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Valve Sued In Germany Over Game Ownership

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the mine-now-I-sell-it dept.

Games 384

An anonymous reader writes "The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZVB) has sued computer game distributor Valve because it prohibits Steam-gamers from reselling their games. Steam users own the games they purchase and should be able to resell them when they want to, just like owners of traditional card or board games can, said Carola Elbrecht, project manager for consumer rights in the digital world at the VZVB, on Thursday. But while those traditional game owners can resell their games whenever they like, Steam users often cannot, she said."

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First Post! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759011)

Shame I can't transfer it to another article...

Re:First Post! (5, Funny)

GiantMolecularCloud (2825541) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759027)

Did you purchase it?

Re:First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759643)

It's an intellectual property.

Re:First Post! (3, Funny)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759723)

No, he only licensed it.

First (-1, Offtopic)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759015)

post

inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759017)

Was just a mater of time...

Re:inevitable (3, Insightful)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759179)

Yea it was, but wonder if reason you can't resell your steam games besides ones like assassin's creed III which has striped down version of uplay which you have to register your key with, is the game companies that choose to have steam as their distro platform. Some of them made that call to say they couldn't transfer games. If its made easy to sell a game to another person, protections that are needed to be in place to stop say someone from getting their account hacked and all their games transferred to another person for say 10 cents.

Re:inevitable (2)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759355)

It is an easy problem to fix. Upon transfer the seller's copy is deleted and a fresh copy is provided to the buyer.

Trade-offs (5, Interesting)

Bifurcati (699683) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759033)

Having strong property rights of "things" has always been a huge part of our culture. However, in the same way that piracy is hacking away at traditional entertainment business models, perhaps there needs to be some give & take here. For the prices Steam offers, I'm actually willing to give up my right to resell the games - as long the games were truly free of all other DRM (I hate it that they're not...).

The biggest drawback, as I see it, is longer term not being able to pass the games on to family/friends to play. Perhaps an option is to have a higher tiered pricing which gives you the ability to resell the game later?

Re:Trade-offs (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759057)

What? Steam games are almost always overpriced. They get affordable when they go -50% or lower. Its always true for any "non-western" country, but from what I can tell on sites like HotUKDeals ans such - it should be also true for others. Steam is not cheap. I still have around 100 games there, but I wait for bargains, never ever buy at full price.

Re:Trade-offs (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759091)

What? Steam games are almost always overpriced. They get affordable when they go -50% or lower. Its always true for any "non-western" country, but from what I can tell on sites like HotUKDeals ans such - it should be also true for others. Steam is not cheap. I still have around 100 games there, but I wait for bargains, never ever buy at full price.

What? The digital copies of games are usually priced lower than their disc-copy retail counterparts.

Also it's Steam that pushes the idea of these deep discount sales. What do you mean Steam is overpriced? It's cheaper than anything else out there, except limited one-time deals like Humble Indie Bundles restricted to a tiny subset of games, or older games sold by platforms like GOG.

Once in a while Green Man Gaming or Amazon will manage to beat Steam's price on a game, but Steam? Overpriced?
Compared to piracy maybe.

If you're arguing that the price of games in general is too high, then perhaps you have an argument, but what to charge for digital goods is something we as a society are still trying to figure out.

Re:Trade-offs (1)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759191)

Which games are you referring to?
because most of the times i think you can find the retail copy cheaper on sites like amazon than the game is on steam. Of course your local store is more expensive, but that's not the only place you can get the disc-copy retail game from. At least it has been so every time i bothered to look at it. I agree with GP, only the sales are interesting, sometimes.

Re:Trade-offs (4, Informative)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759369)

Actually here in Australia quite often the local store is cheaper. Current example - Far Cry 3 - $69.99 for digital download only Steam, vs $59.99 in the local store for the Insane Edition with the survival kit and bobble-head figurine... Assassins Creed 3 - $45 at the store, $69.99 on Steam.

Re:Trade-offs (5, Insightful)

sheehaje (240093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759455)

Steam has great sales - that's usually when I buy most of my games.

A few years back I got Batman: Arkham Asylum with Lego Batman bundled in for $20 - a great steal for myself and my son.

This past holiday sale - I got 12 games, ranging from Trine 2 and Torchlight, to Serious Sam 3 and Arkham City for $65 for everything - that's 12 games for a little over what I just spent on 1 game for the Wii U. And I can access them anywhere... Oh yeah, and a great active gaming community that I have instant visibility to while I'm playing on a proven platform. I don't know how many times I've tried games that come with a "social" component that is more a hindrance rather than something useful. Steam takes care of that problem.

My biggest complaint about steam isn't the fact that I can't resell games - I like my collection in tact. It's the fact that they make it so hard for two people to play. I have a family of 4 - and it becomes a royal pain if my son wants to play Grid racing and I want to play Torchlight. Valve really needs to take a look at introducing a family account. Especially if they are going to start pushing Steam Boxes. What a nightmare it will be to have compartmentalized games for each user that has to be purchased for each individual that wants to play it. Yes, there is offline mode, and yes there are ways around most games for single player mode - but they are band-aides to a much more annoying issue.

Re:Trade-offs (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759515)

Physical copies of games over here (Poland) are always much cheaper than Steam ones. Especially with Steam's usual $1=E1 prices, the difference is often quite significant and for some reason Steam counts us among the same price region as Netherlands, Germany, e.t.c.

Example: Far Cry 3. E49.99 on Steam, E31 in a shop right next to my flat and you get one extra DLC with it.

Steam gets cheap only during sales.

cya
Raziel-chan

Re:Trade-offs (4, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759291)

Not true here in the UK. Steam is often priced 10-15% higher than retail, both via mail-order (the kind that houses it's warehouse in a tax haven and ships small-value packages to avoid paying it in the target country) and, for the big titles, the big-box supermarkets (like Asda) often have a competitive price as well.

Re:Trade-offs (2)

sa1lnr (669048) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759509)

"What? The digital copies of games are usually priced lower than their disc-copy retail counterparts."

Excuse me, no they are not.

My local Game store, Batman AC £12.99, Dishonoured £12.99. On steam they're £19.99 and £29.99. Just two examples

And all the cheap SoldOut label games that are £5 each or three for £10 in-store are £6.99 on steam.

Of course there are exceptions, but not that many.

Re:Trade-offs (2)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759105)

They're only cheap if you buy them on like -75% deals and even then I do mind my rights. Every company would love to go to subscription models for everything but you might as well be a slave at that point. It's good for people to reassert our rights every so often.

Re:Trade-offs (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759245)

I have very few games from steam, but the only ones that were inexpensive were those that were over 5 years old. The discount on new games is no where near the price point necessary to be considered "renting". If I pay $40-60 on a game, then I want to be able to lend or give it away to a friend. I did not say resell because too many Steam fans think it's all about Valve vs Gamestop instead of Valve vs customers.

No way can their be a higher tier pricing as you suggest, the prices are already high. Compare Steam price for a new game online to a game in a retail store, they're in the same ballpark. Sometimes for the same game the retail one is cheaper because the store owner is trying to move merchandise and free up shelf space.

Steam games can be purchased physically, which I have done and have had one given to me as a gift. In these cases you still can not transfer the game despite having a physical copy in your hands. All the physical copy does is save a few hours of downloading.

Re:Trade-offs (1)

I. M. Bur (460890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759435)

All the physical copy does is save a few hours of downloading.

For me, the digital copy is always downloaded faster compared to going to the nearest store and buying it there, not to mention I can start the download and install remotely from work and have it ready by the time I come home :)

Re:Trade-offs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759523)

"nowhere" is one word.

Re:Trade-offs (1)

mybeat (1516477) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759421)

You're happy to pay 60 euros or whatever it costs in US for every newish title? Checkout blops2 price , I'd rather buy it of someone who's already bored with it for way less

Re:Trade-offs (1)

Dodgy G33za (1669772) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759635)

So am I, on two conditions.

They shouldn't force me to install another client before I can even play the game. I bought a couple of games in a Steam sale and was very unhappy to have to install two new steam competitors just to be able to play. I chose not to, since you then spend half your life waiting for updates to complete, and turning the bloody things off in your systray.

And they should allow me to gift my games to friends when I am finished with them.

Re:Trade-offs (5, Insightful)

Niedi (1335165) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759661)

Simple solution: They shouldn't try to fool people into thinking they are actually BUYING the game. Rename it to say "license the game" or "rent for an unlimited time" or whatever. I'm fine with their non-transferable model as long as they do not try to tell me I'm actually buying the game. Because if I buy something I expect to actually own it and be able to give it away anytime I want.

