The VZBZ (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverbandes, try saying that 3 times fast) announced last week that they were suing Valve. According to their website they are suing over certain details in the Steam software license which forbid the transfer of software bought via Steam as well as the transfer of accounts. As they see it, a consumer pays full price for an app or game and yet only partially owns their purchase.
Valve is an important test case for reselling software because of the way Steam is designed. The games on Steam are tied to particular accounts and many require that you have an active internet connection before they'll run. These technical limitations more than anything act as a block on a consumer's rights to resell their purchases. Even if someone burned the game files to a disk and sold that the buyer still wouldn't be able to play the game.
If similar cases are any guide, this case is expected to take years before a judge issues a ruling. The Oracle case mentioned in the above link was originally filed in 2007 and only decided last year.
So what's the ebook angle? First, there's the obvious part about Europeans now having the right to resell the ebook apps they buy (try telling that to Apple). But more importantly the Oracle decision covers a customer's ability to resell a software license. eBooks are sold under similar licenses with similar limitations. Arguably the Oracle decision covers ebooks as well, though you'd have to find the right lawyer to argue that point in court.
Don't look now, but you just added software to your ebook.
The interactive component of an Epub3 file is arguably software and not the usual text and images found in ebooks. It might take a court case to settle the point, but on the face of it you can resell an Epub3 file right now (in Europe). At the very least, once Epub3 becomes more common it will complicate matters.
Don't you just love how new tech complicates existing problems as well as generating completely new ones? I do.
image by pdeonarain