The UK is considering a set of laws that give consumers rights over the providers of digital stuff. These new consumer rights will blow a hole through EULAs and side step a whole mess of intellectual property law. All UK consumers of ‘digital content’ would have these rights irrespective of where it’s provided from, the rights cannot be contracted out of, and the remedies apply to content providers where ever they are.
In short, if you are a game company based anywhere selling to the UK - you need to pay attention.
This is a consultation so none of it might happen. Actually that’s not true. The first option will happen as an EU law has been passed that gives consumers greater rights and this includes the digital domain.
This is a consultation so most of it might not happen. But if it does, this is what’s being proposed:
- Digital content – everything from games to MP3s
- Related services – a service you must have to run some content and have no option which service to use e.g. a streaming service
- Enabling services – a service that you need to consume some content but you do have a choice e.g. an ISP
Ensure that stuff is of reasonable quality
This is the big change. The proposal suggest that when a consumer gets a digital thing they should have a reasonable expectation of what that thing is. Just like any other good or service they would buy in the UK.
Seller has go to have the rights to sell it to you – so when Amazon removed Orwell’s 1984 from people’s kindles, that was their bad and the consumes should have got compensation
Is what it says it is – so if I buy something and THEN find out I need some specific player for it, that’s your bad not mine as you should have told me.
Uninterrupted use – so you know when Sony patched the PS/3 so you could not longer run Linux on it. Yeh, they can’t do that any more, as they sold a device that ran Linux and that’s what consumers paid for. The consultation does note that things change, and that’s fine, you just can’t suddenly remove valued features.
It’s basically gotta work – here things get tricky, but basically UK Gov are saying that there’s a reasonable expectation that, allowing for the usual bugs, digitial stuff has gotta be a certain quality
Paid for version is the same as the trial – ok, the trial might be limited but you can’t have a demo that’s substantially different from what people pay for.
And just in case you thought that some things might not full under this, the documents give all kinds of examples:
- A game that needs an online service for authentication but that service is down because of demand – that’s covered
- Open Source – if you sell it, that’s covered too
- Stuff we are just giving away – if the consumer gave you anything of value in return, even information about themselves, that’s covered
- Ahhh, but you did not buy it, you used a virtual currency and that has no value – nope, UK gov covered that one too.
- Ah ha ha, we put in the EULA that you agree to wave you rights as a condition of playing our game – don’t bother, it’s not worth the paper it’s not printed on, these rights are not subject to contract.
The rights against providers that customers may have are:
- Replace or repair
- Reduced purchase price or refund
So, wow, the UK government are treating digital stuff just like other stuff. No EULA or IP trump cards. I'm sure there are a lot of happy consumers out there, but industry, how happy are you? Unreasonable burden on business? Have Koster's rights of the Avatar finally come to pass?
Note the full document is over 250 pages long, so for a very detailed analysis see the summary over at the Virtual Policy Network: http://www.virtualpolicy.net/ukcontentrights.html
tVPN is also putting together a civil society / academic response on Google Docs.
The full consulation can be found here: http://www.bis.gov.uk/consultations/consultation-rationalising-modernising-consumer-law