Welcome to the PC gaming market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759037)

Where you've almost never been able to resell your games in the past, long before steam came along, due to various DRM. And now more and more games require you to register your CD key online and are bound to your various accounts, be it games from EA, rockstar, ubisoft and possibly many more.

Re:Welcome to the PC gaming market (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759093)

Just because "everybody does it", doesn't mean it's right. There's a certain price point at which you're effectively paying second-hand prices for a game anyway, so the inability to resell them down the road doesn't bother me - a lot of the GoG back catalog (especially when it's on sale!) fits that bill. But just because it doesn't bother me doesn't mean that I shouldn't have that right. More important, though, is the question of what happens when the company goes under, or decides it doesn't want to support a particular game any more. If I drag out my old Karateka discs, and my old Apple II, I can still play it (barring physical media issues, or the computer having a fault.) If, in thirty years' time, I drag out my Starcraft II DVD (or my Assassin's Creed DVD, or whatever), will I still be able to play it? (assuming I have access to a system that can run the code, of course; I'm not necessarily expecting to be able to do the equivalent of playing Apple II games on a Commodore Amiga.)

We're entering a world where physical scarcity no longer matters for a great many things (currently, video, music, and electronic games; this may extend into other items as well in the not-too-distant future); navigating all the issues that that creates will be extremely interesting, for Chinese values of the word.

Re:Welcome to the PC gaming market (2)

Jiro (131519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759133)

GOG doesn't take measures to prevent you from selling their games. There's nothing which prevents you from buying some games from GOG, burning them to a disk, and selling someone that disk. The person who you sell it to won't be able to redownload the games from your account, and if you try to redownload them yourself that's piracy, but there's nothing to keep the person you sell the disk to from using the disk to play the game.

Of course, it would be illegal to sell someone that disk and keep a copy for yourself, but that's also true for a game you can buy in a store.

Re:Welcome to the PC gaming market (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759253)

GOG on the other hand has inexpensive games compared to Steam. It also focuses on very old games that the kids don't want to play anyway. They're not paranoid about the resale market like Valve is.

almost never? (1)

Zimluura (2543412) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759531)

Almost never?

I've almost _always_ been able to resell my games. Fallout 3 was late 2008, thats the last big bethesda game i can recall without drm. Aside from the past 5 years of drm bs, I'd say being able to resell is the norm. Though I guess if you're younger you may think it's always been this sucky.

You can't have your cake ... (2, Funny)

prasadsurve (665770) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759047)

and sell it too.

Re:You can't have your cake ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759111)

Of course I can. I have done that for years with physical games.

And I can do it with cars, books, DVDs, CD, and basically everything else that is not turning into shit while I use it.

Re:You can't have your cake ... (4, Insightful)

allo (1728082) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759297)

a game is nothing you consume. Its like a book. you read/play it once, then you sell it to the next person for a cheaper price.

Re:You can't have your cake ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759439)

A local restaurant around here has a "15-day return policy" on all sales... I haven't gotten around to asking them about it, they sell very fresh foods, mainly salads and yogurts and other kinds of "healthy" choices, most of the stuff on the shelves is no more than 1 or 2 days old, considerably less than their return policy. I think it may have something to do with the applicable laws to however they registered as a business, but c'mon.

Re:You can't have your cake ... (3, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759465)

I sincerely hope that that policy includes a clause about the food in question being undigested.

Re:You can't have your cake ... (1)

progician (2451300) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759563)

Or perhaps let's go further. Since a book do suffer some degradation over time much more than a digital copy that can be copied and used for years and the information suffers no degradation as long as it is kept redundantly we should declare the whole business of selling digital products by copies completely illegal as an act of fraud. Sure, selling a DVD/BR with pretty prints and box is a different ball game, but not because of the content but the packaging.

This is not about the right of re-selling but the actual business model of selling something that comes down so distinctively differently for the production and distribution. If users can arrange the distribution on personal costs, like using bittorrent, the distribution cost is paid by the user for paying for her internet service. The production cost should be collected in a different manner... seems to me the microfunding model can produce enough for that. I wonder however, that how come that companies go an collect the production costs on microfunding websites only to sell digital copies/accounts for games and not to distribute their work properly, in their most future proof form: with enclosed source code and standard, open content formats.

I think, since games today completely separate the underlying heavy lifting code in form of engine and the rest of the system that is the content, the funding for different engines and different contents should be also separated, meaning that the gamer community would help to get their content of choice to their platform of choice, which is heavily restricted by the availability engine/middleware.

Re:You can't have your cake ... (2, Insightful)

Lord_Breetai (66113) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759681)

Haven't you heard? The cake is a lie.

Being able to transfer games would be awesome (5, Insightful)

arkhan_jg (618674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759063)

Back in the days when you bought games individually, you could share them around the household. So if I had bought say, a copy of unreal tournament 3 and call of duty 2, I could play one, and my wife could play the other on her pc (real example! if you prefer, substitute mate or brother for same effect)

Now, with two online game equivalents on my steam account, we can only play one, as both require being online. Even if it came in a box from retail for cash, you often still end up with a steamworks copy. Just giving my wife access to my steam account so we can juggle offline mode between us violates the ToS which theoretically means they can shut down my account and deny access to all my games, or make most of them non playable online with a VAC ban. Same applies for creating a new steam account for each game; not only would that be a giant pain in the ass, but trying to register the same card for multiple accounts risks the lot getting disabled.

They already have the ability to transfer licences between accounts with the gifting system, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to transfer my games to my wife so she can play them when I'm done with them, other than greed.

Re:Being able to transfer games would be awesome (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759125)

The simple answer is boycott products with DRM. Don't give those companies any money otherwise they will think DRM is acceptable.

Re:Being able to transfer games would be awesome (3, Insightful)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759155)

then you are boycotting pretty much 75-80% of the games released now days. they all have some type of register/online activation system.

Re:Being able to transfer games would be awesome (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759233)

Suck it up. Seriously, are people today so pathetic that they can't go without playing some games?

Re:Being able to transfer games would be awesome (5, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759259)

That's ok, because 75-80% of today's games are crap anyway.

Re:Being able to transfer games would be awesome (2)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759679)

then you are boycotting pretty much 75-80% of the games released now days. they all have some type of register/online activation system.

That sounds easy enough to do. Let's see, I just turned 45 half a month ago. Assuming I can make it another 45 years, there is a metric buttload of games on a wide variety of platforms (from Amiga or older to Wii, plus the arcade classics on MAME) that I have yet to get caught up on. As long as I have the hardware to run them on, I can easily go the rest of my life without ever purchasing a new game. Heck, now that I'm thinking about it, I am almost tempted to pull the Vectrex out and play a few rounds of Solar Quest...

Re:Being able to transfer games would be awesome (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759471)

I could play one, and my wife could play the other on her pc

So Steam has actually improved your marriage?

Even Worse with Physical Media (5, Interesting)

ghotihed (928294) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759067)

I think it's even worse when they're disallowing physical media. I specifically purchased a game for my son (Portal) so that when he was finished playing it, I could uninstall it from his computer and install it on mine so I could play. But, even though it was purchased at a store (Wal-Mart, Target, something like that), and it came on a physical disc, uninstalling it from his computer is not enough. It's already been registered and locked to his Steam account, and after several communications with Valve, they refuse to disassociate it from his account.

If it was just a download, then I could sort of, kind of see the restriction. But purchasing a physical object, like a book or a DVD or a CD-ROM, should allow one to disassociate the application from one account and sell it on to the next person to associate with their account.

Re:Even Worse with Physical Media (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759187)

The DRM of physical media also has limits of how many times you are allowed to install the game, no matter if it's on the same computer or not.

Re:Even Worse with Physical Media (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759263)

Many games with physical media do not have DRM. They may have copy protection but that is a very different matter as it's not phoning up the mother ship to ask for permission. Fallout 3 does not need a CD (if you bypass the launcher) so there's not even a need for a no-cd crack.

Re:Even Worse with Physical Media (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759663)

Copy protection is DRM. There's phone-home DRM, and there's DRM that doesn't phone home. For example the DRM which you find for audio/video media generally doesn't phone home, for the simple reason that the player often isn't (and for CDs and DVDs often even cannot) be connected to the internet.

Re:Even Worse with Physical Media (2)

mr_jrt (676485) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759571)

...which is why I've had to stop buying most games now that so many are using Steamworks. I cancelled my Aliens vs. Predator preorder when I found out, and now I won't be buying Aliens: Colonial Marines. Such a shame...but I refuse to have to ask permission to install software.

Re:Even Worse with Physical Media (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759685)

Return it to the store and ask your refund.
The product does not live up to its expectations or does not perform as advertised or ...
When they ask why, just tell you can't install it. And you actually can't.
You even contacted steam etc. to try to resolve the issue.

