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Games Entertainment

The Abandonware Question 281

Posted by michael
from the copy-that-floppy dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes: "Gamespot.com has an interesting article on abandonware games. They go so far as to seek out opinions of "game makers" with some interesting results. Some of them actually are flattered that their games have gone to that big abandonware site in the sky. Then there's Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry creator) who jokingly replies to the question of why gamers seek out free games, "Because they're cheap bastards, that's why! Always looking for something for free! Sucking the lifeblood out of us poor humble programmers! Now leave me alone so I can download more free pirated music!"" The first couple of pages are boring, with predictable opinions from big publishers. But it gets more interesting as you go on.
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The Abandonware Question

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  • Abandonware games (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Champaign (307086) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @09:46AM (#3060491) Homepage Journal
    I'm not totally sure about the legal question, but I *LOVE* these sites. I get nostalgic for games I played in my youth (some of which I even bought! ;-) download them and am in heaven for a few minutes.

    The funny this is, except for VERY rare great gameplay games, the novelty wears off pretty fast and I just delete it again for a few years. I really appreciate having them available though...
    • by kisrael (134664) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @11:04AM (#3060632) Homepage
      The funny this is, except for VERY rare great gameplay games, the novelty wears off pretty fast and I just delete it again for a few years. I really appreciate having them available though...

      This is an excellent point. One of the things people who argue "well what if you could mailorder these games for $20, or even $2?" miss is the convenience of picking and choosing from a large selection and quickly finding out if a game still has engrossing gameplay. You need to get into micropayments w/ electronic fufillment before this becomes worthwhile.

      For many, it's the breadth and not the depth of the microcosms that these games give us that's the real draw.
    • Re:Abandonware games (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't forget that there also places to get a lot of the old classic games for free AND legal. Just install an Amiga emulator like WinUAE ( http://www.winuae.net/ ) and go to http://www.back2roots.org/ - they offer 1242 games, all of them with legal permission.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2002 @09:55AM (#3060505)
    That was the first game I jerked off to ... those EGA graphics were so erotic
  • by lunenburg (37393) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @09:59AM (#3060507) Homepage
    I'm sure that in 2055 or so, when the copyright on these classic games runs out(*), the game publishers will be glad to release them into the public domain, having received a fair return on their initial investment.

    While I'm dreaming, I'd also like a pony.

    (*) 2055 expiration date subject to change, depending on campaign donations.
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel@NospaM.johnhummel.net> on Sunday February 24, 2002 @09:59AM (#3060508) Homepage
    I missed out on a lot of the years of gaming. I didn't have a Nintendo when I grew up, I didn't have a Genesis or all of the other games.

    I use Abandonware to play the games that everybody else talks about. (It's been a near joke playing Final Fantasy I, and marveling that this launched a multi-billion dollar gaming franchise.)

    What amazes me is how stupid most publishers are. How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base, then sell the CD for $20 and say "Hey, folks - the great games you loved? Come pay us $20 for it!" 90% of the development work is done, they just have to get an engine in.

    Square gets it - look how they're rereleasing Final Fantasy games on the Wonderswan color - and making a mint. How much work did they really have to do? A little engine work, check it out, and *poof* - profit.

    I abandonware because I can't find these games any other way, because the publishers won't do it. Heck, if they just sold the porting rights to another company (the way that Macplay [macplay.com] ports Win32 games to OS X), they could leave the success/failure to somebody else, and probably still make a good profit.

    But until publishers get half a brain that the past can still be profitable, I guess I'll have to keep going around them and downloading it for free elsewhere.
    • by macjerry (535984) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:54AM (#3060618)
      How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base...

      A LOT harder then you might think. Before Windows 95, games were mostly written for DOS and were tied to the good old 16 bit/640K limits of the hardware. Other things you had to deal with were hard coded delay loops, direct access/support of hardward, bizarre 5 1/4" floppy-based protection schemes and VGA 16 color graphics. Then you have to test it on a wide range of current platforms (5 Windows OS's alone) before you can even think about releasing it.

      Given the market I doubt you can sell it for more then $10, which means $5 to you after the retailer steals their share. You're proably talking $500K development costs, which means 100K units just to break even, before advertising, manufactoring, etc...

      Still want to try it???
      • by Salamander (33735) <jeff@@@pl...atyp...us> on Sunday February 24, 2002 @11:27AM (#3060691) Homepage Journal

        Yep, exactly right. Changing from a custom overlay-segment scheme to semi-real VM involves some serious pain. Switching from direct hardware access to OS-approved APIs can require hundreds or even thousands of changes, and often wholesale restructuring of the code. Resolving timing dependencies is a bitch; ask any chip designer about those, because it's the same set of issues.

        If the program being ported is well designed, with an internal abstraction layer that just happens to match the new-OS API, and with a minimum of timing or hardware dependencies, porting might not be too bad. However, few old games were designed that way, and it's not just because the authors were sloppy (though that's often a factor). At the time many of these games were written, these issues were not well understood, and they're only well understood now precisely because so many missteps were made. Maybe "everyone knows that" now, just like everyone knows that CFCs are bad, but there was a time not so very long ago when pretty much nobody knew these things.

        • Or they could just put it all on a bootable CD running open source DOS.
          • You clearly have no idea how hard it was to get the sound working on some of those DOS games. An 'open source DOS' boot setup would result in a whole lot of silent games on all the crap sound cards people use that are by no means Sound Blaster (or Ad Lib, or whatever odd sound card various legacy games supported at the time) compatible at the hardware level.
        • by MarkusQ (450076) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:29PM (#3060880) Journal
          with an internal abstraction layer that just happens to match the new-OS API, and with a minimum of timing or hardware dependencies, porting might not be too bad. However, few old games were designed that way, and it's not just because the authors were sloppy (though that's often a factor). At the time many of these games were written, these issues were not well understood, and they're only well understood now precisely because so many missteps were made. Maybe "everyone knows that" now, just like everyone knows that CFCs are bad, but there was a time not so very long ago when pretty much nobody knew these things.

          The biggest factor, IMHO, wasn't that the issues weren't well understood, or that we were sloppy. Everyone knew how things "ought to be done" even back in the dark ages. Heck, we even had indoor plumbing. The main reason early games were so often hardware dependent is that abstraction layers cost clock cycles. Remember that the processors for early video games were about three orders of magnitude slower than what we have now.

          People used all sorts of tricks to squeeze performance out of the systems they had, and some of them were pretty darned ugly. Rather than calling a subroutine (the cost being stack operations--this was long before cache worries), move it inline. Rather than paying loop overhead, unroll the inner loop. Now you're tight on space, so do something clever (read: "kludgy") with code that isn't as time critical to save space. Lather, rinse, repeat. We knew some of the tricks were ugly at the time, but they got the job done where something clean wouldn't.

