Steaming Pile of Terms of Service: A Policy Primer Presentation

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  • This presentation was interesting as a Steam user. Although already knowing some of the basics it was good to learn everything clearly. Most interestingly though is the amount of similarities that can be drawn with World of Warcraft, the subject of my presentation, along with a few differences.
    Firstly both Steam and World of Warcraft make clear that they are able to monitor what you do while you use their application. Both Steam and World of Warcraft have a clear similarity in terms of issues of ownership (or lack thereof). In both cases, you would initially assume or feel you have ownership of the Steam games you purchase, and your World of Warcraft account and characters, when in both cases the user does not. Both Blizzard and Valve are free to delete accounts, technically with no reasoning required, and neither is required to refund, recover or reimburse anything in the event of lost content, accounts, money or games.
    Both Valve and Blizzard similarly reserve ownership of user generated content, giving them the opportunity to profit from their user-base’ creativity.
    Overall, both Valve and Blizzard own and control a lot more than is made apparent at first glance, and they both have significant freedom over users’ content. This lack of users’ ownership overlapping in both of the Terms of Service helps remove the illusion of ownership, not only with these two services but also in other areas online, demonstrating that we can’t simply assume ownership in online spaces in the same way as offline.

    My World of Warcraft presentation can be found at https://docs.google.com/presentation/pub?id=1_c-NeaGMUgQx-HtQJdzzuiugksd31rQULufNkVc9OsA&start=false&loop=false&delayms=60000#slide=id.p
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  • As Valve maintains the right to terminate an account at any time (ie whether the user is in breach of terms or otherwise) with no requirement to refund or reimburse the user it would be interesting to know how often Valve actually terminate user accounts and whether this generates any significant revenue for the company (eg from any unused credits). It seems that recent changes to the EULA, which has users agree to sign away their right to take any class action lawsuit against the company, has created quite a stir within that gaming community (Lilly, 2012; RPS, 2012). If a class action does ever ensue in future, I wonder how the EULA will stand up in court, especially in countries outside of the EU (as these users are bound by different terms). Users should question the motivations of Valve for introducing such measures.
    I covered the terms of use for Wikipedia in my policy primer (see http://www.slideshare.net/jkb12/net503-policy-primer-on-wikipedia) and there are stark contrasts between the two services, primarily that Wikipedia is a free access information service, versus Valve, a subscription-based entertainment service. Wikipedia wants users to both create and share content - the proviso being that users only share work of which they own the copyright, or reference the work of others that they use (Wikimedia Foundation, 2012). Content also needs to be published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license and GNU Free Documentation license. This is to help facilitate the sharing of information and to ensure credit is given where credit is due. Although Valve provides the infrastructure for users to share and create content, based on your primer, it seems that any user-generated content within the service is in turn owned by Valve to use at their will, even to pass on to third parties without notification or authority. This has ramifications for both intellectual property, and user privacy.
    References
    Lilly, P. (2012). Valve’s updated Steam agreement bars class action lawsuit, but is it legal? ExtremeTech. Retrieved from http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/133806-valves-updated-steam-agreement-bars-class-action-lawsuit-but-is-it-legal
    RPS. (2012). Steam’s Sub Agreement Prohibits Class-Action Lawsuits. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved from http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/08/01/steams-sub-agreement-prohibits-class-action-lawsuits/
    Wikimedia Foundation. (2012). Terms of Use. Retrieved from http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Terms_of_use
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Steaming Pile of Terms of Service: A Policy Primer Presentation

  1. 1. Terms of Service:o PRIVACY POLICY AGREEMENTo SUBSCRIBER AGREEMENT IPOP303 Policy Primer Simon Godfrey
  2. 2. What is STEAM? = ?
  3. 3. STEAM : is an online platform for distributionand purchase, multiplayer communicationand DRM developed by VALVe Corp. STEAM is accessed via a client which installs on the users computer, mac or PS3 console
  4. 4. (VALVe: SoftwareDeveloper foundedby ex Microsoftemployees GabeNewell and MikeHarrington, alsodeveloped the‘source’ engine usedin all subsequentVALVe games. Steamhas exclusivity ofthese games, all ofwhich are bestsellers)
  5. 5. IN SHORTo 54,000,000 active user accounts as of 2012 (Gaming Bolt 2012)o 70% dominance on digital distribution market (Gamasutra 2009)o Cloud based distribution and account info storageo Distributes Proprietary Software Licenseso Steam offers integration of User Generated Content with the Steam system (Steam 2012)
  6. 6. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo User downloads and installs the client on applicable hardware.Thus agreeing to:o http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/o http://store.steampowered.com/privacy_agreement/
  7. 7. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo Children under the age of 13 are encouraged to only sign up with parental guidance.This is not enforced and any child can install Steam withoutadult consent. However, a credit card, Steam Wallet or PayPalaccount is still needed to purchase games.