Return the game, it's broken, get your refund.

Targeted Individuals - Government and Military.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759073)

Mind Games

New on the Internet: a community of people who believe the government is beaming voices into their minds. They may be crazy, but the Pentagon has pursued a weapon that can do just that.

By Sharon Weinberger
Sunday, January 14, 2007

IF HARLAN GIRARD IS CRAZY, HE DOESN'T ACT THE PART. He is standing just where he said he would be, below the Philadelphia train station's World War II memorial -- a soaring statue of a winged angel embracing a fallen combatant, as if lifting him to heaven. Girard is wearing pressed khaki pants, expensive-looking leather loafers and a crisp blue button-down. He looks like a local businessman dressed for a casual Friday -- a local businessman with a wickedly dark sense of humor, which had become apparent when he said to look for him beneath "the angel sodomizing a dead soldier." At 70, he appears robust and healthy -- not the slightest bit disheveled or unusual-looking. He is also carrying a bag.

Girard's description of himself is matter-of-fact, until he explains what's in the bag: documents he believes prove that the government is attempting to control his mind. He carries that black, weathered bag everywhere he goes. "Every time I go out, I'm prepared to come home and find everything is stolen," he says.

The bag aside, Girard appears intelligent and coherent. At a table in front of Dunkin' Donuts inside the train station, Girard opens the bag and pulls out a thick stack of documents, carefully labeled and sorted with yellow sticky notes bearing neat block print. The documents are an authentic-looking mix of news stories, articles culled from military journals and even some declassified national security documents that do seem to show that the U.S. government has attempted to develop weapons that send voices into people's heads.

"It's undeniable that the technology exists," Girard says, "but if you go to the police and say, 'I'm hearing voices,' they're going to lock you up for psychiatric evaluation."

The thing that's missing from his bag -- the lack of which makes it hard to prove he isn't crazy -- is even a single document that would buttress the implausible notion that the government is currently targeting a large group of American citizens with mind-control technology. The only direct evidence for that, Girard admits, lies with alleged victims such as himself.

And of those, there are many.

IT'S 9:01 P.M. WHEN THE FIRST PERSON SPEAKS during the Saturday conference call.

Unsure whether anyone else is on the line yet, the female caller throws out the first question: "You got gang stalking or V2K?" she asks no one in particular.

There's a short, uncomfortable pause.

"V2K, really bad. 24-7," a man replies.

"Gang stalking," another woman says.

"Oh, yeah, join the club," yet another man replies.

The members of this confessional "club" are not your usual victims. This isn't a group for alcoholics, drug addicts or survivors of childhood abuse; the people connecting on the call are self-described victims of mind control -- people who believe they have been targeted by a secret government program that tracks them around the clock, using technology to probe and control their minds.

The callers frequently refer to themselves as TIs, which is short for Targeted Individuals, and talk about V2K -- the official military abbreviation stands for "voice to skull" and denotes weapons that beam voices or sounds into the head. In their esoteric lexicon, "gang stalking" refers to the belief that they are being followed and harassed: by neighbors, strangers or colleagues who are agents for the government.

A few more "hellos" are exchanged, interrupted by beeps signaling late arrivals: Bill from Columbus, Barbara from Philadelphia, Jim from California and a dozen or so others.

Derrick Robinson, the conference call moderator, calls order.

"It's five after 9," says Robinson, with the sweetly reasonable intonation of a late-night radio host. "Maybe we should go ahead and start."

THE IDEA OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE CONVINCED THEY ARE TARGETED BY WEAPONS that can invade their minds has become a cultural joke, shorthanded by the image of solitary lunatics wearing tinfoil hats to deflect invisible mind beams. "Tinfoil hat," says Wikipedia, has become "a popular stereotype and term of derision; the phrase serves as a byword for paranoia and is associated with conspiracy theorists."

In 2005, a group of MIT students conducted a formal study using aluminum foil and radio signals. Their surprising finding: Tinfoil hats may actually amplify radio frequency signals. Of course, the tech students meant the study as a joke.

But during the Saturday conference call, the subject of aluminum foil is deadly serious. The MIT study had prompted renewed debate; while a few TIs realized it was a joke at their expense, some saw the findings as an explanation for why tinfoil didn't seem to stop the voices. Others vouched for the material.

"Tinfoil helps tremendously," reports one conference call participant, who describes wrapping it around her body underneath her clothing.

"Where do you put the tinfoil?" a man asks.

"Anywhere, everywhere," she replies. "I even put it in a hat."

A TI in an online mind-control forum recommends a Web site called "Block EMF" (as in electromagnetic frequencies), which advertises a full line of clothing, including aluminum-lined boxer shorts described as a "sheer, comfortable undergarment you can wear over your regular one to shield yourself from power lines and computer electric fields, and microwave, radar, and TV radiation." Similarly, a tinfoil hat disguised as a regular baseball cap is "smart and subtle."

For all the scorn, the ranks of victims -- or people who believe they are victims -- are speaking up. In the course of the evening, there are as many as 40 clicks from people joining the call, and much larger numbers participate in the online forum, which has 143 members. A note there mentioning interest from a journalist prompted more than 200 e-mail responses.

Until recently, people who believe the government is beaming voices into their heads would have added social isolation to their catalogue of woes. But now, many have discovered hundreds, possibly thousands, of others just like them all over the world. Web sites dedicated to electronic harassment and gang stalking have popped up in India, China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Russia and elsewhere. Victims have begun to host support meetings in major cities, including Washington. Favorite topics at the meetings include lessons on how to build shields (the proverbial tinfoil hats), media and PR training, and possible legal strategies for outlawing mind control.

The biggest hurdle for TIs is getting people to take their concerns seriously. A proposal made in 2001 by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to ban "psychotronic weapons" (another common term for mind-control technology) was hailed by TIs as a great step forward. But the bill was widely derided by bloggers and columnists and quickly dropped.

Doug Gordon, Kucinich's spokesman, would not discuss mind control other than to say the proposal was part of broader legislation outlawing weapons in space. The bill was later reintroduced, minus the mind control. "It was not the concentration of the legislation, which is why it was tightened up and redrafted," was all Gordon would say.

Unable to garner much support from their elected representatives, TIs have started their own PR campaign. And so, last spring, the Saturday conference calls centered on plans to hold a rally in Washington. A 2005 attempt at a rally drew a few dozen people and was ultimately rained out; the TIs were determined to make another go of it. Conversations focused around designing T-shirts, setting up congressional appointments, fundraising, creating a new Web site and formalizing a slogan. After some debate over whether to focus on gang stalking or mind control, the group came up with a compromise slogan that covered both: "Freedom From Covert Surveillance and Electronic Harassment."

Conference call moderator Robinson, who says his gang stalking began when he worked at the National Security Agency in the 1980s, offers his assessment of the group's prospects: Maybe this rally wouldn't produce much press, but it's a first step. "I see this as a movement," he says. "We're picking up people all the time."

HARLAN GIRARD SAYS HIS PROBLEMS BEGAN IN 1983, while he was a real estate developer in Los Angeles. The harassment was subtle at first: One day a woman pulled up in a car, wagged her finger at him, then sped away; he saw people running underneath his window at night; he noticed some of his neighbors seemed to be watching him; he heard someone moving in the crawl space under his apartment at night.

Girard sought advice from this then-girlfriend, a practicing psychologist, whom he declines to identify. He says she told him, "Nobody can become psychotic in their late 40s." She said he didn't seem to manifest other symptoms of psychotic behavior -- he dressed well, paid his bills -- and, besides his claims of surveillance, which sounded paranoid, he behaved normally. "People who are psychotic are socially isolated," he recalls her saying.

After a few months, Girard says, the harassment abruptly stopped. But the respite didn't last. In 1984, appropriately enough, things got seriously weird. He'd left his real estate career to return to school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was studying for a master's degree in landscape architecture. He harbored dreams of designing parks and public spaces. Then, he says, he began to hear voices. Girard could distinguish several different male voices, which came complete with a mental image of how the voices were being generated: from a recording studio, with "four slops sitting around a card table drinking beer," he says.

The voices were crass but also strangely courteous, addressing him as "Mr. Girard."

They taunted him. They asked him if he thought he was normal; they suggested he was going crazy. They insulted his classmates: When an overweight student showed up for a field trip in a white raincoat, they said, "Hey, Mr. Girard, doesn't she look like a refrigerator?"

Six months after the voices began, they had another question for him: "Mr. Girard, Mr. Girard. Why aren't you dead yet?" At first, he recalls, the voices would speak just two or three times a day, but it escalated into a near-constant cacophony, often accompanied by severe pain all over his body -- which Girard now attributes to directed-energy weapons that can shoot invisible beams.