          Remember: for any given clean, structured program, there will be a hack that does the same thing and is faster, smaller (or both) and much harder to understand.

          -- MarkusQ

        • Obvious solution: buy a stripped down version of VMware or something like it once, and re-release all your old games with that.
    • "What amazes me is how stupid most publishers are. How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base, then sell the CD for $20 and say "Hey, folks - the great games you loved? Come pay us $20 for it!" 90% of the development work is done, they just have to get an engine in."

      I'd buy it! Helloooo ... Electronic Arts? Are you listening?

    • by DeadMeat (TM) (233768) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:06PM (#3060801) Homepage
      Porting the games to a modern OS, like other people have mentioned, would not be feasible. Besides being complicated, in many situations, the publishers don't actually have the code (they didn't develop the game) so they can't port it; but they do have the IP rights to the game "universe" and exclusive publishing rights, so the developers can't legally port it either. (This is why there was never a true sequel to Wasteland after Interplay started self-publishing -- the programmers all worked at Interplay, but EA, who published Wasteland, had the rights to the Wasteland universe. It's also why we didn't see System Shock 2 until VIE sunk and Looking Glass jumped ship back to EA.)

      One thing that might be interesting though is for some game companies to fund or license a PC emulator, like VMware or Bochs, and throw a package of a PC emulator, FreeDOS, and the game together. Lock out access to the BIOS, make pre-scripted CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files that automatically run the game, and -- presto! -- you've got an old game that runs under modern OSes, with no tech support mess. The development budget on this would be reasonably high to start off with (to get the PC emulator) but for each individual title the development cost would be practically 0. Now you've just got the marketing issue of getting people to buy old games; throw enough together in a bundle, especially if you give them a few classics like one of the Ultima or Star Control games, and people'll bite.

      (And yes, I know VMware would probably be prohibitively expensive, unless the publisher could get one hell of a bulk license discount combined with a discount for shipping a crippled version that wouldn't interfere with their regular business. I'm just using that as an example.)

    • What amazes me is how stupid most publishers are. How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base, then sell the CD for $20 and say "Hey, folks - the great games you loved? Come pay us $20 for it!"

      Not all game makers don't get this. Some do, and occasionally don't even make profit from it. Why? Many factors; low profit margins, no advertisement, only people who love the game will buy it, and it's so outdated, that the passersby at the store who pick it up will be disgusted when they get it home to play it.

      Unfortunately, all of those do happen! For instance, Microprose (before they were bought by Hasbro, then by Infogrames) released a five-CD pack of all their classics; X-Com: UFO Defense, X-Com: Knee Deep in the Dead, Master of Magic, Master of Orion, and a demo CD. I picked it up for $20, because I love XUD, MoM, and MoO, but when I showed it off to my friends, they were appalled that I would spend that kind of money for that "junk." Keep in mind that these weren't updated for DirectX or anything (like Warcraft II: Battle.net), so they still ran in DOS and had Conventional Memory problems, etc. and the same EGA graphics.

      The fact is, only a small percentage of the consumer market would be interested in things like this, like collectors and big-time fans. And many expect the programmers to put something in really special, or make huge modifications to the code upon re-release.

      Few games can make profit like this, but there are exceptions. Such as the Oregon Trail series, which is now up to version five and runs in Win32, as opposed to the Commodore (correct me if I'm wrong here) and Apple IIe platforms it was designed on. But that's educational, too.

      My suggestion? Make the game/application/operating system (maybe) public domain, and sell CDs or downloads of the source code to anyone who asks, for a small fee to cover the costs of the transaction for the company. This will let the real enthusiasts get a new collectors item without the makers having to publish anything, plus it can now be ported to new operating systems without the makers having to program anything (a la Quake 2).

      Like the article says, though, this is "gray area" which is perfect for the developers, because it keeps the games in people's minds, and it will probably stay that way.
  • by maelstrom (638) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @09:59AM (#3060512) Homepage Journal
    I have purchased many of these old games, and would play them more often if they were still usable. Unfortunately, most of the media was 5.25" floppies, and not only do I not have a drive anymore, most of them are probably toast.

    Is it legally wrong for me to download the titles? I don't know, but I believe it is morally right for me to obtain a "backup" of titles I purchased. As far as titles that are truly abandoned, but I didn't purchase, this seems a gray area.

    The greed of the publishers is definately repugnant. Instead of opening their mind and allowing others to get some sort of satisfaction from an older title, they'd rather see no one have it and the game fade into obscurity. Perhaps if they realized that the goodwill they'd get for releasing these officially on a website would actually generate extra renevue from loyal customers.

    Is ID software likely to lose business because they released the source code to their older engines? No. However, AFAIK they haven't released the graphics, levels, and sounds for them. I suppose this allows them to reuse some of the stuff for Doom3 for instance. Maybe someday people will realize that unlike the real world, I can give you something of mine that is digital and not only will I still have it, you will too.

    And maybe after that, we'll have peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.

    • by AndyMouse GoHard (210170) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:57PM (#3061001)
      There's been at least one AC troll laughing at the "moral" question raised here. But let's not forget civil disobedience.

      I too feel there are many moral problems with copyright. If enough people share these beliefs, and we act on them (like downloading abandonware) then it's not as cut and dry as the publishers think. It's not "piracy" any more. It's enough people disagreeing with the law... implying that maybe, just maybe, the law is wrong.

      Remember, laws are pieces of paper. Many of them have nothing to do with right or wrong anymore. They have much to do about money and greed and control.

      Bill
    • Economics 101 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by the gnat (153162)
      You're missing part of the point. If people are content to play older games, the revenue stream for software makers will dry up. I love 3D shooters too, but how many more games do we need based on the Q3 or UT engines? The only games I've ever truly been addicted to are Angband and Escape Velocity, both of which ran fine on my 68040 Macintosh. As much as I respect the work that ID and others are doing, I just can't see myself paying for it when I can play classic games for free.

      The software developers won't re-release these classic games because it would be detrimental to their main products. By abandoning titles after a few years, they essentially force you to upgrade. I'm not saying this is the primary motivating factor, but it's certainly an important part. Some people will always buy the latest and greatest, for a variety of reasons; the rest of us only do so when pushed.

      This is the way the software industry works. How many Word users need more functionality than Word 5.1 provided? Furthermore, if you can keep people on an insane upgrade cycle, you force them to buy new hardware as well. If each new version of Windows was capable of running faster on older hardware thanks to tighter, more optimized programming rather than feature bloat, the PC makers would revolt. There were stories this summer about charities not being able to get ahold of Windows 3.1 or 95 for the old crappy (but functional) PCs they distribute except at exorbitant prices. It's the exact same problem.

