If it may please my constant readers…
Ladies, gentlemen, and assorted nether creatures of the Internet, we have gathered today to discuss a matter of grave legal important to the gaming community: that of the threat of Gamestop.
Gamestop’s business model has never been… model. Now, some disgruntled consumers (does Gamestop have any gruntled consumers?) have decided to sue over Gamestop’s used-game model.
The discerning reader may ask, “why is this a lawsuit? Surely no one could have actually lost a jurisdictional minimum amount to bring suit in even the lowest county courts of a state. And you would be correct. You might even ask: sure, a consumer could be fooled once by Gamestop’s insidious sales pitch, but twice? Thrice? Enough to develop a claim that any but the most destitute and starving lawyer would deign to take without a sizable retainer?
The answer, my dear Watson, is the class action lawsuit. A class action is where a definable group of people bring a claim through a class representative (in this case, James Collins). The reason a class is used is because the total number of people with standing (that is, those who have suffered actual injury) is so large that it would be impractical and difficult to satisfy everyone’s rights without trying everything together in a single, massive action.
Collins’ complaint is simple: various games sold by Gamestop in the original packaging promise downloadable content, such as extra levels, weapons, armor, or other non-essential yet valuable content. Much of this content is redeemable only with a single code, which presumably would have been used by the original owner. The purchaser of a used game has no claim on this content… but it is still advertised.
But is that really a valid suit? After all, should consumers have a reasonable expectation that they are buying a full game when they buy it used and at a discount, especially when disclaimers appear on the packaging that downloadable content is available only to first-time purchasers? Would a consumer expect a used car, for example, to still be under the manufacturer’s warranty?
On the other hand, electronic media is quite different. A person that buys a used DVD expects to get the full DVD experience… but what about a DVD that contains a single-use code for a digital download? Does a second-time purchaser have the same rights to make a digital copy as the original purchaser?
These are not unimportant questions: in a changing world, where distribution is moving away from hard copies to digital, what does it mean for people that purchase a used copy of something? Cases like this are how those issues are shaped and litigated. How would you decide this issue?