The voices even suggested how he could figure out what was happening to him. He says they told him to go to the electrical engineering department to "tell them you're writing science fiction and you don't want to write anything inconsistent with physical reality. Then tell them exactly what has happened."

Girard went and got some rudimentary explanations of how technology could explain some of the things he was describing.

"Finally, I said: 'Look, I must come to the point, because I need answers. This is happening to me; it's not science fiction.'" They laughed.

He got the same response from friends, he says. "They regarded me as crazy, which is a humiliating experience."

When asked why he didn't consult a doctor about the voices and the pain, he says, "I don't dare start talking to people because of the potential stigma of it all. I don't want to be treated differently. Here I was in Philadelphia. Something was going on, I don't know any doctors . . . I know somebody's doing something to me."

It was a struggle to graduate, he says, but he was determined, and he persevered. In 1988, the same year he finished his degree, his father died, leaving Girard an inheritance large enough that he did not have to work.

So, instead of becoming a landscape architect, Girard began a full-time investigation of what was happening to him, often traveling to Washington in pursuit of government documents relating to mind control. He put an ad in a magazine seeking other victims. Only a few people responded. But over the years, as he met more and more people like himself, he grew convinced that he was part of what he calls an "electronic concentration camp."

What he was finding on his research trips also buttressed his belief: Girard learned that in the 1950s, the CIA had drugged unwitting victims with LSD as part of a rogue mind-control experiment called MK-ULTRA. He came across references to the CIA seeking to influence the mind with electromagnetic fields. Then he found references in an academic research book to work that military researchers at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research had done in the 1970s with pulsed microwaves to transmit words that a subject would hear in his head. Elsewhere, he came across references to attempts to use electromagnetic energy, sound waves or microwave beams to cause non-lethal pain to the body. For every symptom he experienced, he believed he found references to a weapon that could cause it.

How much of the research Girard cites checks out?

Concerns about microwaves and mind control date to the 1960s, when the U.S. government discovered that its embassy in Moscow was being bombarded by low-level electromagnetic radiation. In 1965, according to declassified Defense Department documents, the Pentagon, at the behest of the White House, launched Project Pandora, top-secret research to explore the behavioral and biological effects of low-level microwaves. For approximately four years, the Pentagon conducted secret research: zapping monkeys; exposing unwitting sailors to microwave radiation; and conducting a host of other unusual experiments (a sub-project of Project Pandora was titled Project Bizarre). The results were mixed, and the program was plagued by disagreements and scientific squabbles. The "Moscow signal," as it was called, was eventually attributed to eavesdropping, not mind control, and Pandora ended in 1970. And with it, the military's research into so-called non-thermal microwave effects seemed to die out, at least in the unclassified realm.

But there are hints of ongoing research: An academic paper written for the Air Force in the mid-1990s mentions the idea of a weapon that would use sound waves to send words into a person's head. "The signal can be a 'message from God' that can warn the enemy of impending doom, or encourage the enemy to surrender," the author concluded.

In 2002, the Air Force Research Laboratory patented precisely such a technology: using microwaves to send words into someone's head. That work is frequently cited on mind-control Web sites. Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the research laboratory's directed energy directorate, declined to discuss that patent or current or related research in the field, citing the lab's policy not to comment on its microwave work.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed for this article, the Air Force released unclassified documents surrounding that 2002 patent -- records that note that the patent was based on human experimentation in October 1994 at the Air Force lab, where scientists were able to transmit phrases into the heads of human subjects, albeit with marginal intelligibility. Research appeared to continue at least through 2002. Where this work has gone since is unclear -- the research laboratory, citing classification, refused to discuss it or release other materials.

The official U.S. Air Force position is that there are no non-thermal effects of microwaves. Yet Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, tagged microwave attacks against the human brain as part of future warfare in a 2001 presentation to the National Defense Industrial Association about "Future Strategic Issues."

"That work is exceedingly sensitive" and unlikely to be reported in any unclassified documents, he says.

Meanwhile, the military's use of weapons that employ electromagnetic radiation to create pain is well-known, as are some of the limitations of such weapons. In 2001, the Pentagon declassified one element of this research: the Active Denial System, a weapon that uses electromagnetic radiation to heat skin and create an intense burning sensation. So, yes, there is technology designed to beam painful invisible rays at humans, but the weapon seems to fall far short of what could account for many of the TIs' symptoms. While its exact range is classified, Doug Beason, an expert in directed-energy weapons, puts it at about 700 meters, and the beam cannot penetrate a number of materials, such as aluminum. Considering the size of the full-scale weapon, which resembles a satellite dish, and its operational limitations, the ability of the government or anyone else to shoot beams at hundreds of people -- on city streets, into their homes and while they travel in cars and planes -- is beyond improbable.

But, given the history of America's clandestine research, it's reasonable to assume that if the defense establishment could develop mind-control or long-distance ray weapons, it almost certainly would. And, once developed, the possibility that they might be tested on innocent civilians could not be categorically dismissed.

Girard, for his part, believes these weapons were not only developed but were also tested on him more than 20 years ago.

What would the government gain by torturing him? Again, Girard found what he believed to be an explanation, or at least a precedent: During the Cold War, the government conducted radiation experiments on scores of unwitting victims, essentially using them as human guinea pigs. Girard came to believe that he, too, was a walking experiment.

Not that Girard thinks his selection was totally random: He believes he was targeted because of a disparaging remark he made to a Republican fundraiser about George H.W. Bush in the early 1980s. Later, Girard says, the voices confirmed his suspicion.

"One night I was going to bed; the usual drivel was going on," he says. "The constant stream of drivel. I was just about to go to bed, and a voice says: 'Mr. Girard, do you know who was in our studio with us? That was George Bush, vice president of the United States.'"

GIRARD'S STORY, HOWEVER STRANGE, reflects what TIs around the world report: a chance encounter with a government agency or official, followed by surveillance and gang stalking, and then, in many cases, voices, and pain similar to electric shocks. Some in the community have taken it upon themselves to document as many cases as possible. One TI from California conducted about 50 interviews, narrowing the symptoms down to several major areas: "ringing in the ears," "manipulation of body parts," "hearing voices," "piercing sensation on skin," "sinus problems" and "sexual attacks." In fact, the TI continued, "many report the sensation of having their genitalia manipulated."

Both male and female TIs report a variety of "attacks" to their sexual organs. "My testicles became so sore I could barely walk," Girard says of his early experiences. Others, however, report the attacks in the form of sexual stimulation, including one TI who claims he dropped out of the seminary after constant sexual stimulation by directed-energy weapons. Susan Sayler, a TI in San Diego, says many women among the TIs suffer from attacks to their sexual organs but are often embarrassed to talk about it with outsiders.

"It's sporadic, you just never know when it will happen," she says. "A lot of the women say it's as soon as you lay down in bed -- that's when you would get hit the worst. It happened to me as I was driving, at odd times."

What made her think it was an electronic attack and not just in her head? "There was no sexual attraction to a man when it would happen. That's what was wrong. It did not feel like a muscle spasm or whatever," she says. "It's so . . . electronic."

Gloria Naylor, a renowned African American writer, seems to defy many of the stereotypes of someone who believes in mind control. A winner of the National Book Award, Naylor is best known for her acclaimed novel, The Women of Brewster Place, which described a group of women living in a poor urban neighborhood and was later made into a miniseries by Oprah Winfrey.

But in 2005, she published a lesser-known work, 1996, a semi-autobiographical book describing her experience as a TI. "I didn't want to tell this story. It's going to take courage. Perhaps more courage than I possess, but they've left me no alternatives," Naylor writes at the beginning of her book. "I am in a battle for my mind. If I stop now, they'll have won, and I will lose myself." The book is coherent, if hard to believe. It's also marked by disturbing passages describing how Jewish American agents were responsible for Naylor's surveillance. "Of the many cars that kept coming and going down my road, most were driven by Jews," she writes in the book. When asked about that passage in a recent interview, she defended her logic: Being from New York, she claimed, she can recognize Jews.

Naylor lives on a quiet street in Brooklyn in a majestic brownstone with an interior featuring intricate woodwork and tasteful decorations that attest to a successful literary career. She speaks about her situation calmly, occasionally laughing at her own predicament and her struggle with what she originally thought was mental illness. "I would observe myself," she explains. "I would lie in bed while the conversations were going on, and I'd ask: Maybe it is schizophrenia?"

Like Girard, Naylor describes what she calls "street theater" -- incidents that might be dismissed by others as coincidental, but which Naylor believes were set up. She noticed suspicious cars driving by her isolated vacation home. On an airplane, fellow passengers mimicked her every movement -- like mimes on a street.