      -Nat
    • Unfortunately, most of the media was 5.25" floppies, and not only do I not have a drive anymore, most of them are probably toast.
      Actually, you'd be surprised how robust those old DD disks are. I bought someone's complete C64 collection recently and even the disks that were seriously bent (but not creased or folded) still worked first time. Sourcing new 5.25" DD disks to create a GEOS work disk are going to be harder though.

      As a person who sells old video games on eBay I have a couple of thoughts. First, many games people believe are only available from abandonware sites are available as originals from eBay, swap-meets, garage sales and classified ads. Also, many are being re-released. While I might download the odd ROM, I also source old originals and buy new updates. Gauntlet is a good example. I recently bought Gauntlet Legends for the Dreamcast, acquired Gauntlet 1 & 2 originals for the C64 and I have previously downloaded the odd Gauntlet ROM. Anyone who claims to be a fan of old computer games and doesn't try to source originals or buy remakes, releases and/or updates is kidding themselves. Real fans would rather have originals. Heck, I've bought originals of old games that I have downloaded ROMs for. Just yesterday I bought Pinball Fantasies for the Gameboy even though I'd downloaded the ROM a while ago. A few weeks back it was the same thing with Qix...

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:01AM (#3060518) Journal
    or something like that.

    most companies love it if they can get their customers on a treadmill, constantly paying in new money. And honestly the cost of tech support for the older games may actually be a money losing proposition.

    But They still hate the idea of not making money. and count potential loses are real losses.

    Right now I think that that rights to software to revert to something more relaxed a few years after they stop providing tech support. They people who know how to use the older stuff will always be a small percentage anyhow.

  • by Jay Mirioashi (554106) <mirioashi@yahoo.com> on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:12AM (#3060545) Homepage
    I am suspicious of the motives of the Abandonware community.

    I believe, in keeping with the spirit of copyright, if a publisher no longer makes a copyrighted work available, then so long as this is the case, there should be no legal recourse against those taking the software for free.

    However, I must question the motives of Abandonware supporters. If indeed these companies were to make software from 10 years ago available today (via a website or mailorder) and a small price according to the cost of doing so, would Abandonware supporters be willing to pay?

    The real question is, are they truly supportive of it as a matter of principle, or do they simply enjoy getting something for free; being unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means?

    • Be careful about the question that you ask ...

      I think the question should not be whether people would be willing to pay for the software if it was still available for sale (probably not, but depends on the price - at $2 there is a good chance, at $39.95 - not likely).

      What we need to ask is whether Abandonware supporters would happily remove titles from their sites if a company started selling the game again. Here I think the sites would happily remove them - The titles are available, no need for the abandonware site to distribute it.

      As long as this is true, then I think that abandonware sites are morally correct, although they are almost certainly breaking the letter of the law.
    • The real question is, are they truly supportive of it as a matter of principle, or do they simply enjoy getting something for free; being unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means?

      I'm truly supportive of it as a matter of principle because I and others like me are unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means.

    • The real question is, are they truly supportive of it as a matter of principle, or do they simply enjoy getting something for free; being unwilling to pay for it if it was available through legal means?

      In my case, both.

      I support the principle behind abandonware... though not really because it's not sold anymore. I like it because it's an unofficial public domain of sorts... it's a way for budding game designers to have cheap and easy access to the history of video games... classic or little known gems of yesteryear that a person wouldn't spend a penny on continue to get exposure... and I think that's a good thing for gamers and the gaming industry in general.

      I also support Abandonware because the companies no longer support the games, and people who purchased a game license who lost the physical media on which the game was stored (or the silly copyright toys that lots of old games used) have a way of enjoying the products that they legitimately own... without putting a burden of service and support on the game publisher (which might not even exist any longer).

      Those are the reasons why I think abandonware distribution is a noble cause in general. It's the reason I've donated a few bucks to The Underdogs.

      On a personal level, I "rationalize" downloading abandonware by telling myself (and it's the truth) that there is no way I could feasibly purchase the software these days, and that even if I could, I probably wouldn't... I'm not taking anything material away from anyone. It's a victimless crime, so to speak.

      I personally don't download "abandonware" that isn't truly abandoned, that someone is actually trying to sell... if I do, it's software that I feel I have a legitimate right to use (as in, I purchased it sometime in the past.) Maybe many others aren't as "scrupulous", but it's seldom an issue since very little of what most people define as "abandonware" is readily available... that's why it's called "abandonware".

  • MAME et al (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kisrael (134664) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:19AM (#3060555) Homepage
    Very good article. It focuses only on PC games though. MAME and its console-based ilk are another kettle of worms altogether.

    I see these emulators as a valuable service, preserving what I call our "pop culture heritage"...sure, "Time Pilot" may have been popular enough to make it in some emulator packs, but what about "Time Pilot '84"? A much cooler scifi game in my book, but one whose limited release (during the crash) means that it's not likely to see a repackage rerelease.

    I admit it is a bit complicated, because MAME does directly compete with the emulation game packs for modern consoles. But overall I'd rather err on the side of caution and not let these things fall into obscurity.
  • by zzyzx (15139) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:19AM (#3060556) Homepage
    Here's the other problem with newer games. They're all about the great graphics. In addition to the usual complaint about graphics intensive games (They sacrifice game play for the thrill of "oooooooh, that blood looks real.), I find at least that almost real graphics look worse that the most cartoonish ones.

    Take Fifa 2000 for the playstation. The players look almost real... almost being the key word. Whenever I see their blocky heads, I think about how bad the graphics are. By coming close to realism, you're forced to see how far away they still are.

    On the other hand, a more cartoonish game doesn't invite that comparism at all. Take Super Mario brothers for example. No one thinks that the graphics on that game suck, even though Mario doesn't look like a real person. They get sucked into the game world because they don't even think about how much better he would look with a few tweaks.

    Moral of this story? Don't worry about the graphics people, just make fun games.

    ...of course this is a moral from someone who doesn't really play games much, so take it with a grain or 10,000 of salt.
  • by sjehay (83181) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:26AM (#3060571) Homepage
    Nobody seems to mention or pay much attention to other types of software that are available as abandonware - more usually with the blessing of the original parent company. For example, have a look at: there are plenty more examples if you have a look around. Sure, having old games available is good for nostalgia, but things like this can actually be useful, especially if you're looking for stuff to run on older hardware or if you're after a feature that new software Just Doesn't Have (or the new software is not available on your platform etc.) - I know I've found this in various circumstances.
  • by tukkayoot (528280) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:37AM (#3060586) Homepage
    It's one of the few good objective pieces that seems to look at the issue of abandonware/emulation from a few different angles... and it comes right on the heels of that Control and Creativity [gilder.com] piece ran on slashdot recently.

    My personal feelings on abandonware are that there's really nothing wrong with it. I think it's healthy for the market and wonderful for players.

