Friday, 20 July 2012

UK law changes on digital consumer rights

The British government, specifically the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is proposing to change the law on consumer rights with regard to digital content. That means games, our hobby, will have an entirely new legal framework.

It clearly needs it. Currently the situation is laughable- the company puts in a ridiculous EULA which requires you, as a purchaser to waive every right you have and take any dispute to somewhere so far away it may as well be Mongolia if you do want to dispute it. These things are supposed to be contracts but they really aren't because one party has no power of negotiation. If you read, say, the Secret World's Eula and then contact Funcom and say the Eula's fine except I don't agree to dispute resolution being done in Norway (or whatever) then their answer is almost certainly going to be "tough, take it or leave it." So it's not actually a contract, it's not a negotiated agreement. It's simply a forced waiving of your rights. It's the old Roman system of caveat emptor, a system which was replaced as commerce rose in the seventeenth century because it's a crap system, it restrains trade because you can't trust the seller. It hurts both parties in the long run.

Not so long ago a games company required customers on April 1st to agree to a Eula forfeiting their souls. They collected 7500 souls from gamers who agreed to this Eula. Nobody reads them, everyone has to agree to them, it's ridiculous and unfair to expect people to be bound by them.

But what will a strong consumer protection framework mean for games? Can you ask for your money back if they nerf your paladin?


The consultation is open to the public at the moment so the law that final comes can be changed by our input. It's inevitable that strong representation from the industry will attempt to neuter the law so it's important that as many of us players as possible provide input to the consultation so that it leads to a workable law that protects consumers without making it impossible to sell games where the experience changes. Because if a consumer if protected from being given a worsened experience, then they are perhaps protected from having their paladin nerfed and that would suck. Not because I hate paladins, but because there needs to be some artistic freedom to tinker with the game in something like a MMO.

Tomorrow I'll do a question by question analysis of the shortened consultation.


  1. Uh... please god tell me this is a troll.

  2. No. Just click the link to the government site.

  3. Damn... Stabs, I respect you as, you know, one of 'us', (bloggers... that slghtly creepy subgroup of human beings who feel a compulsion to share our unrequested opinions about, well, whatever, by sitting all alone for hours and typing into glowing screens... Oh and my wife ia a Brit and I am of Welsh extraction, albeit from a really long LONG time ago...) but as for this "idea" of the UK lawmakers...

    To put it bluntly,

    The EULA is not, nor has it ever been a 'contract'. It is an "End User License Agreement", underscore LICENSE. Nowhere does it say contract.

    License, to wit:
    noun /līsəns/ 
    licences, plural; licenses, plural

    A permit from an authority to own or use something, do a particular thing, or carry on a trade (esp. in alcoholic beverages)
    - a gun license
    - vehicle license fees

    Formal or official permission to do something
    - logging is permitted under license from the Forest Service


    If you do not 'agree' with their 'license' then you do not get to legally use their product. Period.

    You are not, now were you ever, "FORCED" into ANYTHING.

    Please, please tell me when did ANY representative of CCP, in ANY function, MAKE anyone want to play EVE? Was it an advertisement? Are people that gullible? Are people that manipulateable? Really? Forced? Oh effin Please.

    We all decide, of our own FREE WILL, whether or not we want to play EVE Online. A PRODUCT created and 'licensed' by CCP. It is theirs. They OWN it.

    If you want to play their game, use their software and their servers, then you do so by their rules and they ask you to sign off that you AGREE to their rules via the EULA.

    There is no 'negotiation' and there never ever should be because that will be the day every MMO goes off line, because thier lawyers told em to.

    1. OK we're getting slightly hung up on terms. A contract is any agreement. If I say I'll high five you when I win Eve, that's technically a contract. It's also a phrase it's also a sentence. And if someone cuts and pastes what I said it's a quote.

      It doesn't need to specifically state it is a contract/phrase/sentence/quote in order to be one. A cat is an animal even though it doesn't have a label on it stating so.

      Next, I'm using the word "forced" in the sense of required in order to use the software. For instance when I bought this PC it came with Windows. In order to run anything on that operating system I have to agree to Microsoft's EULA. One could argue that I'm not actually "forced" to agree, I could just leave the computer inactive as a rather expensive desk ornament or spend the next 10 000 hours of free time trying to work out Linux. However those options are so bad that effectively they are meaningless as alternatives.

      In the same way if someone holds a gun to your wife's head and says get in the car you could claim you are not forced to get in. You have a choice. You could choose to let him shoot her.

      But most people, and certainly the English common law tradition, is that being required to do something or [insert bad option here] is coercive.

      next you argue that if the law was changed no one would market products in this country. There are many many products that are subject to very strict regulation. Food, for instance. Or children's toys. There's no shortage of these things for sale here.

      If UK law diverges from US law then a different EULA will simply be part of localisation. If you want to market your product in Russia you need to translate it into Russian. If you want to sell it in UK you need to modify your EULA.

      It might possibly inhibit some products but not many and certainly not Eve. CCP makes a lot of money out of its UK playerbase and even has an office here. In fact a similar incident happened with Diablo 3 where the South Korean government imposed legal restrictions that meant the game as originally conceived couldn't be sold there. Blizzard just modified the game.

      As for CCP setting the rules, the rules in this country are known as laws, are set by the UK parliament and trump private codes. If CCP (or any other company) wishes to do business here they must comply with our laws. Which are drawn up by, in this case, a government department in consultation with citizens. And as citizens we have every right to lobby for how we wish digital content to be regulated in our countries.

    2. Oh another thing - blogging isn't creepy. What we are doing is just writing. Same as what Jane Austen or Geoffrey Chaucer were doing in earlier periods using different technology. It's social and consensual, the opposite of creepy.

  4. Just a quick note to let you know I put a link to this on my bloggy because its so interesting - and important too


    another creepy blogger :)

    1. Good stuff. I've keep an eye on this, it will be some time before they announce policy.