  8. 8. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo User account information can be changed upon request: The user can manipulate the way they are represented within the Steam user-base and community, at the discretion of Steam.This means anyone can obtain Steam and assume the identityof any demographic they choose, unless Steam discovers this
  9. 9. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo Habits and behaviours of individual users and demographics can be monitored at the discretion of Steam and shared to other parties without restrictionOther parties include Law Enforcement, disclosure towhom is not made clear in the Agreement.
  10. 10. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo Habits and behaviours of individual users and demographics can be monitored at the discretion of Steam and shared to other parties without restrictionThis includes hardware monitoring and reporting,which is optional by request.The hardware survey gages the performance andusage of hardware and software by users for Steammarketing purposes. (Steam 2012)
  11. 11. HOWEVERo “Valve will not share personally identifying information with third parties for marketing purposes.”VALVe won’t sell your details to marketing companies. Good on you VALVe.
  12. 12. HOWEVERo If you use a proxy/VPN for anonymity: VALVe can terminate your Steam account:“You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguisethe place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictionson game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography,or for any other purpose. If you do this, we may terminate your access toyour Account.”
  13. 13. HOWEVER o “VALVe may cancel your account or any particular Subscription(s) at any time.”For, but not limited to; “a violation of this Agreement orimproper or illegal activity” VALVe may cancel theuser’s account without obligation of refund.
  14. 14. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo In the case of account cancellation: “You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Valve, its licensors, and its and their affiliates...”This clause survives the account termination, so evenif you are no longer a Steam client, Steam is notlegally obliged to you.
  15. 15. WHEN A USER SIGNS UPo Violation of the Agreement or illegal activity can include the illegal modification and repurposing of software distributed by SteamThis is to prevent piracy via the Steam network,however this is enforced by Steam DRM.Steam allows and encourages the use of theirworkshops to modify and create User GeneratedContent
  16. 16. USER GENERATED CONTENTo VALVe has an unlimited use license on ALL user generated content“you expressly grant Valve and its affiliates the complete and irrevocableright to use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from, distribute,transmit, broadcast, and otherwise communicate, and publicly display andperform the User Generated Information and derivative works thereof in anyform, anywhere, with or without attribution to you, and without any notice orcompensation to you of any kind.”o If a user creates, modifies or contributes to content made available on Steam (maps, mods, programs) this belongs to Steam with no obligation on their part to the user.
  17. 17. USER GENERATED CONTENTo VALVe has an unlimited use license on ALL user generated content This agreement survives subscriptiontermination: “All your data are belong to Steam”
  18. 18. HOWEVER:o A user may cancel their OWN account at any timeo BUT the account still exists but is rendered inaccessible. (AccountKiller 2012)Only accounts with no purchases made/no licences orsubscriptions pending are fully deleted, meaningpersonal info is retained on VALVe servers This also means no refunds or transfer of purchased games/software can be attained
  19. 19. HOWEVER:o This means that if an account is lost, deactivated, terminated or cancelled in any way:VALVe does not have any obligation to refund orcompensate for loss of digital licenses in any way:The games you buy are merely borrowed via Steamand are never possessed by the user as independentsoftware.
  20. 20. That’s right:“Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software.”
  21. 21. Lawsuit and Class Action Waiver; restricting the legalpower of the user.This means no legal action against VALVe in the case of:o Fraudo Torto Statuteo Unfair competitiono Misrepresentationo “Any other legal theory”Steam allows, however, for claims against unauthorised use,piracy or theft from the user’s account, to be dealt with betweenthe user and Steam.