Voices similar to those in Girard's case followed -- taunting voices cursing her, telling her she was stupid, that she couldn't write. Expletive-laced language filled her head. Naylor sought help from a psychiatrist and received a prescription for an antipsychotic drug. But the medication failed to stop the voices, she says, which only added to her conviction that the harassment was real.

For almost four years, Naylor says, the voices prevented her from writing. In 2000, she says, around the time she discovered the mind-control forums, the voices stopped and the surveillance tapered off. It was then that she began writing 1996 as a "catharsis."

Colleagues urged Naylor not to publish the book, saying she would destroy her reputation. But she did publish, albeit with a small publishing house. The book was generally ignored by critics but embraced by TIs.

Naylor is not the first writer to describe such a personal descent. Evelyn Waugh, one of the great novelists of the 20th century, details similar experiences in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Waugh's book, published in 1957, has eerie similarities to Naylor's.

Embarking on a recuperative cruise, Pinfold begins to hear voices on the ship that he believes are part of a wireless system capable of broadcasting into his head; he believes the instigator recruited fellow passengers to act as operatives; and he describes "performances" put on by passengers directed at him yet meant to look innocuous to others.

Waugh wrote his book several years after recovering from a similar episode and realizing that the voices and paranoia were the result of drug-induced hallucinations.

Naylor, who hasn't written a book since 1996, is now back at work on an historical novel she hopes will return her to the literary mainstream. She remains convinced that she was targeted by mind control. The many echoes of her ordeal she sees on the mind-control forums reassure her she's not crazy, she says.

Of course, some of the things she sees on the forum do strike her as crazy. "But who I am to say?" she says. "Maybe I sound crazy to somebody else."

SOME TIS, SUCH AS ED MOORE, A YOUNG MEDICAL DOCTOR, take a slightly more skeptical approach. He criticizes what he calls the "wacky claims" of TIs who blame various government agencies or groups of people without any proof. "I have yet to see a claim of who is behind this that has any data to support it," he writes.

Nonetheless, Moore still believes the voices in his head are the result of mind control and that the U.S. government is the most likely culprit. Moore started hearing voices in 2003, just as he completed his medical residency in anesthesiology; he was pulling an all-nighter studying for board exams when he heard voices coming from a nearby house commenting on him, on his abilities as a doctor, on his sanity. At first, he thought he was simply overhearing conversations through walls (much as Waugh's fictional alter ego first thought), but when no one else could hear the voices, he realized they were in his head. Moore went through a traumatic two years, including hospitalization for depression with auditory hallucinations.

"One tries to convince friends and family that you are being electronically harassed with voices that only you can hear," he writes in an e-mail. "You learn to stop doing that. They don't believe you, and they become sad and concerned, and it amplifies your own depression when you have voices screaming at you and your friends and family looking at you as a helpless, sick, mentally unbalanced wreck."

He says he grew frustrated with anti-psychotic medications meant to stop the voices, both because the treatments didn't work and because psychiatrists showed no interest in what the voices were telling him. He began to look for some other way to cope.

"In March of 2005, I started looking up support groups on the Internet," he wrote. "My wife would cry when she would see these sites, knowing I still heard voices, but I did not know what else to do." In 2006, he says, his wife, who had stood by him for three years, filed for divorce.

Moore, like other TIs, is cautious about sharing details of his life. He worries about looking foolish to friends and colleagues -- but he says that risk is ultimately worthwhile if he can bring attention to the issue.

With his father's financial help, Moore is now studying for an electrical engineering degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio, hoping to prove that V2K, the technology to send voices into people's heads, is real. Being in school, around other people, helps him cope, he writes, but the voices continue to taunt him.

Recently, he says, they told him: "We'll never stop [messing] with you."

A WEEK BEFORE THE TIS RALLY ON THE NATIONAL MALL, John Alexander, one of the people whom Harlan Girard holds personally responsible for the voices in his head, is at a Chili's restaurant in Crystal City explaining over a Philly cheese steak and fries why the United States needs mind-control weapons.

A former Green Beret who served in Vietnam, Alexander went on to a number of national security jobs, and rubbed shoulders with prominent military and political leaders. Long known for taking an interest in exotic weapons, his 1980 article, "The New Mental Battlefield," published in the Army journal Military Review, is cited by self-described victims as proof of his complicity in mind control. Now retired from the government and living in Las Vegas, Alexander continues to advise the military. He is in the Washington area that day for an official meeting.

Beneath a shock of white hair is the mind of a self-styled military thinker. Alexander belongs to a particular set of Pentagon advisers who consider themselves defense intellectuals, focusing on big-picture issues, future threats and new capabilities. Alexander's career led him from work on sticky foam that would stop an enemy in his or her tracks to dalliances in paranormal studies and psychics, which he still defends as operationally useful.

In an earlier phone conversation, Alexander said that in the 1990s, when he took part in briefings at the CIA, there was never any talk of "mind control, or mind-altering drugs or technologies, or anything like that."

According to Alexander, the military and intelligence agencies were still scared by the excesses of MK-ULTRA, the infamous CIA program that involved, in part, slipping LSD to unsuspecting victims. "Until recently, anything that smacked of [mind control] was extremely dangerous" because Congress would simply take the money away, he said.

Alexander acknowledged that "there were some abuses that took place," but added that, on the whole, "I would argue we threw the baby out with the bath water."

But September 11, 2001, changed the mood in Washington, and some in the national security community are again expressing interest in mind control, particularly a younger generation of officials who weren't around for MK-ULTRA. "It's interesting, that it's coming back," Alexander observed.

While Alexander scoffs at the notion that he is somehow part of an elaborate plot to control people's minds, he acknowledges support for learning how to tap into a potential enemy's brain. He gives as an example the possible use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, for lie detection. "Brain mapping" with fMRI theoretically could allow interrogators to know when someone is lying by watching for activity in particular parts of the brain. For interrogating terrorists, fMRI could come in handy, Alexander suggests. But any conceivable use of the technique would fall far short of the kind of mind-reading TIs complain about.

Alexander also is intrigued by the possibility of using electronic means to modify behavior. The dilemma of the war on terrorism, he notes, is that it never ends. So what do you do with enemies, such as those at Guantanamo: keep them there forever? That's impractical. Behavior modification could be an alternative, he says.

"Maybe I can fix you, or electronically neuter you, so it's safe to release you into society, so you won't come back and kill me," Alexander says. It's only a matter of time before technology allows that scenario to come true, he continues. "We're now getting to where we can do that." He pauses for a moment to take a bite of his sandwich. "Where does that fall in the ethics spectrum? That's a really tough question."

When Alexander encounters a query he doesn't want to answer, such as one about the ethics of mind control, he smiles and raises his hands level to his chest, as if balancing two imaginary weights. In one hand is mind control and the sanctity of free thought -- and in the other hand, a tad higher -- is the war on terrorism.

But none of this has anything to do with the TIs, he says. "Just because things are secret, people tend to extrapolate. Common sense does not prevail, and even when you point out huge leaps in logic that just cannot be true, they are not dissuaded."

WHAT IS IT THAT BRINGS SOMEONE, EVEN AN INTELLIGENT PERSON, to ascribe the experience of hearing disembodied voices to government weapons?

In her book, Abducted, Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy examines a group that has striking parallels to the TIs: people who believe they've been kidnapped by aliens. The similarities are often uncanny: Would-be abductees describe strange pains, and feelings of being watched or targeted. And although the alleged abductees don't generally have auditory hallucinations, they do sometimes believe that their thoughts are controlled by aliens, or that they've been implanted with advanced technology.

(On the online forum, some TIs posted vociferous objections to the parallel, concerned that the public finds UFOs even weirder than mind control. "It will keep us all marginalized and discredited," one griped.)

Clancy argues that the main reason people believe they've been abducted by aliens is that it provides them with a compelling narrative to explain their perception that strange things have happened to them, such as marks on their bodies (marks others would simply dismiss as bruises), stimulation to their sexual organs (as the TIs describe) or feelings of paranoia. "It's not just an explanation for your problems; it's a source of meaning for your life," Clancy says.

In the case of TIs, mind-control weapons are an explanation for the voices they hear in their head. Socrates heard a voice and thought it was a demon; Joan of Arc heard voices from God. As one TI noted in an e-mail: "Each person undergoing this harassment is looking for the solution to the problem. Each person analyzes it through his or her own particular spectrum of beliefs. If you are a scientific-minded person, then you will probably analyze the situation from that perspective and conclude it must be done with some kind of electronic devices. If you are a religious person, you will see it as a struggle between the elements of whatever religion you believe in. If you are maybe, perhaps more eccentric, you may think that it is alien in nature."

