Ownership or Lack Thereof in the Digital Age: The Truth About Digital Downloads

Do you really "own" the games you download from digital stores like Steam, the Playstation Store, and so forth? GP Editor Marcus Estrada examines the conditions that every user agrees to when buying digital games and discusses what they should know about it.

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skyfire22612146d ago

You don't own the games you buy in a brick and mortar either.

All we are (and have ever done technically) buying is the right to use/play the game.

I would rather pay less with Digital Distribution and keep a game forever on my hdd than pay more, play the game and pawn it back for some store credit.

knifefight2146d ago

RE: "I would rather pay less with Digital Distribution and keep a game forever on my hdd than pay more, play the game and pawn it back for some store credit."

^ You know there's nothing requiring you to trade it in, right? I ask because you speak as if you *have* to. I mean, you *can* if you want to, but it's not like you *must*.

Firebird3602146d ago

How do we not own physical games bought from brick and mortar stores? Your comment makes no sense, I have all my games physically in hand and I can do whatever I please with them. How do I not own them? I can lend them out, sell them, trade them, whatever I choose to do I can, because I physically own them. Games on your hdd you do not own and the rights to use them can be taken away at any time. Not possible with physical media.


What he is saying is that we don't own the game itself, just the license. It has always been this way but many consumers in the physical age never noticed the difference...on consoles at least.

Developers have been going after used game retailers for years. In the developer's eyes the used game retailer and the used game buyer are pirates. However, the law stated this was not so. I'll tell you why in a minute.

The data doesn't belong to you. The physical disk does. This physical property allows two things to occur:

1) Possession
2) Ageing

Possession is 9/10ths of the law and it has become the developer's fault for handing the actual game code to consumers. If they wished to make the license enforceable then they needed to find a way to give consumers just the license and not the game code itself. The only way to do that is to take away the disk and sell it in a digital format.

By taking away the disk, the game code becomes an ageless format. Anything ageless will always be considered in new condition. That fact alone will prevent used game retailers from selling used titles. By taking possession away from the consumer they prevent the used game buyer and, at the same time, they can enforce their "license" without giving you the game code.

The article fails to mention PSN so I'll add that tidbit here:

"Use of the terms "own," "ownership", "purchase," "sale," "sold," "sell," "rent" or "buy" on or in connection with SEN First Party Services shall not mean or imply any transfer of ownership of any content, data or software or any intellectual property rights therein from SNEI or its licensors to any user or third party."

Hicken2146d ago

Oh? I'd like to see Sony revoke my right to play my copy of Legend of Dragoon. Or Nintendo stop me from playing Donkey Kong Country.

Until this generation, very few console games had no EULA you had to agree to before you could play. And even now, that's limited almost entirely to games with online components.

Just to be on the safe side, I'm gonna go read through the manual that came with Breath of Fire III when I bought it... and there's nothing. Front Mission 3 was nearby, though, so I took a look at it. This is what it says, word for word:

This manual ad the software described in this manual are copyrighted. All right in the manual and the software are reserved. No part of this manual or the described software may be copied, reproduced, translated, or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form without the prior written consent of SQEA. The described software may not be reversed engineered, decompiled or otherwise disassembled.

The typo in "reversed engineered" is as written, and I'm pretty sure I broke the law just typing it up. But that's the extent of the rights Square(now Square Enix) has regarding my copy of Front Mission 3: I can't copy it.

But ownership? Still mine. Playability? Still mine. Square(Enix) can do nothing to stop me from playing FM3, so long as I don't violate the copyright.

If it were a digital game, they could revoke my right to play whenever they liked. That's a pretty big difference.

It's a difference anybody with good sense would recognize, and instantly dislike.

Yet there are too many people that are too happy to give up their rights because "Digital is the future." Please. I'll stay in the past, if that's the case.

KYU21302146d ago

When it comes down to it we will never own digital distribution purchases in the console market until they create a way for you to transfer/backup your download off of the main system. as it stands right now if you change out your hard drive in a console and the provider just so happen to pull a game or piece of media off of their servers then you not only lose your money you loose your game as well.

DD is just a way for providers to say give me your money and ill let you borrow the game..cuz eventually you'l get tired of playing it or move on to another game and delete it off your drive to get more space and we will have your money and you'll have nothing.

while if your buying hard media, all you need is a working console and the disc.


Well said. I can say from experience on the PS3 that the backups will not allow copyrighted content. Now, using common sense, that's everything you wanted to backup in the first place. They even consider game saves copyrighted.

I've tried the backup and the old PS3/new PS3 transfer using a link cable. Here's what I've found. The PS3 backs up the copyrighted games and saves in a deactivated form, meaning it's all useless without server reactivation. So, you can restore your backups as long as the PSN service is still around AND they still have the game on the store.