  22. 22. LEGALo Any legal proceedings outside of Europe must take place in Washington state.“You agree that this Agreement shall be deemed to have been made andexecuted in the State of Washington, and any dispute arising hereunder shall beresolved in accordance with the law of Washington.”o All legal proceedings within Europe must take place in Luxembourg“You agree that this Agreement shall be deemed to have been made andexecuted in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and that it is subject to the laws ofLuxembourg, excluding the law of conflicts and the Convention on Contracts forthe International Sale of Goods (CISG)..”
  23. 23. LEGALo All legal proceedings within Europe must take place in Luxembourg, however:“However, where the laws of Luxembourg provide a lower degree of consumerprotection than the laws of your country of residence, the consumer protectionlaws of your country shall prevail. In any dispute arising under this Agreement,the prevailing party will be entitled to attorneys fees and expenses.”o Steam is flexible in application of its legal consumer protection and rights, in favour of the user (outside of the USA).
  24. 24. DISTRIBUTIONo Purchasing software requires a credit card or pre- payment to ‘Steam Wallet’, VALVe’s in-house ‘PayPal’ Want to take money back out of your Steam Wallet? o NON REFUNDABLE
  25. 25. DISTRIBUTIONo Purchasing software requires a credit card or pre- payment to ‘Steam Wallet’, VALVe’s in-house ‘PayPal’ Want to close your account and get your game licences transferred/redeemed? o NON REFUNDABLE
  26. 26. DISTRIBUTIONo Purchasing software requires a credit card or pre- payment to ‘Steam Wallet’, VALVe’s in-house ‘PayPal’ VALVe closes your account while you have game licences purchased? o NON REFUNDABLE
  27. 27. DISTRIBUTIONo Purchasing software requires a credit card or pre- payment to ‘Steam Wallet’, VALVe’s in-house ‘PayPal’ Change in subscription details incur additional costs? o NON REFUNDABLE
  28. 28. DISTRIBUTIONo Purchasing software requires a credit card or pre- payment to ‘Steam Wallet’, VALVe’s in-house ‘PayPal’ Extra cash in your Steam Wallet when your account is terminated? o NON REFUNDABLE
  29. 29. DISTRIBUTIONo And finally: “When you provide payment information to Valve or to one of its payment processors, you represent to Valve that you are the authorized user of the card, PIN, key or account associated with that payment” Steam also says in the event of unauthorised usage of your account is entitled to claims, however, this clause make these circumstances. Otherwise: o NON REFUNDABLE
  30. 30. CENSORSHIP:o Censorship of content: Steam offers censored editions of games depending on the national position i.e.; Australia has had no R18+ classification for games, many have been altered or banned.o Banned games are not available through Steam in applicable countries, if at all.o Cheating, hacking or otherwise disobeying the Steam acceptable conduct policy incurs account termination.
  31. 31. STEAM ONLINE CONDUCT All Steam subscribers agree to not commit any of the following offences:o Upload copyrighted materialo Infringe proprietary material rightso Upload malicious softwareo Attack Steam servers in any wayo Use Steam as a marketing scheme userbaseo Violate legal rights of other users including privacy and publicityo Inhibit or restrict enjoyment or use of Steam serviceso Harvest user information in any wayo Create a false identity for the purpose of misleading otherso Violate any law or regulation
  32. 32. WHAT IT BOILS DOWN TO:o When you buy a game: YOU DO NOT OWN ITo When you create content: YOU DO NOT OWN ITo If you close your account/is terminated: NO REFUNDo If you want to use anonymously: ACCOUNT TERMINATEDo If you want to take Steam to court: NO
  33. 33. WORKS CITED• AccountKiller. AccountKiller. 15 August 2012. 3 September 2012 <http://www.accountkiller.com/en/delete-steam-account>.• Graft, Kris. Gamasutra. 19 November 2009. 2 September 2012 <http://www.gamasutra.com/php- bin/news_index.php?story=26158#.UEnWR9bia1w>.• Mudgal, Kartik. Gaming Bolt. 6 January 2012. 2 September 2012 <http://gamingbolt.com/valve-releases-pr-steam- userbase-doubles-in-2011-big-picture-mode-coming-soon>.• Steam. Privacy Policy Agreement. 2012. 5 September 2012 <http://store.steampowered.com/privacy_agreement/>.• —. Steam Hardware & Software Survey: August 2012. 1 August 2012. 4 September 2012 <http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/>.• —. Steam Subscriber Agreement. 2012. 5 September 2012 <http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/>.

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