Or, if you happen to live in the United States in the early 21st century, you may fear the growing power of the NSA, CIA and FBI.

Being a victim of government surveillance is also, arguably, better than being insane. In Waugh's novella based on his own painful experience, when Pinfold concludes that hidden technology is being used to infiltrate his brain, he "felt nothing but gratitude in his discovery." Why? "He might be unpopular; he might be ridiculous; but he was not mad."

Ralph Hoffman, a professor of psychiatry at Yale who has studied auditory hallucinations, regularly sees people who believe the voices are a part of government harassment (others believe they are God, dead relatives or even ex-girlfriends). Not all people who hear voices are schizophrenic, he says, noting that people can hear voices episodically in highly emotional states. What exactly causes these voices is still unknown, but one thing is certain: People who think the voices are caused by some external force are rarely dissuaded from their delusional belief, he says. "These are highly emotional and gripping experiences that are so compelling for them that ordinary reality seems bland."

Perhaps because the experience is so vivid, he says, even some of those who improve through treatment merely decide the medical regimen somehow helped protect their brain from government weapons.

Scott Temple, a professor of psychiatry at Penn State University who has been involved in two recent studies of auditory hallucinations, notes that those who suffer such hallucinations frequently lack insight into their illness. Even among those who do understand they are sick, "that awareness comes and goes," he says. "People feel overwhelmed, and the delusional interpretations return."

BACK AT THE PHILADELPHIA TRAIN STATION, Girard seems more agitated. In a meeting the week before, his "handlers" had spoken to him only briefly -- they weren't in the right position to attack him, Girard surmises, based on the lack of voices. Today, his conversation jumps more rapidly from one subject to the next: victims of radiation experiments, his hatred of George H.W. Bush, MK-ULTRA, his personal experiences.

Asked about his studies at Penn, he replies by talking about his problems with reading: "I told you, everything I write they dictate to me," he says, referring again to the voices. "When I read, they're reading to me. My eyes go across; they're moving my eyes down the line. They're reading it to me. When I close the book, I can't remember a thing I read. That's why they do it."

The week before, Girard had pointed to only one person who appeared suspicious to him -- a young African American man reading a book; this time, however, he hears more voices, which leads him to believe the station is crawling with agents.

"Let's change our location," Girard says after a while. "I'm sure they have 40 or 50 people in here today. I escaped their surveillance last time -- they won't let that happen again."

Asked to explain the connection between mind control and the University of Pennsylvania, which Girard alleges is involved in the conspiracy, he begins to talk about defense contractors located near the Philadelphia campus: "General Electric was right next to the parking garage; General Electric Space Systems occupies a huge building right over there. From that building, you could see into the studio where I was doing my work most of the time. I asked somebody what they were doing there. You know, it had to do with computers. GE Space Systems. They were supposed to be tracking missile debris from this location . . . pardon me. What was your question again?"

Yet many parts of Girard's life seem to reflect that of any affluent 70-year-old bachelor. He travels frequently to France for extended vacations and takes part in French cultural activities in Philadelphia. He has set up a travel scholarship at the Cleveland Institute of Art in the name of his late mother, who attended school there (he changed his last name 27 years ago for "personal reasons"), and he travels to meet the students who benefit from the fund. And while the bulk of his time is spent on his research and writing about mind control, he has other interests. He follows politics and describes outings with friends and family members with whom he doesn't talk about mind control, knowing they would view it skeptically.

Girard acknowledges that some of his experiences mirror symptoms of schizophrenia, but asked if he ever worried that the voices might in fact be caused by mental illness, he answers sharply with one word: "No."

How, then, does he know the voices are real?

"How do you know you know anything?" Girard replies. "How do you know I exist? How do you know this isn't a dream you're having, from which you'll wake up in a few minutes? I suppose that analogy is the closest thing: You know when you have a dream. Sometimes it could be perfectly lucid, but you know it's a dream."

The very "realness" of the voices is the issue -- how do you disbelieve something you perceive as real? That's precisely what Hoffman, the Yale psychiatrist, points out: So lucid are the voices that the sufferers -- regardless of their educational level or self-awareness -- are unable to see them as anything but real. "One thing I can assure you," Hoffman says, "is that for them, it feels real."

IT LOOKS ALMOST LIKE ANY OTHER SMALL POLITICAL RALLY IN WASHINGTON. Posters adorn the gate on the southwest side of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, as attendees set up a table with press materials, while volunteers test a loudspeaker and set out coolers filled with bottled water. The sun is out, the weather is perfect, and an eclectic collection of people from across the country has gathered to protest mind control.

There is not a tinfoil hat to be seen. Only the posters and paraphernalia hint at the unusual. "Stop USA electronic harassment," urges one poster. "Directed Energy Assaults," reads another. Smaller signs in the shape of tombstones say, "RIP MKULTRA." The main display, set in front of the speaker's lectern has a more extended message: "HELP STOP HI-TECH ASSAULT PSYCHOTRONIC TORTURE."

About 35 TIs show up for the June rally, in addition to a few friends and family members. Speakers alternate between giving personal testimonials and descriptions of research into mind-control technology. Most of the gawkers at the rally are foreign tourists. A few hecklers snicker at the signs, but mostly people are either confused or indifferent. The articles on mind control at the table -- from mainstream news magazines -- go untouched.

"How can you expect people to get worked up over this if they don't care about eavesdropping or eminent domain?" one man challenges after stopping to flip through the literature. Mary Ann Stratton, who is manning the table, merely shrugs and smiles sadly. There is no answer: Everyone at the rally acknowledges it is an uphill battle.

In general, the outlook for TIs is not good; many lose their jobs, houses and family. Depression is common. But for many at the rally, experiencing the community of mind-control victims seems to help. One TI, a man who had been a rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard before voices in his head sent him on a downward spiral, expressed the solace he found among fellow TIs in a long e-mail to another TI: "I think that the only people that can help are people going through the same thing. Everyone else will not believe you, or they are possibly involved."

In the end, though, nothing could help him enough. In August 2006, he would commit suicide.

But at least for the day, the rally is boosting TI spirits. Girard, in what for him is an ebullient mood, takes the microphone. A small crowd of tourists gathers at the sidelines, listening with casual interest. With the Capitol looming behind him, he reaches the crescendo of his speech, rallying the attendees to remember an important thing: They are part of a single community.

"I've heard it said, 'We can't get anywhere because everyone's story is different.' We are all the same," Girard booms. "You knew someone with the power to commit you to the electronic concentration camp system."

Several weeks after the rally, Girard shows up for a meeting with a reporter at the stately Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where he has stayed frequently over the two decades he has traveled to the capital to battle mind control. He walks in with a lit cigarette, which he apologetically puts out after a hotel employee tells him smoking isn't allowed anymore. He is half an hour late -- delayed, he says, by a meeting on Capitol Hill. Wearing a monogrammed dress shirt and tie, he looks, as always, serious and professional.

Girard declines to mention whom on Capitol Hill he'd met with, other than to say it was a congressional staffer. Embarrassment is likely a factor: Girard readily acknowledges that most people he meets with, ranging from scholars to politicians, ignore his entreaties or dismiss him as a lunatic.

Lately, his focus is on his Web site, which he sees as the culmination of nearly a quarter-century of research. When completed, it will contain more than 300 pages of documents. What next? Maybe he'll move to France (there are victims there, too), or maybe the U.S. government will finally just kill him, he says.

Meanwhile, he is always searching for absolute proof that the government has decoded the brain. His latest interest is LifeLog, a project once funded by the Pentagon that he read about in Wired News. The article described it this way: "The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read. All of this -- and more -- would combine with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audiovisual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual's health."

Girard suggests that the government, using similar technology, has "catalogued" his life over the past two years -- every sight and sound (Evelyn Waugh, in his mind-control book, writes about his character's similar fear that his harassers were creating a file of his entire life).

Girard thinks the government can control his movements, inject thoughts into his head, cause him pain day and night. He believes that he will die a victim of mind control.

Is there any reason for optimism?

Girard hesitates, then asks a rhetorical question.

"Why, despite all this, why am I the same person? Why am I Harlan Girard?"

For all his anguish, be it the result of mental illness or, as Girard contends, government mind control, the voices haven't managed to conquer the thing that makes him who he is: Call it his consciousness, his intellect or, perhaps, his soul.

"That's what they don't yet have," he says. After 22 years, "I'm still me."

