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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node Kaira-'s Avatar
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    Valve to Steam users: no class-action suits

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/0...s-action-suits

    Valve has issued an update to its Steam Subscriber Agreement that effectively prevents all Steam users from joining in class action lawsuits against the company. Valve's new SSA requires that "you [the user] and Valve agree to resolve all disputes and claims... in individual binding arbitration," mimicking similar language added by EA to its Origin service agreement and Microsoft with Windows 8.

    Valve offers a curious explanation for the change in a press release, speaking on users' behalf: "In far too many cases, class actions donít provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims. Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities."

    Unlike other companies who've issued language to prevent class-actions, Valve has granted users a weird bit of compensation in the new SSA. Anyone who elects to use individual arbitration to resolve any Steam-related disputes can expect to have their cost of arbitration paid for entirely by Valve, no matter the final decision. However, for this offer to stand, the claim must be under $10,000, and the arbitrator must not "determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable."

    -snip-
    So, thoughts about this then?

    Seems to be in line with businesses in general (aka not all that good at all), and the explanation to this change seems quite... laughable. The offering hand is a nice gesture obviously, but it should be contrasted against what they want to take away.

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    They're saving themselves money on lawyers. EA's had this clause for quite a while - not that such makes it a good thing - but the reason is basically that: So they don't just stumble from one protracted lawsuit to another.

    Part of me says it's a breach of trust between Valve and consumers - as you can't just pull out on your collections now, so it's less a contract and more an ultimatum - and part of me says it's a natural reaction to our society's over-litigious nature.
    Last edited by Nalano; 01-08-2012 at 03:24 AM.
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  3. #3
    Lesser Hivemind Node Spider Jerusalem's Avatar
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    i don't really have a problem with this.

    as i, for one, welcome our new drm overlords.

  4. #4
    Network Hub Protoman's Avatar
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    All of the lawsuits I've seen on steam have been for silly things; mostly the user bought a game without researching and took a gamble buying it, only to find out that they don't like it... and I guess that means they should sue? I saw someone saying on the forums they were going to sue Valve for distributing Fray because it's "unfinished" when you could easily just click "Visit the Forums" and find more than enough people claiming something similar. And someone else was going to sue them because Dear Esther is apparently not a game, when you could figure that out within like 2 minutes with a little research! I mean I can't say that every lawsuit has been this scenario, as that's probably not true, but I'd be willing to bet a majority are.

  5. #5
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    If there were ever a legal issue worth a C.A. suit (massive defrauding, for example), I'm sure this agreement wouldn't stop it, anyway.

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    Lesser Hivemind Node Kaira-'s Avatar
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    Some more quick thoughts of mine: in the EU, you can't sign away your rights. This alone should nullify the SSA (I'm not a lawyer though, so I may as well be in the wrong here). On top of that, why the fuck would I as an European go through American Arbitation System? Makes no sense to me.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaira- View Post
    Some more quick thoughts of mine: in the EU, you can't sign away your rights. This alone should nullify the SSA (I'm not a lawyer though, so I may as well be in the wrong here). On top of that, why the fuck would I as an European go through American Arbitation System? Makes no sense to me.
    I don't suspect it's about the feasibility of enforcement so much as Valve having come to the conclusion that if anything can kill the company, it's a protracted class action lawsuit that in any way suspends Steam's services - even temporarily - for even if they won the suit, their business would be crushed. As such, any effort to defend against this, however ineffective, is in their best interest.
    Last edited by Nalano; 01-08-2012 at 03:45 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Actually, reading clause 12, you waive your right to sue Valve in any form. It's a mandatory binding arbitration clause, which is becoming very common in the U.S., unfortunately.

    From clause 12:
    YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU AND VALVE ARE GIVING UP THE RIGHT TO SUE IN COURT AND TO HAVE A TRIAL BEFORE A JUDGE OR JURY.

  9. #9
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    You can thank AT&T and SCOTUS for this, even if you don't live in the US. At least Europe seems to be wising up and giving consumers back some of their rights. The US is just pushing harder and harder to strip them away.

    It's pretty sad when stuff like 1984 and pretty much every piece of cyberpunk literature was written as a bit of worst-case scenario fiction, but they've been used as a blueprint for reality. I wouldn't be surprised if we have private corporate armies working inside national borders in the next 50-75 years. I mean, we already have private, for-profit, armies helping fight our wars so who's to say that we won't take it further?

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tritagonist's Avatar
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    I don't like these kinds of legal shenanigans, and they're part of the reason I only buy cheap games from Steam and other online-DRM services. It is and feels more like a rental in that case - which those games kinda are.

