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I have a new legal copy of Mass Effect 3, but no time to play it at the moment. I would therefore like to lend it to a friend to play until I have more time available. I will not play the game while he has it.

  1. Is this legal? I have no wish to do anything illegal.
  2. I would obviously want the serial code for the game registered to myself. Can my friend still play the game if I do so?
  3. Assuming he can do this, what content will be missing from his game?
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Platform is very important here. XBox/PS3, you're probably safe. –  MBraedley Mar 9 '12 at 18:44
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@MBraedley technically the license is the same in this case (and usually is), PC just makes it easier for EA to enforce the user limit. –  Ben Brocka Mar 9 '12 at 19:29
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Wow, this is a really unfortunate trend. I may have to stop buying EA games if they completely stop this sort of thing. How disappointing. –  Christi Mar 9 '12 at 19:39
    
I am playing on PC, but I imagine it's useful to have an answer for all platforms. –  Christi Mar 9 '12 at 19:39
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You didn't know EA is extremely evil in this regard? Where have you been the last 3~ years :)? –  Ben Brocka Mar 9 '12 at 19:57

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, you can not legally lend a friend a copy.

From EA's web site:

SERIAL CODE REGISTRATION IS LIMITED TO ONE EA/ORIGIN ACCOUNT PER SERIAL CODE. SERIAL CODE(S) ARE NON-TRANSFERABLE ONCE USED.

Additionally from the full Mass Effect 3 EULA (emphasis mine):

Through this purchase, you are acquiring and EA grants you a personal, limited, non-exclusive license to install and use the Software for your non-commercial use solely as set forth in this License and the accompanying documentation. Your acquired rights are subject to your compliance with this Agreement. Any commercial use is prohibited. You are expressly prohibited from sub-licensing, renting, leasing or otherwise distributing the Software or rights to use the Software.

Unlike a book, you don't legally have the ability to rent or loan (even free of charge) the game (even the physical copy) to a friend.

In addition, if you have a PC copy you're required to use Origin, and you have to use the origin account the game is registered to. This makes it much harder to "borrow" the PC copy of the game, but technically you can't legally borrow/lend a PS3/360 version.

Due to certain exemptions in the First Sale Doctrine it does appear that EA's EULA is valid, especially for Console video games.

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Interestingly this may be a violation of the first sale doctrine in the USA. –  Christi Mar 9 '12 at 19:42
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@Christi some computer software (notably console video games) have have an exception to the First Sale Doctrine unfortunately. Blame old, tech illiterate people in congress. Most things are usually their fault. –  Ben Brocka Mar 9 '12 at 19:46

from what I have read he would need to disconnect his xbox live and play it off line so he would ONLY be able to play the basic game no multiplayer or dlc

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Assuming you're playing on the PC, you need to use the serial number to activate the game on Origin. The game will be bound to your Origin account, so you can't easily share the game with someone else. You need the serial number to play, and you can't use it for multiple Origin accounts.

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As far as the PS3 and 360 go, while the EULA might technically prohibit lending or selling copies of your games I think the fact that there is a thriving used game market indicates that the publishers will not enforce it. The "online pass" system (where if you don't have a new copy of a game you have to pay $10 or so to get multiplayer functionality or extra features) is their way of accepting the fact that games will be loaned or sold but still making some money from it.

So to answer the question specifically for PS3/360, if you loaned the game to a friend he or she would be able to play the single-player game in full but would need to pay extra for the multiplayer component.

EA has an information page for the Mass Effect 3 Online Pass.

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