    When I was about 9 years old, my father bought me Starflight... a game we saw on the shelves of Radio Shack and thought looked cool. We enjoyed it but never got very far because the game has a high probability of corrupting itself (otherwise it's a terrific game... a true classic). Years later I realized that surely someone must have preserved a copy of the game that I could download... and thanks to abandonware, I was right. I tracked down a copy for download and fiddled around with my system until I could get it to work... and it was just great... it was a minor obsession of mine for several weeks and I finally beat it, getting my father's money's worth out of the purchase. Lot's of nostalgia, lot's of fun. Who gets hurt here?

    I dismiss most of the arguments of the game publishers, and especially the stance of the IDSA. The bulk of their argument is that legality equals morality, which any freethinking individual probably realizes isn't true... or else laws would never be repealed or changed.

    I also don't understand how Abandonware sites hurt their intellectual property rights as many of them seem to claim. They still own the copyrights, they still own the trademarks. Nobody is going to tell Nintendo that they don't own the rights to produce Mario games because they fail to rabidly attack an abandonware site with a Mario Bros romdump from a 20 year old arcade board. Nobody is arguing that Mario Bros is "public domain" from a legal perspective. The one fellow put it succintly "It's piracy, but so what?" The pirates aren't challenging the rights of the publisher's... they only hurt the publishers by denying them revenue, and in the case of the vast majority of abandonware, they're not even doing that.

    Another argument a few of them made was "Well, we might want to release a classics pack one day." This is a semi-legitimate argument, but in reality we know that the only "classics packs" that are truly successful commericially are those that package together a few familiar arcade classics... not more obscure PC titles. Most people only buy "arcade classics collections" because they are familiar with playing those games in arcades.

    What is the market for a classics pack of old PC games, on the other hand? There aren't going to be very many people who are going to plunk down $20 for a bunch of old games with EGA graphics that they're not familiar with. If people ARE familiar with the games, on the other hand... it's probably because they legitimately owned the games at one point in time.

    And the truth that we all know is that very few people are actually trying to sell 10+ year old games... at least not without heavily retooling the game (like Frogger 3D).

    So Abandonware really is quite harmless. I'd like to think that there are a few current and future game designers out there getting exposure to these "Golden Oldies" like Starflight for inspiration on how to do more with less and that thanks to Abandonware, we will (and have been) enjoying better games. I really think the IDSA is doing the gaming community and the companies they represent a disservice by going after abandonware sites so diligently, but I guess they have to take a hardline stance on all forms of piracy to convince their members that they're doing their job.

    • by tb3 (313150) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:20PM (#3060851) Homepage
      The bulk of their argument is that legality equals morality, which any freethinking individual probably realizes isn't true... or else laws would never be repealed or changed.

      Beautiful, you nailed it right there. Prohibition is the most obvious example of this, and I like using speeding. Has anyone ever felt guilty for getting a speeding ticket?

      The software publishers are trying to take the moral high ground with copyright, which is a completely artifical construct.
  • Leisure Suit Larry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:38AM (#3060587) Homepage Journal
    Didn't they sell more copies of the Leisure Suit Larry hint books than actual copies of the program?
  • KISS, idiots! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @10:46AM (#3060606) Journal
    Keep It Simple, Stupid!

    Look, piracy is a known thing. It's just gonna happen. So, what the publishers really should do if they are so concerned about their IP - make a downloadable version of it that requires a key to unlock. Sell the key for $10 and be done with it.

    Then, they
    1. Have a clean, clear claim to their IP as "not abandonware",
    2. Make some residual money
    3. Won't give anybody a reason to bitch 'cause the game is no longer available.


    I really like what Maxis did with Sim City Classic - they ported it to Shockwave and you can play it right on their website! (and you stare at a few ads, oh well)

    As far as "won't work with Windows XX" - port it to freedos! (could this be one area where Linux actually outshines Windows in -gasp- support for DOS !!@!?!??)

    -Ben
    • Re:KISS, idiots! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Arawn (36250)
      The only problem with charging even a small fee for an old game is that once people paid for the game they would expect support. Many publishers do not have the resources to support these old games which might not run corectly on newer computers.
      • Re:KISS, idiots! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sawbones (176430)
        I've heard both of these arguments before - if we change money we have to support and if we don't defend our copyright then someone will come out with Commander Keen does Dalas or somesuch. What I wonder is if it would be possible to develope something like an AGPL (abandon... yeah). Basically have a license publishers can release these "abandoned" games under that says you the user are free to use this game, distribute this game at no cost beyond the cost of distribution (just in case bandwidth costs become astronomical and covers things like ad banners on sites), and possibly port it to other platforms. You are NOT, however, licensed to create any derivative works (beyond porting to other platforms) or use artwork, characters, whatever from this title in any other work.

        That way the publishers are happy because they're not liable for support and they've prevented the Keen Kills O-Town unlicensed titles from happening. Gamers are happy because they get to play the games that publishers no longer want to distribute or support. Abandonware sites are happy because now they're all nice and legal.

        Probably never happen of course, but it could be nice.

    • I really like what Maxis did with Sim City Classic - they ported it to Shockwave and you can play it right on their website! (and you stare at a few ads, oh well)

      Wow, that is really cool idea. Unfortunately, Maxis (now EA)'s website is a bitch and a half to navigate. They JS redirect you to a "sorry, you can't come in page" if you don't accept cookies, and if you turn off JS, the site won't work. For those of you who don't feel like digging through it yourself, check the appropriate page out at http://simcity.ea.com/us/guide/classic/index.phtml [ea.com] .

      It really does work, and seems like a great move for everyone involved. Granted, Simcity is a fairly simple game by modern standards, so I'm not sure how many other (even abandonware) games could be converted easily to Shockwave. Man would I love to see a Shockwave version of Civ 1, though.

  • by fleener (140714)
    I prefer to abide by the intent of the original framers of the constitution. Copyright should last only fourteen years [siliconvalley.com].

    IMHO, any game made before 1988 should be up for grabs.

  • I remember at least a year ago I was looking through my collection of CD's and came across my old Civ2 CD (checking copyright on CD ... from 1996). So I thought - great, I would love to play this again. The install went fine, and I was up and playing quite quickly (enjoying the questions about whether I want to enable the tiny tiny videos/heralds as they need 16MB of memory !!?!?!)

    Then I fairly quickly realised that the first releases of Civ2 were quite buggy / unfriendly, but that these had been fixed in a series of patches (I think 14 of them in the end). When I first bought the game it was no problem to download the patches from the microprose site, but there was no chance of downloading it from infogrames (or whoever happened to own it then). So I searched around and found the patch on some download site.

    Now, The patch is also protected by copyright, just as much as any abandonware game is protected. So, do those companies who oppose abandonware so vigorously also oppose this distribution of this patch? I think that to claim that distribution of a patch for an old game is just as bad as distributing the latest release on some warez site is just stupid. Hopefully these companies would say the same thing, but im not so sure...

