Used eBook Sales Still Blocked in Germany
For the past few months VZBV has been fighting a legal battle similar to the one which they initiated last year over the sale of used computer games. The Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverbandes has argued that consumers should have the right of resale, but unfortunately two different courts have disagreed.
Earlier this week the VZBV lost an appeal which would have overturned a ruling by a district court in Bielefeld.
Correction: The district court did not specifically rule that reselling ebooks was illegal, but that a seller can block the resale by making the buyer agree to give up that right (whether the resale of ebooks is illegal is still an unanswered question). As you might recall from the Usedsoft decision, in the EU sellers cannot force buyers to give up their right to resell software.
The higher regional court at Hamm upheld the district court’s ruling, effectively ending the VZBV’s legal battles – for the moment.
As you might recall, there is an ongoing lawsuit in the Netherlands over a website called Tom Kabinet. That site is a marketplace where users can resell their DRM-free ebooks, and it was sued in late June 2014 by a Dutch publisher’s association.
The Nederlandse Uitgeversverbond (NUV) argued that Tom Kabinet was nothing less than copyright infringement under EU law. They are probably correct, but so far as I know they have not yet secured a ruling in their favor.
While you may have read that stories which claimed used ebook sales were legal in the Netherlands, that is not an accurate description. I can’t see that the case has been decided either way, but I do know that the judge had declined to shut down Tom Kabinet while the parties fought in court.
Used ebook sales aren’t necessarily legal yet in the Netherlands, but there is a chance that they could be. And that leaves open the possibility that used ebook sales could become legal in the European Union.
If the Dutch judge rules in favor of Tom Kabinet, then both this case and the one from Germany will have to be appealed upwards to an EU court. That court will have to decide which ruling is valid, and overturn the other.
It’s far too early to guess which way that EU court will rule, so I wouldn’t hold your breath in anticipation (I wasn’t looking forward to giving you mouth to mouth, anyway). But I do think this could prove to be one of the more interesting legal cases of 2015 or 2016.