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After you die, your Steam games will be stuck in legal limbo

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Enlarge / But… but I was about to check Tacoma.

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As Valve’s Steam gaming platform approaches the drinking age in the United States this year, more and more aging PC gamers may be wondering what will become of their vast game libraries. digital games after their death. Unfortunately, legally, your collection of hundreds of overdue games will probably one day disappear with you.

The issue of heritability of digital games gained renewed attention this week as a ResetEra poster cited a response from Steam Support requesting the transfer of Steam account ownership via a last will and testament. “Unfortunately, Steam accounts and games are not transferable,” the response states. “Steam Support cannot provide anyone else with access to the account or merge its content with another account. I regret to inform you that your Steam account cannot be transferred through a will. “

This is, of course, not the first time someone has asked this basic estate planning question. Last year, a Steam forum user cited a similar response from Steam Support saying: “Your account is yours and yours alone. You can now share it with your family members, but you can’t give it away .”

Potential gaps

From a practical standpoint, Steam would have no way of knowing whether you wrote down your Steam username and password and left instructions for your estate to pass this information on to your descendants. When it comes to law ownership From this account, however, the Steam subscription agreement seems relatively clear.

“You may not reveal, share, or allow others to use your password or account unless specifically authorized by Valve,” the agreement reads in part. “You may not… sell or charge others for the right to use your account, or otherwise transfer your account, nor sell, charge others for the right to use, or otherwise transfer subscriptions unless and as expressly authorized by this Agreement…or as otherwise specifically authorized by Valve.”

Eagle-eyed readers might, however, notice a potential loophole in the clauses regarding account transfers that are “specifically authorized by Valve.” Steam forum users have suggested in the past that Valve “would not block this change in ownership” via a will if a user or their estate specifically requested it (Valve did not respond to a request for comment).

Giving all those 3DS and Wii U games to someone else might be difficult for Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil.

There might also be a partial physical workaround for Steam users who bequeath an actual computer with downloaded titles installed. In a 2013 Santa Clara High Technology Law Journal article, author Claudine Wong writes that “digital content is transferable to survivors of a deceased user if legal copies of that content are on physical devices, such as iPod or Kindle e-readers.” But if this descendant wanted to download these games to another device or reinstall them in the event of a hard drive failure, he would be legally out of luck.

Beyond estate planning, the inability to transfer digital game licenses also has implications for video game preservation work. Last year, Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil spent nearly $20,000 buying and downloading every 3DS and Wii U digital game while they were still available. And although Khalil has said he intends to donate the physical machines (and their downloads) to the Video Game History Foundation, subscription agreements mean the charity may have difficulty becoming legally owner of these games and digital accounts. “There is no reasonable, legal path for the preservation of digitally born video games,” Kelsey Lewin, then co-director of VGHF, told Ars last year. “Limiting access to libraries to only physical games might have worked 20 years ago, but we no longer live in a world where all games are sold on physical media, and that hasn’t been the case since a long time.”

News Source : arstechnica.com
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