    (Having just checked the infogrames site, I can see that they now have the patch available for download! Full marks to infogrames for still supporting the game!)
  • by gregm (61553)
    It makes sense for most of the old games to be donated to the public domain or at least re-licensed as freeware. All the arguments that the publishers have against abondonware are weak:

    We'll lose sales on new games. Well that's just s stupid argument. If I aquire an old copy of Duke Nuke Em and play it out do you think I'll be less likely or more likely to shell out $50 for the new one? I think more, much more. How many times are demo versons of games made?

    They want to release a cheap game collection... well yeah those are the games that I buy.. Knowing they're not all that likely to even run on my new Athlon without some pain. But if that particular game that I've been missing for all these years was included I might buy their gamepack and work at getting it to run. So they get a half point for ths argument, but it is going to cost them some bucks to update the game engines to make them work on new hardware.

    They want to start a comic book based on a game character. So start one... they might not have that copyright as locked up as before, but they certainly have at least as good a right as I do to use that character.

    The bottom line is: they have the right to be stupid. They have the right to lock up that old code and keep us from playing their games. They don't have the right to break any warranties. We have the right not to buy their new games if we don't like how they treat us with their old games. We don't have the right to steal their old code. We don't have the right to act like we're heros for stealing their code. If you're going to steal then at the very least admit you're stealing.

    Now I've got to get back to Morpheus to liberate some more music.
  • At present, software is considered like a literary work in terms of copyright, that is, it enjoys 50 years of protection before they become public domain (WIPO copyright treaty).
    I think this is a case where, "the need to maintain a balance between the rights of the authors and the larger public interest", should be enough to shorten the period for this kind of software.
    I say, give 7 years, or something around that. Really, after this time, the commercial value is zero, why not give it for free then?
    • In the United States, for individuals, copyright lasts the life of the author, plus 70 years. For corporations copyright lasts 95 years. As the Sony Bono Copyright Act illustrates, you can count on copyright being extended indefinitely for corporations. (Hey, when you run the country, you can have things your way.)
  • It's not uncommon for publishers to release sequels of old games long after the fact - a personal favorite of mine was the orginal System Shock; I was fortunate enough to buy the enhanced version when it first came out, and it's still in my top 5 list of games. SS has a devoted fan following online, who occassionally provide .zip files of the hard-to-find CD version to any one who asks - simply out of love for the game.

    Eventually, the publisher answered years of petitions for a sequel, and released SS2 - another incredible game, which came out against Half-Life and other insanely popular games, hurting its sales a good bit. Not to mention less than stellar advertising. HOWEVER. . .

    The longtime fans of SS1 started telling everyone they knew to buy the sequel. They distributed copies of the original to everyone who would take it, and sales of SS2 began to pick up. Unfortunately, the publisher had already gone out of business due to some other problems, so the benefits of the abandonware upswell were rather lost.

    Companies should be glad people are picking up their old games that aren't making them money any more. Worst case scenario, it's retroactively establishing their reputation for good, solid games; at best, it's giving them an increased fan base for possible sequels.

    So no, I don't think I'm doing anything wrong for leeching Gauntlet II or Blackthorne, since I can't purchase them directly from their publishers. I'm showing my support for them, and their sequels should they be ever be released. If you can't support them with money via direct purchases, abadonware is your only choice.
  • Oh really (Score:2, Informative)

    "EA actually does this with Madden NFL 95 and SimCity Classic on its Web site"

    If SimCity Classic is anywhere on their page, it sure is hidden well. Oh, wait... Google [google.com]. Ok, thanks to Google I've found it, now I see that you have to play it online (what if I want to play it on my comp?) and its behind one of those obnoxious 'you must register on this site to be able to do anything at all' pages. I hate the latter though admittedly that's the publisher's perogative. But, come on, this is some low-rent online version. This I'm not interested in. I got a copy of SimCity and Lemmings with my first ever mouse about eight years ago. Then the floppies went into out garage and next I know they've been lying in a puddle for the past five years. I can't buy either anymore, and I seriously doubt EA would make much money selling it.

    There's also some other stuff I'm confused about. Squaresoft (better known as the publishers of the Final Fantasy series) released two games called Final Fantasy V and Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan. They didnt bother to release them in the west because they thought they were too complex for our simian intelligence or something. Now FFV has been released in the US about five years late, but from what I've heard it's not going to come out in the UK, and SD3 ... well I havent heard anything about that. I can't import FFV due to this protectionist region/DMCA crap, so I download translated copies of both. They were translated by devoted fans of Squaresoft who love these games and want to drum up more appreciation for Square by doing their translation and marketing work for them, not making a cent on this, and from what I've seen Square and Sony consider them to be criminals. I have a copy of both games on my hard disk, which I'd gladly pay for given the chance and I feel absolutely no moral shame for having them. Are either of these copyrighted in the United Kingdom, considering neither's actually been released here?
  • Let's look at this through a paralell: movies. Both are a copywritten media that undergoes complete turnover (care to guess what percent of the movies filmed in the '70s are available for purchase today?). Both have (IMHO) a far-too-long copyright. With movies, the result of too-much copyright is clear. Despite what is said in the article, there are tales of rotting reels of film left by studios (who know that they don't appeal to today's audience).

    I enjoy watching B&W moives- in the same way I enjoy reading the classic novels available from Project Gutenburg. These allow me to envision the past in a way no history book ever has. (Not to mention which, sometimes they're just flat-out better that what comes out today. "Heavens, you mean this comedy has a plot?!?!?")

    My attitude on this whole issue is: if the producers know these films won't turn a profit anymore, and they don't have the time / money to keep them, release copyright on them! Firstly, if they don't appeal today, what odds they are appealing tomorrow? Secondly, this turns the expense of preserving the movie over to the pubic- and you cn be sure that the'll be DivX'd faster than you can say "digital".

    Back to the topic on hand! As you might guess, I'm all for abandonware- both games and applications. (We're preserving computing history here, after all.) The turnover rate for software is, at a wild guess, 50% every year. As for these silly claims about losing copyright on a character: isn't that better covered by tradmarking? Then you could redistribute (as an example) the original Monkey Island games and LucasArts still holds exclusive rights to the future of the series.
  • by Wdomburg (141264) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @11:23AM (#3060684)
    There is a black and white issue here. Distributing copies of a copyrighted work without the permission of the "author" is illegal. However, in my opinion, it is far from being in the publisher's best interest to take action against the distribution of abandonware titles.

    The questions they should be asking themselves are:

    1) Does this harm us?

    2) Can we capitalize on this?

    The first question pretty much comes down to two key issues - is there loss of revenue, and does it dilute intellectual property.

    Unless there are ongoing efforts to sell a particular title, it is not generating a revenue stream. This is pretty straight forward.