Sharon Weinberger is a Washington writer and author of Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld. She will be fielding questions and comments about this article Tuesday at washingtonpost.com/liveonline.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.
© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Source:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/10/AR2007011001399_pf.html [washingtonpost.com]

The worst kind of corporatism (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759081)

In the west, Communism is decried in part because it doesn't respect the concept of personal property. None of 'your' stuff is owned by you. So why, given that, should we accept for even one second a culture where we only rent and license things from corporate owners? We can't even be said to own the license since there are so many ways a 'permanent' license can just evaporate.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759117)

Exactly. People are short sighted though and think the rent model allows them to have more crap than they can really afford and it might sometimes but them you'll eventually lose it all.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759131)

Communism didn't quite work in the material world, but for digital things it's just what the doctor ordered: everyone gives what they can, everyone gets what they want, since there is no scarcity coming from limited nature of natural resources.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759175)

But that's not what's happening. Even when you fork over big bux for a digital thing, you don't end up owning it. It is kept artificially scarce. If you can't give money, you don't get anything. If you can, you still don't get ownership, they just let you use it until they say stop.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (3, Insightful)

progician (2451300) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759613)

Actually, "Communism did not work" argument is a bit of a stretch since the "Communism" did not attempt to be what it claimed to be. State ownership is still private property as far as the communist argument goes, since communism is not simply against the personal ownership of things, but the use of production facilities for non-collective benefit. The state owned factories can be used for appropriate profits only for a small minority, or can be used to fund activities that directly goes against the interest of all workers: like wars.

Communism with capital C, was and is a way where capitalism has been always heading: completely socialized production (i.e. manufacturing at large, employing large crowd of workers in a single economical entity... see the development of factories in the very early capitalism) for the benefit of a small class of individuals and building social hierarchy on the basis of the production. The USSR, China weren't so much incompatible with the market-fundamentalist capitalism of the USA after all, rather a forced modernization from virtually feudal state to wage-work and socialized, industrial production of profit.

Communism with small c, is and was a movement that aimed to destroy the artificially imposed scarcity which capitalism depends on so much. It is quite characteristic that any time technology makes it possible to reduce the resource cost of production, it creates panic, meltdown, and eventually use of force to recover the scarcity (using whatever legal device is available in form of copyrights, patents, non-disclosure enforcement in the area of digital production), or actively promotes new areas of scarcity to recover the losses of profits. The tech industry is the best example how technological development in capitalism is restrained by imposing scarcity, secrecy and lies on the larger population.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759157)

So why, given that, should we accept for even one second a culture where we only rent and license things from corporate owners?

Because the corporate owners make money out of it. See, it's OK when the concept involves other people getting ripped off because they don't own stuff, but when it means the corporations can't own stuff? Pfft, get lost, socialist!

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759177)

THIS, exactly!

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759195)

The difference is Communism isn't a choice, purchasing a video game is a choice.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759243)

Communism can be voted in and voted out. SOME implementations have been by force, but it's not intrinsic.

More and more, the corporate cancer is spreading to physical goods in the form of IP claims over firmware. Once nobody offers the alternative, it ceases to be a choice.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759303)

Valve is not a corporation. They are the largest independent game studio. I give them my money because they have never wronged me, and they truly seem to understand that they can't just lock up a piece of software and rely on the law to keep their profits. Gabe Newel has gone on record saying that a pirate is an underserved customer. Steam has given us convenience in exchange for a reasonable rental fee. Valve keeps our saved games for us and we can install the games on any number of computers we like. The games that Valve sells are BETTER than the pirate versions. Which, as shameful as it is, makes them unique these days. And I will whole heartedly support a game developer who has the interests of the consumer in mind.

That being said, yes, I would very much like to own my games.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759587)

While I agree with your second point, I strongly disagree with the first. Communism can not exist without dictatorship, because it asks people to do things against their nature, like renounce property (part of it anyway). To enforce it's fantasy laws, communism has to be supported by dictatorship. And historically, the only place where communism was democratically brought in is Chile, but look what it took to take it out, after it bankrupt the country in record time.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759289)

And? How is the data stored on my hard drive not mine?

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759249)

If steam was communist, you would have to pay a monthly flat rate to have access to all the games. Centralized redistribution of values in equal rate for everyone.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759599)

If steam was communist, you would have to pay a monthly flat rate to have access to all the games.

That does not follow.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759389)

Because corporations are people and have ownership.
You do not own anything.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759427)

Well said. And then there's the digital handcuffs (Digital Restrictions Management) that prevent also fair use allowed by copyright. We're living in times of a revolution of the rich against the poor.

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759459)

In the west, Communism is decried? Really? Why are there so many Marxists in our universities, then? Where is this decrying occurring?

Re:The worst kind of corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759565)

Because in the "west", as you call it, you can still choose if you want to buy or rent. Under Communism your property (not the rented stuff, but things you built, bought, inherited, etc) was often taken away from you.
If renting is allowed, it does not mean that property is not respected.

Finally (5, Insightful)

pookie13 (832250) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759103)

As a Finn I have waited for this to happen somewhere in Europe. I guess the legislators don't play games or at least buy them from Steam. I hope that this changes how digitally distributed games are seen in light of ownership before every purchase is somehow locked to buyers dna. Tinfoil hats ahoy! :)

Re:Finally (3)

Pi1grim (1956208) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759167)

This totally makes sense. Wish they would also prohibit disabling single player games for violating terms of use. If I don't use a device in accordance with it's manual, a company is in their right to refuse repairing it refuse connecting it to their network. But taking away all games is just ridiculous. Heck, taking an analogy to the world of physical things it's as if company reps came to my home and took, without any compensation, all of the devices made by their company just because I spilled water on my laptop's keyboard.

Re:Finally (1)

JakeBurn (2731457) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759405)

Its called a contract. You agree to be bound to a certain set of rules in order to use a service. No one has ever put a gun to someone's head and made them buy their games from Steam. You agreed to not do certain things and also agreed that if you did, you would suffer certain restrictions. Now that YOU broke your end of the deal you're crying because they did not? I wish there was a system so that if someone hacked or cheated their entire Steam catalog was disabled. And as for Germany, I can only hope that if they pass this law, Steam says fine, then turns their service off for the whole country. Part of the agreement people make with Steam is that they agreed to not have physical or sellable media in return for never having to worry about lost, damaged or stolen discs. IF you are using their protection system its unhackable. The owner of the company even gave his password out at a press conference and said please, try to steal my account. Games are not something you need to live. They're a luxury that whoever sold them decides how you get to use them. It bothers me that some games even make you tie that CD key to not only a Steam account but some other game company account. In the end, though, its not such a big deal that I have stopped using their service. I will continue to support them until they are no longer the best deal in my eyes. The biggest problem with anyone trying to force their ideologies on a company like Valve is that Valve isn't in it for the money. They already have the money. Gabe even has said as much. They are not hurting for cash and haven't been for a long time. That means they can stick to what they believe in and do things the way they believe they should be done.

Re:Finally (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759425)

Term of usage and EULA's are not contracts. Contracts demand informed consent, which that one can prove within reason that the other person understood what they signed. Contract law demand this because otherwhise, house sellers and job offers could try sneak in "creative" stuff into contract. The "cartoon" way of tricking people with contracts are not legal in the EU, and the law term that enforce this is "Informed consent".

EULA's and Term of usage is more closer to disclaimers than contracts, and is more about published information rather than contracts. In those cases EULA's and Term of usage has been tested, the rulings are almost always in favor of the consumer.

Re:Finally (5, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759541)

EULAs have been challenged in courts multiple times here in Finland, every single time ending up in loss for the EULA-enforcer. The simple fact is that an EULA is covered by copyright laws, and copyright law cannot remove rights given by other laws. It most certainly is NOT covered by contract laws. That means that even if the EULA e.g. specifically said that you cannot sell the item after you're done with it the clause is invalid and you are perfectly within your rights to sell it.

Wrong abbreviation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759135)

The abbreviation should be VZBV, for Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband. See here (article in German): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/VZBV

Germans should read the license before suing. (2)

uaiz (2830269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759165)

Taken from the official Steam license. http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/?l=english [steampowered.com] You may not sell or charge others for the right to use your Account, or otherwise transfer your Account, nor may you sell, charge others for the right to use, or transfer any Subscriptions other than if and as expressly permitted by this Agreement (including any Subscription Terms or Rules of Use). 2. LICENSES A. License Terms. Steam and your Subscription(s) require the automatic download and installation of Software onto your computer. Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Software for your personal use in accordance with this Agreement, including the Subscription Terms. The Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software. To make use of the Software, you must have a Steam Account and you may be required to be running the Steam client and maintaining a connection to the Internet.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (5, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759199)

Contrary to popular belief not all things put on licenses are enforceable and not all rights are possible to give up in exchange of a cheaper deal(essentially this is the whole basis of consumer protection laws).

