General Court: Relationship Copyright and EU Competition Law related to geo-blocking activation keys for Steam

08-01-2024 Print this page
IPPT20230927, General Court, Valve v EC

Relationship between EU competition law and copyright online videogames: The General Court confirms that geo-blocking of keys enabling activation for the platform Steam is an infringement of EU competition law. In agreeing bilaterally to that geo-blocking, the operator of the Steam platform, Valve and five PC video games publishers unlawfully restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games that are compatible with that platform.


Press release: The General Court finds that the Commission established to the requisite legal standard the existence of an agreement or concerted practice between Valve and each of the five publishers having as its object the restriction of parallel imports through geo-blocking of keys enabling activation and, in certain cases, use of the video games at issue on the Steam platform. That geo-blocking sought to prevent the video games, distributed in certain countries at low prices, from being purchased by distributors or users located in other countries where prices are much higher.


Thus, the geo-blocking at issue did not pursue an objective of protecting the copyright of the publishers of the PC video games, but was used to eliminate parallel imports of those video games and protect the high royalty amounts collected by the publishers, or the margins earned by Valve.

In response to a number of arguments put forward by Valve, the General Court also rules on the relationship between EU competition law and copyright. In particular, it observes that copyright is intended only to ensure for the right holders concerned protection of the right to exploit commercially the marketing or the making available of the protected subject matter, by the grant of licences in return for payment of remuneration.

However, it does not guarantee them the opportunity to demand the highest possible remuneration or to engage in conduct such as to lead to artificial price differences between the partitioned national markets.

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