    There may be a question as to whether it could be used to generate a future revenue stream; e.g. via the release of "classic" packs. This, however, is not feasible in a games current form unless it runs on a currently available platform.

    So, in terms of revenue, the publisher is out of luck unless it runs on Windows or Macintosh. They may do an port of older games, but that depends on a value add in order to make it a sellable asset.

    The second issue - protection of intellectual property - is pretty much a red herring. These are not trademarks; no matter how many times someone illegally copies them, it will not prevent them from successfully enforcing copyright on them in the future.

    So onto the second question - can this be capitalized on? The answer here is a resounding YES.

    The biggest benefit of abandonware, illegal or not, is that it helps maintain a franchise. If there is any question of the value of having a well known, wide spread franchise, one only need look at Ninetendo.

    There is also a lot of good will to be culled from releasing old games (in their current form, not applicable to future releases) under a free beer license.

    What my suggestion to publishers would be is to release these games under a license allowing free play, but not free redistribution, and then license redistributions rights to abandonware sites, not for money, but for advertising space.

    When applicable this would make an ideal launching pad for advertising updates of old classics, or new games in a series, as it targets the people who loved the originals enough to go searching for them.

    Of course, this is only my opinion, and doesn't count for jack in the real world :)

    Matt
  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @11:31AM (#3060701) Homepage
    The abandonware issue is a good argument to support the shortening of copyrights for software.


    Instead of copyrights for 50,75, or number of years since Mickey Mouse + 10, we change copyrights back to 25 years, renewable. On software, we make the copyright 10 years renewable. But, make a new version (currently a derivitive work) legally it's own work so that the entire package, not what changed from the earlier version starts the clock anew.

    Or another way is until the company stops supporting that product and providing free bugfixes. IBM has end of service dates announced for their software, so that once that data passes, you are on your own. That plus 1 year might be a good copyright expirition date. Or at least so that you can make copies to give away (for cost of media), not to allow one to start selling Windows 95 as a profit making enterprise.


    How many people out there are running Windows 3.1 or DOS 3.3?

  • A Black Market (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jazman_777 (44742)
    Obviously these games aren't worth a lot to these companies (except as potential pawns in an IP battle). But the owners won't even sell them for peanuts. You can't get them "legally". So an alternative market pops up to meet the demand (and the price of these games there is 0). Why can't these folks set up a "classic games" page on their sites, and sell these games for peanuts? Just cause it sold for $2, does that mean they lose their IP?
  • IANAL, but I do know more about copyright law than your average poster.

    One of the main tests (arguably the most important) for fair use of a work is the 'affect on the market' test. That is, does the use of the work in this manner alter the market for it significantly enough to cause monetary damages?

    Since a-ware games are not found on store shelves anymore, are technically obsolete (most of these won't even work on a modern computer without a DOS emulator) and are no longer generating revenue for publishers and authors alike, the effect on the market is negligible, because there really isnt even a market for them.

    Personally I think that if these games have been truly abandoned, and you're not trying to turn a profit off making them available (unless you've got permission, of course), it could very well fall under the fair use guidelines.

    Alas, it will take a court battle to decide that though.

  • So far in my life, and I believe in the history of the world there has only been one software company that acted like adults and good world citizens.. that would be ID. they release everything that they are done marketing. (some of the older Id games are being released for the gameboy advance.. so they arent done with them yet.. but I would KILL for version that ran natively under linux instead of dosemu.)

    All the rest? are a bunch of spoile rotten childish bullies... screaming "MINE MINE MINE" for even the worthless, useless things.

    remember, if the software company doesn't released their abandonware they are ran by people with 6 year old mental abilities. If they not only release the game but the source code? They are THE example to follow as a software company.
  • by CaptCanuk (245649) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:19PM (#3060849) Journal
    Most software developers (games and apps) should freely distribute abandoned software. I mean it isn't a full out request to open source their games and applications, but rather just a plea that once you can't sell in a retail channel and say a year has passed, that you let people use it for free (without support). It always makes you look good and in the case of a sequel or a line of products, it gets the potential customer used to using a product. I mean is it even possible to purchase Adobe Photoshop 3.0 ? If they freely distributed it (and if bandwidth was an issue, I'm sure some other sites wouldn't mind being a distrib) there would be more people familiar with photoshop line of applications (and those people with old photoshop 3 books could have something to do). I mean it was amazing when Sierra gave away "Betrayal at Krondor" off their site to publicize the release of "Return to Antara" and they took it off their site but it still got distributed (it's not so easy to find but it's there). If you are some third world country and you just got some donated machines (386, 486), I'm sure it would be really nice if you could run Microsoft Windows 3.1 and MS Works on it without paying.
    Software companies need to show heart, and this is definitely one way they can!

  • Abandonwarez (Score:5, Informative)

    by SkewlD00d (314017) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:28PM (#3060873)
    Geez, why don't game companies release the source to the old games too? id [idsoftware.com] does a pretty good job. I remember Rise of the Triad was an awesome game!

    Good stuff:
    NGO's that suck:
    • MPAA [mpaa.org]
    • RIAA [riaa.org]
    • NAB [nab.org]
    • BSA [bsa.org]
    • IDSA [idsa.org] - stoopid anal idsa protecting 15 yr old dos games LOL!!
    • Geez, why don't game companies release the source to the old games too?

      In many cases, the source is either lost or toally unavailable. For example, many publishers buy only the binary of the game plus redistrubtion rights without the source altogether. Another problem is due to scarcity of the source it tends to get lost, either by system crashes or by disgruntled (ex-)employees.

      Sadly, closed-source leads to lots of code that took millions of man-years to make to be lost forever.

      My suggestion is to make copyrights on computer software exipre 10 years after publication and require the authors to register the copyright by transferring the entire source to the library of congress for archival storgae.
  • Copyright myth (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jerf (17166) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:31PM (#3060884) Journal
    I was disappointed to see Will Wright (SimCity, Sims, etc.) say the following:

    Maxis Software's Will Wright, designer of SimCity and The Sims, was also asked his opinion on the matter.


    "This is a rather complicated issue, but let's say I create a game about [a fictitious character named] 'Zars from Mars,'" begins Wright. "Now even though the game may be off the market, by allowing everyone to freely download or even sell collections of old games, I might lose whatever copyright claims I have on the original character. So if many years later I want to start a comic book about Zars, I might have a hard time legally protecting the intellectual property."
    That is incorrect. Copyright never expires due to lack of enforcement, and this argument is complete bullcrap... though to be fair, I bet Will Wright doesn't know that.

    It would be interesting to know if he came up with this misunderstanding on his own, or if somebody fed him this line.

    Now, he may be legitimately concerned about the trademark, which does need to be defended, but as long as nobody is doing anything with the charecters other then downloading the game they came from, I can't imagine that trademark infringements are taking place. That would happen if you started printing posters of the char, or putting it in your own movies, or other similarly infringing activities, none of which have anything to do with downloading a game.