    Quote Originally Posted by unruly View Post
    I wouldn't be surprised if we have private corporate armies working inside national borders in the next 50-75 years. I mean, we already have private, for-profit, armies helping fight our wars so who's to say that we won't take it further?
    You don't have to wait. Blackwater/Xe Services/Academi and others have been doing that since at least 2005.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tritagonist View Post
    You don't have to wait. Blackwater/Xe Services/Academi and others have been doing that since at least 2005.
    What I meant by that was that we'd have Sony, or Apple, or AT&T hiring Blackwater as a private army in much the way that the US has used them in Iraq, and it being legal. I wasn't meaning that Blackwater would be used as "public"(i.e. state-contracted) extension of law enforcement/military despite being a private company. As an example of what I was meaning, you'd have Kaz Hirai being escorted around LA by a Sony-branded military convoy, shooting anyone who looked at the convoy funny, during E3. And no murder charges or anything would be pressed against any of the operators because Sony would have some form of sovereign immunity or whatever the bullshit excuses the US keeps using for Blackwater in Iraq are. Using Blackwater as an extension of the police force is yet another step towards that end though.

  12. #12
    Lesser Hivemind Node Scumbag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unruly View Post
    What I meant by that was that we'd have Sony, or Apple, or AT&T hiring Blackwater as a private army in much the way that the US has used them in Iraq, and it being legal. I wasn't meaning that Blackwater would be used as "public"(i.e. state-contracted) extension of law enforcement/military despite being a private company. As an example of what I was meaning, you'd have Kaz Hirai being escorted around LA by a Sony-branded military convoy, shooting anyone who looked at the convoy funny, during E3. And no murder charges or anything would be pressed against any of the operators because Sony would have some form of sovereign immunity or whatever the bullshit excuses the US keeps using for Blackwater in Iraq are. Using Blackwater as an extension of the police force is yet another step towards that end though.
    Well, at least if EA got that they would be able to make something more true to the Syndicate roots then the last game.
    Sorry for that, continue with serious talk.

  13. #13
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giaddon View Post
    Actually, reading clause 12, you waive your right to sue Valve in any form. It's a mandatory binding arbitration clause, which is becoming very common in the U.S., unfortunately.

    From clause 12:
    I wonder if this stands if someone hacks anything Steam-related. I mean, Sony sued over the PS3 being hacked, and that was just stupid. The fact that you can't have control over physical consoles that you bought legally really says something, but I mean, Valve is outright saying that they aren't allowed to sue YOU either. What exactly are the circumstances under which they CAN sue you?

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    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnki View Post
    What exactly are the circumstances under which they CAN sue you?
    Well, they definitely can if it involves piracy or copyright infringement, as there's a specific exemption clause for that.

    Valve's decision to avoid class action lawsuits though encompasses a very wide scope of law, and isn't limited to what they list ("THAT INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO...") so I guess the only way to know how far it goes is to test it. Heh, had a good laugh at unfair competition too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnki View Post
    I wonder if this stands if someone hacks anything Steam-related. I mean, Sony sued over the PS3 being hacked, and that was just stupid. The fact that you can't have control over physical consoles that you bought legally really says something
    Sony's lawsuits about the hacking of the PS3 were basically copyright lawsuits though. GeoHot and the rest of the hackers were using, modifying, and distributing Sony's code in a way that wasn't permitted by the license. As much as I disagree with the current state of copyright law, I have to grudgingly give Sony a pass on that particular case. It was one of those "legally right, morally wrong" things. If GeoHot et al had fully written their own custom firmware for the PS3, completely from scratch, and Sony managed to win, then I'd be much more outraged. But that wasn't the case. As the case actually was, it was more along the lines of a case where someone released a GPL-derivative product under a non-GPL license. The people involved were given the right to use the code under a certain set of circumstances, and by violating those circumstances they lost their right to use the software. The Free Software Foundation uses similar arguments all the time in enforcing the GPL on companies that modify GPL-licensed software but then don't release the source code.

    Sony knows that they can't really go after someone for physically modifying the hardware, because physical property is much more heavily protected compared to "intellectual property" when it comes to a consumers rights. They can't say that the hardware you bought at a register, without being presented a contract prior to purchase, was only rented and expect to win. What they can say is that the software present on said hardware at the time of purchase was released to you under license, which you have to agree to before you can actually do anything with the hardware, and that the license gave them the right to revoke your license for any reason and at any time. So as long as the custom firmware options out there rely on the cracking or modifying of Sony's official firmware, they can shut down the custom firmware makers. But as soon as someone writes a 100% from scratch, clean-room coded, custom firmware that protection disappears as well.

