (although that hasn’t prevented several companies and even industries being caught at it). However, seeing as stores regularly sell at prices below the MSRP, I think it is safe to say it doesn’t happen.

      Most of the discussion in the comments however related to the fact that Squenix were trying to make a product purchased on one part of the EU (specifically the UK and Poland) not usable in the rest of the EU. As the EU is a single market, with a core tenant that goods, services and labour can move within it without restrictions, it would seem likely that this would be illegal. Noone was saying that they couldn’t set separate prices for every damn county of every country if they wanted. But trying to restrict each variant to a post code would probably break the single market laws.

    • gwathdring says:

      @Hamster

      You are correct that in the US it is not illegal to have different prices in different regions. But let’s say, for example, that you run a video game chain in California and Oregon. You are given some limits on what you can charge for resale by the publishers of the games you sell–a lower limit to protect their profit cut and an upper limit to protect their ability to compete with other games if you try to maximize your store’s cut. You are free to change prices at various stores, have discounts and sales, and do whatever you want within the limits set by your suppliers–providing they don’t limit you in an illegal fashion. So far, this looks a lot like the legal situation you described. But you haven’t accurately described region locking. Here’s how to make it an accurate analogy: you try to prevent customers in Washington from using copies purchased in Oregon. Whether or not you are able to enforce this stipulation, US law would, as far as I am aware, render this stipulation illegal. Whether or not international law also renders this illegal is a matter I am not familiar with. But that is what is at stake. Feel free to correct me if this is in fact a legal practice.

    • hamster says:

      I was responding to comments by Purewal (from the article) who argued that geographic restrictions may contravene anti-competition laws, specifically as a form of price fixing. I thought it was strange to put it that way. I have no knowledge about single market laws (indeed, I thought they were unified by a WTO-esque treaty and so dealing with rights of a different nature).

      On what grounds would you say that region locking is illegal? Doctrine of exhaustion? Again not too familiar with it.

      But stepping away from the legal side for a minute, i think from a market POV i don’t really see too much of a problem. Yeah parallel imports are permitted but at the same time, different markets have different elasticities. Is it not something that a free market is entitled to do? Set things at different price points to different people? I’ve always heard good things about price discrimination…and to me, it appears that a company should be entitled to sell to anyone at whatever price point they desire. Of course, practical difficulties stop them from doing so. Price discrimination isn’t all anti-competitive. Consider the number of people (a segment of the market) who benefit from a better price.

  24. Zorak says:

    It’s worth noting that price-locking / regional pricing is a pretty typical move by Japanese media companies in general, largely due to a general disbelief or distaste for supply and demand economics. It’s why an individual movie DVD can cost between $50-100 in Japan, $500 for a TV series etc; the implication is that you can overcharge to certain markets because there is a guaranteed “will buy this product” base within the market that will, even with a higher price, pay out. Having a reduced price and potentially much larger customer base is taken as a financial risk, since it doesn’t take advantage of the guaranteed high-paying purchaser base. They charge a price such that the guaranteed base will, by paying out, ensure they make a return of profit (even if miniscule), and all additional sales are essentially “gravy”.

    Of course, no base is really “guaranteed”, especially in the current world economy, which is why a lot of Japanese media companies are having trouble! And yet others continue to focus on niche titles that their guaranteed niche might buy, rather than aiming for a broad appeal.

    Still, gaming even in Japan tends to have a bit fairer pricing than animation/ television/ movies, so there’s that at least on the positive side.

  25. Very Real Talker says:

    this reminds me of the despicable per region pricing of steam. What’s worse is that they ban the accounts of arbitrageurs (ie they buy games in their region because they are cheaper, then they “gift” them for money to players in other regions where the games cost more), and that’s an incredibly slimy behavior.

    I love valve games, they are great, but Steam seriously need to stop doing this shit, that may also be illegal I think

  26. D3xter says:

    How solid is Steam’s legal ground of Region Locking Accounts after the first few purchases and allowing players to buy from that region only from then on?

    e.g. all of their shops can be gotten to say:
    http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=uk
    http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=de
    http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=us
    there’s also other country tags like au, pl, pt etc. and there’s different pricing for a lot of them, but they as a retailer don’t allow you to buy from other regions (even within the EU).

    Of course the VPN way on a new account is still possible or someone “gifting” that game, but that was somewhat discussed already.

  27. Chumbaba says:

    I live in European Union, Czech Republic. I ordered the augmented edition of Deus Ex 3 some time ago at http://www.game.co.uk. After confirming the order and assuring me that everything progresses smoothly in several promo emails, game.co.uk unilaterally cancelled my order without any explanation or compensation, with just the weakest apology. In my opinion, they are desperate, confused and really don’t know, what to do with the mess the pusblisher has made recently. I am trying to fix it with customer support atm, who are probably flooded with angry emails. I have been playing games for two decades now but never experienced such a mess up on a vendor’s or publisher’s part.

  28. adonf says:

    That was an interesting interview but I was hopping for more details re: the UE laws on the free movement of goods and services. They would never do such a thing inside the US (like prevent you from using a game in California because you bought it in Arizona) and the US was not built around this free movement doctrine.

    Also I don’t agree with the argument of “legitimate reasons for wanting to geographically lock content, such as local classification/ratings laws or for anti-piracy.” Those are legitimate reasons to refuse to sell a product to a resident of a particular country, but once the product has been legally bought I believe that it has to be usable anywhere in the EU. And this has been tested in courts at least once when French car manufacturers refused to enforce the contractual warranty of French cars sold to French residents by Belgian retailers unless they went to Belgium for the repairs. Now the manufacturers have to repair these cars under warranty in France. And warranty is a service, not a physical good (in this case it was a service sold with a physical good, but hey, so is a retail game that come on a DVD inside a box.)

  29. sacrovir says:

    But doesnt some kind of region locking already exist with Steam already? Physically i can by a game from Amazon UK (if i want the English version) or, at much greater expense, i can buy the same game from Amazon DE. Apple lets you buy digitally so long as you have a billing address in that country. Steam lets you only buy the game if you are *in* that country. Therefore im reduced to being forced to buy at EU prices and German language. That sounds like a region lock to me.

  30. Dolescrounger says:

    What’s the difference between a console game being region-locked and the same thing happening with a PC game?

  31. Premium User Badge

    JayG says:

    I could use a lawyer, As a result of this crap I ended up ordering from green man gaming, soon as i heard game was no longer region locked i sent a request cancelling my green man gaming game. They waited 2 days till key was sent, then said as I have key I must buy a game I have no intention of ever using. No exchange, simply I have to, and I don’t think this is legal, especially in a case like this. I would have no problem if they gave me credit, but no, I MUST buy a key I have no intention of using. Laws here are as long as u never USE a product, u can return, so can they do this? Guess I’m gonna find out, but going to the courts over a fucking game, specially after the nonsense they pulled is not what I expected to have to do in my lifetime.