    Downloading games does not strip publishers of any rights. In fact, if massive downloads of a game did strip publishers of the copyright, then this would be a null issue, as abandonware would be perfectly legal! Once the copyright is stripped, we could all download these things with impunity. (Extensive warezing could become legal, too, by the same argument.) Lawyers aren't stupid, so they didn't leave this gaping loophole open.

    It's difficult to move debate on these issues forward when there's so much ignorance of the issues. (How many of you noticed this before I pointed it out? And IANAL, either.)
    • Well I'm betting Will's not a lawyer. I'm sure he meant to include IANAL somewhere in the interview. But you're right, it is a problem that he, as a game designer, feels that is an issue. A simple license clause stating that the game is available for free without waranty but all characters and other ip remains the property of the publisher would be sufficient to avoid any problems.
  • We need compulsory licensing, with statutory royalties, for "out of print" copyrighted works. This has been suggested for other genres. [clir.org]

    Japan has compulsory licensing for nonprofit activities involving out of print material. [loyola.edu] This needs to be looked into for Japanese games. You may have to pay a statutory royalty to the Agency of Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Education.

  • Lost Copyrights (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Papa Legba (192550) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:48PM (#3060959)
    One of the issues that this article avoided is the issue of lost copyrights. This occures when a copyright is held by... No one. The copyright exists but the legal fiction called a corporation no longer exists to enforce it.

    One of the best examples I have read of this is Wasteland. An Awesome RPG from the 80's. I wasted weeks on it using my apple IIC. I alwasy wondered what happened to it, why their was no sequel to it as it was much loved.

    Then Fallout came out. A game that, not only played and felt a lot like Wasteland, but contained direct references to it. This was clearly stated to not be a sequal to Wasteleand, which confussed me as they were so close.

    Getting Curious I followed up on this and read up on Fallout. enlightment came in an interview with the developer and producer of the game. Seems that they wanted to make a wasteland sequal and had gone looking to buy the rights to do so. They followed the trail from the original developer, who had gone out of bussiness to an IP holding company that had bought all of the developers IP when it went under. This company in turn had crashed and all their IP had been picked up by another company who had then immediatly gone bankrupt also. The IP was never moved from their, so this resource sat and died on the spot.

    Great you would think, grab that IP for a song and get going. The problem is that, while the the IP is an asset of the bankrupt company and therefore saleable, their is no one to buy it from! With no corporate officers left and no truste of the bankruptcy who do you buy it from? No one is the answer so Fallout could not be released as an official followup.

    This is the idea that I think the IDSA would really not like to have get around. Groups like this and the BSA bully people by making them think that they represent ALL copyright holders, which is not the case at all. A lot of software is in limbo, just like wasteland is.

    Lucky underdog recognized this. They got their notice from IDSA and said, tell us which ones they are. The IDSA never replied, why? because the amount of games they actually reprsent in the abandonware genre are next to none.

    The other factor in this enforcement is that groups like the BSA and IDSA charge for membership, which is were they make their money. For every title protected they charge X dollar amount. A company that has stopped selling a game is not going to continue to incur costs by maintaining a watchdog over it that drains money every year. So they remove that coverage, removing IDSA's right to enforce the copywrite, becuase IDSA does not hold any of the actual copywrites and can only act as an agent when given permission.

    This is the lie of both the BSA and IDSA, they are paper tigers when it comes to abandonware, they have no enforcement rights in 99% of the cases. If they did most of the abondonware scene would have been stomped out years ago.

  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @01:02PM (#3061035) Homepage
    It seems to me that these abandonware sites are performing a service akin to the Library of Congress. From their mission [loc.gov]:
    "

    The Library's mission is to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations."


    I can see the fiscal reasons for not archiving software, but perhaps its time for the library to address these issues. If a case were made for the benefit of Congressmen and Congresswomen, then I think it would be hard for big business to lobby against it.

  • by TheCarp (96830)
    Whats fascinating in this article is the different ideas of publishers and developers.
    The publishers talked very plainly and without elaboration on how making a copy is a violation of their copyright and they will persue it.

    The actual writters of the games elaborated in ways that showed a definite lack of understanding of copyright law.

    As Will Wright said:

    Now even though the game may be off the market, by allowing everyone to freely download or even sell collections of old games, I might lose whatever copyright claims I have on the original character.


    While this may be true with a trade mark, it is certainly not true under copyright (which is what covers these issues being discussed). He was not the first one in the artcile to express a view like that.

    I find it fascinating that publishers know all they need to about copyright law, and the game makers are, by and large, ignorant of the real law and its issues. I have to wonder if this is true in other forms of publishing (like books) where the authors hold copyright more often and license their works to the publishers.

    -Steve
  • I for one fail to see why giving a game out for free can make copyright enforcement harder. Just so I don't get moderated back into my fat32 partition, let me illustrate. I have a copy of Borland C++ 4.51 licensed for personal use which I got off a PC Plus coverdisc. It is fully functional and nominally free, if you forget about the magazine they stuck on it. This act has not diminished Borland's ability to enforce their copyright. I think Mr. Will Wright of Maxis has a somewhat limited understanding of licensing options.

    I reluctantly must admit I see how abandonware might very well infringe on the developers' rights. When you retain copyright for a game that was last sold 8 years ago, you technically reserve for yourself the option of re-introducing it. Distribution under abandonware terms means losing this option.

    And I disagree respectfully with those who consider this issue related to the length of copyright enforcement; there is no link. If a certain medium can only be copyright-enforced for 6 months, there will still be illegal duplication of that medium within those 6 months. The issue here is not whether 10 years is enough or not; the issue is the legal status of abandonware. And as far as that's concerned, I think the law is most unfortunately clear.

    The question now is how to reconcile the legitimate claims of abandonware maintainers/users with the legal rights of copyright holders?

    Developers and publishers, IMHO, must begin to consider the promotional potential of that abandoned software. LSL 1, released for free with a few ads in it for LSL42, will never cannibalise the sales of LSL42. We are beginning to see a lot of this happening with magazine cover disks. It's called promotional material, Mr. Publisher.

    Looking forward to Lemmings XP.

  • Now leave me alone so I can download more free pirated music!

    Ok, this will be a little off topic, but whatever happened to the good ol' days when you would grab a piece of software with "Pirated by L33t Hax0r" stamped someplace on the title screen? Whenever I read "pirated music" that is all I can think of...
  • I glad that someone took the trouble to MAME the arcade game that I worked in 1984. It was a fond moment when I booted it up a year ago. Since the company I was working for no longer exists (and hasn't for some time), I doubt anyone would mind.