  16. #16
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unruly View Post
    Sony's lawsuits about the hacking of the PS3 were basically copyright lawsuits though. GeoHot and the rest of the hackers were using, modifying, and distributing Sony's code in a way that wasn't permitted by the license. As much as I disagree with the current state of copyright law, I have to grudgingly give Sony a pass on that particular case. It was one of those "legally right, morally wrong" things. If GeoHot et al had fully written their own custom firmware for the PS3, completely from scratch, and Sony managed to win, then I'd be much more outraged. But that wasn't the case. As the case actually was, it was more along the lines of a case where someone released a GPL-derivative product under a non-GPL license. The people involved were given the right to use the code under a certain set of circumstances, and by violating those circumstances they lost their right to use the software. The Free Software Foundation uses similar arguments all the time in enforcing the GPL on companies that modify GPL-licensed software but then don't release the source code.
    And here I've been using that as my major "how not to do business" cases. See, to my understanding, all that happened is one kid reverse-engineered something to find out a single code, which unlocked something or other, and then never was able to actually distribute any more than info on how he did it because Sony sued/cease-and-desisted him before he could. Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with a "how I did it" because it assumes that so many consumers are actually going to be willing to go through that crap, and then there's a margin for error from people who just don't know what they're doing, etc. Then there's the fact that someone could be doing exactly what they were, except in secret, who's potentially at a much more dangerous stage, that isn't getting sued.

    Either way, thanks for clearing that up.

    That said, I think that any software distributed with the hardware should be fair game, if only because it's on the hardware. You can't modify the hardware without inversely affecting the software in some manner, be it performance, or some other manner. The way it works now is rather stupid.
    Last edited by johnki; 01-08-2012 at 07:11 AM.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    On the surface, I can't see most users really caring. Also I'm pretty sure that there's a clause in there which states that it can't operate contrary to local laws:

    (Regarding the EU): You agree that this Agreement shall be deemed to have been made and executed in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and that it is subject to the laws of Luxembourg, excluding the law of conflicts and the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). However, where the laws of Luxembourg provide a lower degree of consumer protection than the laws of your country of residence, the consumer protection laws of your country shall prevail. In any dispute arising under this Agreement, the prevailing party will be entitled to attorneys� fees and expenses.

    (Irrespective) This Section does not prevent you from bringing your dispute to the attention of any federal, state, or local government agencies that can, if the law allows, seek relief from us for you
    Legal arbitration is generally preferable to dragging things through the courts these days, so that the courts can deal with stuff that really matters (like, oh I don't know, serious crimes of murder or rape or what have you). It's probably preferable, and it's not like independent arbitration is a power unto itself to ignore all laws.

    But underneath that it reminds me that when companies like... well, anyone except Valve introduce something like this, people crucify them and parade through the virtual streets with the flesh of fallen angels adorning their faces as grotesque masks. I can't help but think that a similar sort of reaction is warranted here, particularly when I'd say that a significant number of PC gamers are using Steam in some capacity. Any changes or scary clauses (no matter how common) to Origin's EULA or ToS or whatever by EA is met with outrage. Where's the outrage here? Because it's Valve, nobody cares and they're above any sort of outrage because they sit on the golden throne of digital distribution, wielding that iron crowbar?


    EDIT: Funnily enough, there's a specific section in there that allows Valve (or whoever) to take whatever legal action they like whenever piracy or copyright infringement is concerned... probably because the dollar amounts for damages can go batshit insane through the roof off the wall with nintendo controllers etc...
    Last edited by soldant; 01-08-2012 at 05:29 AM.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    Any changes or scary clauses (no matter how common) to Origin's EULA or ToS or whatever by EA is met with outrage. Where's the outrage here? Because it's Valve, nobody cares and they're above any sort of outrage because they sit on the golden throne of digital distribution, wielding that iron crowbar?
    To be fair, most people don't give a shit about EA's EULA, either.

    That said, it would be kinda funny if what foments a class action lawsuit is Valve's attempt to ban class action lawsuits.
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  19. #19
    Lesser Hivemind Node Wheelz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    That said, it would be kinda funny if what foments a class action lawsuit is Valve's attempt to ban class action lawsuits.
    I'm a bit of a Valve fan-boy, but even I would pay to make that happen. I'm not familar with the American corporate lawsuit system however, so is that somthing that could be done?

  20. #20
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    Legal arbitration is generally preferable to dragging things through the courts these days,
    For companies. Not for consumer rights.

    so that the courts can deal with stuff that really matters (like, oh I don't know, serious crimes of murder or rape or what have you).
    In the US, civil and criminal courts usually aren't even in the same building. Lawyers generally handle one or the other, not both. So that's just a ludicrous statement.
    Last edited by TillEulenspiegel; 01-08-2012 at 04:18 PM.

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