OTOH.. it's technically possible to sell your steam games. you just have to sell them all at once(sell the account. you can change the realname if you ever put one in..).

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (0)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759219)

man, didn't know licenses could negate any law any country can have :)
i'm gonna publish things with a license giving me the right to kill people, claim their first born, rob their houses, etc... (ofcourse worded in incomprehensible legalese :) )

i'll be able to do so much cool and usually illegal stuff since my license says i can :).

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759353)

Someone has already done that. They now own several thousands souls!

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (5, Informative)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759223)

Yeah, but if the law in Germany says otherwise, then it is the law that applies. That's the difference between laws and contracts (of which a license agreement is just a small part) and it's actually impossible to have a contract to break the law; contracts must be lawful or they are simply not contracts by definition. Even if the agreement says that it is not conducted under German law, German consumers will have the right to use German law anyway. (Well, probably; I've not actually checked what the relevant law says, but there's a lot of similarity in this area across different EU members and I know that UK law is very clear on this point.)

The real question is not whether there's recourse in law, but how any ensuing judgements would be enforced. An unenforceable ruling really isn't much use.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (1)

azalin (67640) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759357)

There are are quite a number of options available to the court. First and most probable would be a fine. Beyond that I'm not sure about the power this court wields, but it is possible they could prohibit retail stores from selling physical media that require steam.
It will probably end with a fine that needs to be paid until they change their terms or stop doing business in Germany (this includes retail games, with mandatory steam). Some publishers might reconsider using steam if this means they loose a lucrative market. Of course once this verdict is final, other European countries might follow. Things could get very expensive then.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759371)

Licenses are not contracts. Contracts demand informed consent, which mean one have to show that the other party understood the contract when signing. A license has less legal standing than a contract, and consumer rights law can strike down "unfair" licenses.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759225)

Some of those licenses are not valid in germany. A corporation can write whatever there but what is legally binding and acceptable is, at least here, luckily still decided by laws and courts.

What is happening here how I think it is supposed to happen. A company tries something, then "society", through laws and court decisions, decides if this is acceptable or if the company is told it's not working in this cultural frame of reference.

Expect more of this as more and more "younger" people (who grew up with games, mp3, social media, etc) get into political positions.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (1)

Felgior (856383) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759507)

If this EULA (end-user license agreement or subscriber agreement) would be enforceable. If would also be logical that they can no longer say or write that they are selling and a customer is buying a game. The "buy-button" on Steam would have to be replaced by a "rent-button" or something else. Or they can no longer advertise that they sell a game, only that they sell a license to play the game. -- The difference between buying (and therefor owning the right to sell) and renting / leasing / "whatever you / they call it" should be crystal-clear in the webshop and game shop in your town.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759637)

Companies do NOT get to supersede national law. That's what congress is for.
There is such a thing as an illegal contract. That's why contracts usually contain a boileplate clause that even if one clause of the contract may be illegal, the rest does still apply. And a TOS isn't even that.

So suing to find out if this can actually be considered legal is an absolutely valid course of action. In fact, it is the only one.

Re:Germans should read the license before suing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759689)

Great. I'll make my own license which says that everybody who illegally copies my software is shot down by snipers in shark costumes, and nobody has the right to sue me because of that. And everyone who is suing me I'm going to tell "My terms prohibit you from doing that".. Right?

Valve, or the publishers? (2)

trawg (308495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759169)

People here in Australia often bitch about Valve because of the regionalised pricing of video games - it's not uncommon for some games to cost almost 2x as much as they do in the USA (given the strong value of our dollar).

However, it's not Valve that sets the prices for the games - it's the publisher.

In this case I don't know if Valve are just honoring requirements set by the publishers, or if this just a part of their platform. Either way, I think Steam would be a much tougher sell to publishers if one of the features they provided to gamers was the ability to sell your account at a discounted price to someone else.

(If you want to sell games on Steam, my advice would be to separate out game purchases into different email accounts. Then you can sell the email account and the associated games. I'm sure it's still against T&Cs to do that - and it's a giant pain in the ass - but at least it means you can buy and sell Steam games in discrete chunks.)

Re:Valve, or the publishers? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759287)

Valve does set some prices, they charge the developer just to use Steam. As I heard it they require the developer to use Steam on all variants of the game; that is if you use Steam with DRM for online distribution (a good idea) then they disallow you from having a physical copy without Steam (bad idea) or from using alternate online distribution means. (some games use Steam to distribute w/o DRM though)

Your idea about multiple accounts is one way. But it would be much easier if Valve just treated customers with respect and honored a first-sale principle. Don't support them in this just because you know a work around.

Re:Valve, or the publishers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759329)

For the record, they don't prevent you selling non-Steam copies of your game, and to sell a game with Steam is to sell it very much WITH DRM. I'm guessing you meant without additional DRM there.

Re:Valve, or the publishers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759483)

You know that there are games on steam which don't require it running?

Digital Licenses are not physical media (1)

Munchr (786041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759321)

And that is the difference between Owning a physical copy of a software title, and Licensing a digital version of the same. Games on Steam are not sold as property that can be traded, they are licensed to you the purchaser for your personal use. Now, if you are saying that German law requires that the licensor permit the licensee (are those even the right terms?) to transfer the license to an arbitrary third party at any time, that's a right that the license cannot take away. I'm not German, and am definitely no lawyer, but I rather doubt the law works that way.

Re:Digital Licenses are not physical media (5, Interesting)

Munchr (786041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759361)

Hurrah for posting before reading the whole article and the article's sources. So the ECJ (I guess Europe's equivalent of the US Supreme Court, correct me if wrong) determined that licenses can be transferred, even for downloaded software. The exclusive right to control distribution of a copy is exhausted on it's first sale. So even though this group suing Valve lost in 2010 over a very similar issue, they will likely prevail after this new ruling by the ECJ. Nice going Europe, I only wish we could convince US courts to follow the same reasoning.

Re:Digital Licenses are not physical media (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759715)

"The exclusive right to control distribution of a copy is exhausted on it's first sale."

The software is not being sold. It is being licensed. The doctrine of first sale only applies when something is sold.

I believe the court erred in this case, and grievously, since it made clear the fact that it does not understand the difference between licensing and selling.

Re:Digital Licenses are not physical media (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759391)

As long as physical copies requires a serial and that serial can also be registered for digital downloads (as is the case with many games in steam) one can argument that what is sold in both cases are the license to use the software and the physical copy is just a bonus.
Therefore you can also rightfully argue that the licenses should follow the same law as completely physical gods which in many countries include the rights to transfer ownership and associated rights.

Re:Digital Licenses are not physical media (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759641)

What if you buy a physical copy that still requires steam to work?

Re:Digital Licenses are not physical media (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759665)

If you bought it in a store, you bought it.
If you clicked the BUY button in Steam, you bought it.

You can't come afterwards and say "no, you didn't really buy it, you only licensed it". That would be fraud. And once you bought it, the law in Germany is pretty clear that you are allowed to resell it. Clear enough that Microsoft lost in a previous case about reselling Windows.

When is the last time you clicked the LICENSE button in Steam? When is the last time you saw such a button?

Always Germany (-1, Offtopic)

sturle (1165695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759323)

Every big company gets name trouble in Germany. Google (Gmail) and Microsoft (Metro) to name two examples. They should just prefix everything with a long random string when selling it in Germany, to be safer.

Re:Always Germany (0)

sturle (1165695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759337)

And because it is Germany I automatically read "Name" instead of "Game".

Re:Always Germany (4, Interesting)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42759657)

Yup. We've got very strong customer rights in Germany. They have a very strong lobby. Multiple of them in fact. Its own fairly powerful ministry on a federal level even.
Everybody still marvels why we haven't yet gone bankrupt. Quality products and quality service might actually be a good idea. Who knows?

Also note the use of the word "customer". Being called a consumer is a bit ... insulting.

There is a bigger problem with Steam (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759447)

Not being able to resell a game is nothing compared to the fact that we can lose all our games anytime with Steam. The license agreement say that Steam can change it whenever they want for whatever they want and if we refuse the new license agreement, then the only option is to close the account and lose all the games we "bought". No refund. We own nothing with steam and considering the current license agreement contains clauses which are clearly abusive (they can do whatever they want with whatever information they can gather from their spyware, err... I mean client software), I'd say Steam is one of the most evil company I ever saw.

Lets address the obvious problem here, shall we? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42759659)

A large chunk of games on steam can be run without steam, unless that's changed since I last tried.

What, then, is stopping one person from buying it, and saving the files elsewhere, then reselling it?

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