    P.S. the game was Intrepid by Nova Games. Looks cheesy, but consider the hardware: 4 MHz Z80, 20k of ROM, heh.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @02:21PM (#3061405) Homepage

    Copyright is explicitly required to advance the arts and sciences. The old games fall under arts I would say.

    In order to advance those arts, publishers and creators are granted legal protection for their works to ensure their ability to profit. However, that profit is NOT the goal of copyright, the availability of the work is the goal. It's just that in a capitolist system, profit is a good incentive.

    Reasonably, in exchange for the granting of legal protection, the copyright holder SHOULD be accepting a social responsability to ensure the continued availability of the work. Hoarding the work, or simply allowing it to rot and using copyright to prevent others from preserving the work is preceicely in opposition to the purpose and justification of IP law.

    A fair and constitutional copyright law would require that preservation as a condition of being granted a copyright. This was not considered in the 18th century when the constitution and the first copyright law were enacted since at the time, copyright only lasted 14 years and thus there was little danger that a work would be lost by the time it's copyright expired. In addition, the works (books) were not subject to bit rot. Unlike a 5.25" C64 floppy, it's not at all hard to read a well cared for 22 year old book.

    By extending copyright many times over, Congress has introduced the very real possability that by the time a copyright expires, there may be no salvagable copy of the work in existance. Changes in the nature of a 'work' introduce the probability that by the time copyright expires, there may be no hardware that can even read, much less execute the software. In some cases, the hardware might be so obscure that nobody remembers exactly how to reproduce it. Quick, what was the record density of track 17 on a C64 floppy? Anyone remember the encoding scheme. Now, in another 50 or so years (when the copyright on Mind Mirror FINALLY expires), how many people will remember. What are the odds that the original floppy you bought in the early 80's will still be readable even if someone does remember how?

    Can someone please tell me how losing that work forever will advance the arts or sciences?

  • what sierra said... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El Panda Grande (551730) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @02:27PM (#3061429) Homepage
    I loved a lot of the old sierra adventure games of the late 80's early 90's and wanted to buy copies of the ones I didn't have. When I discovered I couldn't but them anywhere, I e-mailed seirra, asking for premission to download there stuff for free. The guy said he was amazed that I was still playing the games they made before I was even born, and I may download them with his blessing. He only warned me that they couldn't offer tech support. On the flip side, Lucusarts still sells their old games for 20 bucks a pop. I wonder if they make much money off them, they wouldn't tell me!
  • I think it was rather irresponsible of them to include screen shots of Wolfenstein 3-D and Duke Nukem 3D in an article about abandonware. Those titles (and in fact nearly all of Apogee's games going back to about 1990) are STILL FOR SALE *AND* SUPPORTED AT 3DREALMS.COM!!! They go out of their way to do offer this. You can download a copy of one of their older games for only $10. Yet I routinely see Apogee titles available as abandonware. If you're going to run an abandonware site, RESEARCH the titles you put up, and if you don't, call it a warez site, because that's what it is.
  • Supply and Demand (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Apreche (239272) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @03:24PM (#3061690) Homepage Journal
    I posted this way too late so nobody will ever see it or reply to it. However, I just want to point out this is another issue of supply and demand, just like mp3s. There is a demand for digital music. The RIAA does not supply digital music, so people take it for free.
    There is a demand for old video games. Game publishers do not make old video games readily available, so people take them for free.
    Businesses just don't get it. When people want something, give it to them, or you'll lose money. The only logic they could be using is that they make more money off of copyright infringement lawsuits than they would by selling the old video games. Somehow, I don't think that's the case.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2002 @04:00PM (#3061845)
    He explains: "If the options are (a) having a game be lost forever and (b) having it available on one of these sites, I'd want it to be available.
    Emphasis mine.

    Here is what I consider to be the crux of the matter. Copyright grants a limited monopoly before the work in question passes on to the public domain. If it is lost forever, it will never pass into the public domain. The copyright owner has essentially killed the work in question.

    An attempt to actually kill a work in this way is such an obvious breach of the intent of Copyright so as to justify the entire abandonware concept entirely and without hesitation.

    Perhaps Copyright law should be modified so as to require "abandoned" works to be explicitly placed in the public domain, and if this is not done, and the work is "lost forever", then at the expiration of the copyright, the owners of that copyright should be fined the estimated worth of the work in question, plus some punitive minimum amount.

    A Copyright holder has a duty to be able to provide the work so protected to the public at the expiration of the term of Copyright. If and when they cannot do so, some sort of punitive and protective measure needs to be taken. (Perhaps all their other copyright worked are immediately placed into the public domain, as they have demonstrated an inability to even retain a copy of the work they claim copyright on.) A deposit of the work, in archival format, with the Library of Congress would suffice, or donating the work to the abandonware sites upon the corporate decision to abandon the software would work as well.

    The issues of lapsed warranties were also touched on in the article. Personally, if a company cannot or will not honor a warranty, then they have effectively given that product's IP into the public domain. (Patents *and* Copyrights!) I have old games that I would still like to play, but they are copy-protected *and* on failing media, and the creating companies are "out of business". Naturally, I think this sucks. But I'm breaking the law if I acquire another copy of the software from an abandonware site.

  • An interesting tale (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2002 @06:07PM (#3062428)
    Years there have been efforts by the community to get their hands on the Ultima7 sourcecode, due to the fact that it had serious problems with memory management and should be fixed to preserve that game. Well even EA was contacted and didn't react for a long time. Shortly before the release of U9 finally somebody could be found who looked into the matter, oh well nothing was heard thereafter, although there were rumours that the code was found! To make it short the community took their fate in their own hands and

    a) wrote windows drivers for U7 to make them work more or less

    b) simply reverse engineered the whole U7 engine and wrote their own engine which brought the game up to modern standards (exult... which can be found a exult.sourceforge.net)

    c) started several projects to remake the old Ultimas with modern standards

    Only to find themselves being attacked by an EA suit openly in a wired article (I have to say EA before they wired article didn't even care to answer the mails from the remake authors sent to them).

    This clearly explains the shortsightness of those corps. Instead of supporting the community, by giving them source code, or information and maybe benefitting in the long run (aka they could bring out a fan Ultima collection with all emulators, and remakes), they cry mine mine mine, and dont touch my intellectual property! They should really learn from the Linux community where an entire business has arisen out of it!

  • The way I see it, there are a few reasons why "abandonware" sites should exist.

    1) If the copywrite owners stated, in writing, they would replace defective media.

    2) If the game was "licenced" and not purchased (as per most EULAs) then the owner of the software is REQUIRED to replace defective media, because I don't own the game, I only lease it. The lease owner has to keep up the maintence.

    I have too many games around here that I did spend the money to purchase that have suffered bit rot, or physical damage to the media. Most of them fit in one of the above catagories.

  • The classic game is one word :

    Elite

    And the author has released the source etc...

    Haven't been able to play a structured game ever since

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