Good Luck in Court

I got myself into a mini spat with whoever is running @onlinekeystore twitter. Here’s a screenshot of what happened:

Soo… “good luck in court”, eh? I searched on google, and it looks like these are UK people who actually went through the trouble of offshoring their business to Singapore. No wonder they’re not worried trampling on people who can’t just hop over to Singapore and sue them there. Good luck in court, indie developer…

But even before that, I was in tears already at “it’s no crime to sell a game”. Take a hint dude: telling off a small indie dev does not make you a freedom fighter. We are not Microsoft, you’re not fighting the Man here. Do not try to portray yourself as something you’re not.

Your later protestations of “we are all for supporting indie development :-)”, and “[you are free to] contact us regarding contracts” tell me much more about you. And yes, that was an actual smiley there. That’s just hilarious. I have a kid, and I see playground bullies with more finesse daily at the actual playground…

As to why this is bad, if you can be bothered with the gory details, read on…

For some background, this is what happened: an online store I’ve never heard of before is selling our game (the DRM-free version). They don’t have a contract with us. They claim that they’ve bought the games legally and are now reselling them. I have no means to verify that, more so because they’re not an established distributor. There is zero risk of a backlash for them if any irregularities are found. And if I happen to have a problem with that, well… good luck in court!

Legally, they’re clearly in the wrong: the license prohibits them from doing this. More importantly, this is very bad for future prospects of DRM-free distribution. This is because the basis underpining DRM-free is trust. I trust my customers, therefore I don’t burden them with nasty DRM. I trust my distributors, therefore I trust them to account correctly for every single copy of the game sold.

As an indie, my contract with the distributor is just about the only leverage I have here: I can decide which distributor is trustworthy and which is not. And they’re all across the board, believe you me. But if a distributor is found to be scamming the devs, or not paying them or whatever; then the developers collectively have the power to not sign the contract with them. At the moment, it’s a system that seems to work and the games industry is remarkably well behaved in that respect.

Now, people from this “key store” and those similar to them are not accountable in this way.  They tell me that I am “free to contact them about a contract”, but only after the fact. What a smug way to take away your only means of protecting yourself in the market!

Also, your yuck-meter should be in the red on the “it’s no crime to sell a game” line. They’re waving the flag of “fighting the Man” alright, but they do exactly zero for indie games. They also likely undermine DRM-free distribution as such, which literally hinges on the unwritten contract between the developers, distributors and players.







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