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Keyselling punishable and anti-competitive?

On the subject of keyselling, there are two recent rulings that are causing unrest in the industry.

The most unrest, and therefore also worried calls to me in the office, probably brought a judgment of the district court of Giessen. This considered Keyselling due to §§ 2 para. 1 No. 1, 106 para. 1, 108a para. 1 Copyright Act as fraud to the detriment of the customer and thus as a criminal offense. Since in the present case, despite current BGH case law, even intent was assumed, the sentence imposed of 18 months imprisonment on probation is even very draconian. The judgment is already final.

However, caution is advised in applying this ruling to the keyselling of computer games, for example. The case in question involved DreamSpark licenses, which are provided by Microsoft specifically for training institutions and their participants and whose resale was expressly excluded. This is, if at all, only very conditionally transferable to the case where someone purchases a computer game in a non-European country, never installs or registers it, but resells it to customers in another country and does not send the entire package, but only sends the license key for redemption, for example on Steam, via email.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to review one’s business model and to adapt general terms and conditions and business processes. This is especially true due to a ruling by the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court, which holds that the sale of license keys is anticompetitive if the potential buyer is not made aware of all the circumstances before the purchase, especially that a previous copy has really been uninstalled. However, this ruling is also only applicable to all keyselling providers to a very limited extent. Because if a license was never used before, but only price differences within Europe are used, it is also not necessary to prove that a software was uninstalled before the sale.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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