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Electronic Frontier Foundation Games Your Rights Online

ESA Rebukes EFF's Request To Exempt Abandoned Games From Some DMCA Rules 153

eldavojohn writes It's 2015 and the EFF is still submitting requests to alter or exempt certain applications of the draconian DMCA. One such request concerns abandoned games that utilized or required online servers for matchmaking or play (PDF warning) and the attempts taken to archive those games. A given example is Madden '09, which had its servers shut down a mere one and a half years after release. Another is Gamespy and the EA & Nintendo titles that were not migrated to other servers. I'm sure everyone can come up with a once cherished game that required online play that is now abandoned and lost to the ages. While the EFF is asking for exemptions for museums and archivists, the ESA appears to take the stance that it's hacking and all hacking is bad. In prior comments (PDF warning), the ESA has called reverse engineering a proprietary game protocol "a classic wolf in sheep's clothing" as if allowing this evil hacking will loose Sodom & Gomorrah upon the industry. Fellow gamers, these years now that feel like the golden age of online gaming will be the dark ages of games as historians of the future try to recreate what online play was like now for many titles.
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ESA Rebukes EFF's Request To Exempt Abandoned Games From Some DMCA Rules

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Give me back the online play for rally masters! It does not even work on a local network. Such a nice multiplayer game and cannot multi play anymore...

  • Everything is micro transactions... who would want to remember that?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  • ESA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:01AM (#49437339)

    I don't understand why the European Space Agency would be involved in this.

  • ESA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:03AM (#49437359)
    I am on the EFF's side here, but isn't it the game industry's job? If the game industry wants to be taken seriously artistically, it is ultimately the industry's duty to set up ways to preserve the art. If the industry won't take itself seriously, then individuals attempting preservation are going to end up being blocked over and over again by whatever form our trademark and copyright laws take.
    • Re:ESA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pi1grim ( 1956208 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:22AM (#49437517)

      Fun fact, but in some countries it is actually 100% legal to reverce engineer and patch a game to restore it's functionality to original level in case the game was legally obtained and for research purposes. So whoever ESA is, they can go and cry a corner, while other countries enjoy the functionality lost to US. Also, their arguments reek of manure - reverse engineering should be made legal (as any type of research) and "hacking, closely asosiated to piracy" - that's a gem, how about we ban ESA, RIAA, MPAA because they condone "DRM, closely associated with scams, illegal spying, privacy and customer rights violations"? What's really needed is a law, that would allow people to get a refund on multiplayer games in case official servers go down and there is no way to start your own, then ESA would make a quick 180 on their stance.

    • Re:ESA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:35AM (#49437627)

      If the game industry wants to be taken seriously artistically

      Well, that's the problem. With a few notable exceptions, the game industry doesn't give two figs about being taken seriously artistically. They just want to make as much money as possible.

      • Re:ESA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by snadrus ( 930168 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @02:39PM (#49440871) Homepage Journal

        Hit them where it counts then. Servers turn off? Give me the no-server patch or a refund. That should be the law.

        I know if my lawnmower was intentionally bricked by the manufacturer 1 year after purchase (assuming I didn't but it on release day), they would be in-for-it.

        • I have to wonder why there was no class action lawsuit (or was there?) over this.

          But yes, you shouldn't need a lawsuit. In New Zealand the consumer guarantees act should apply, though I have no idea whether anyone tried using it to obtain a refund. I don't imagine we're the only nation with a similar law.

          At an absolute minimum, they should be obliged to grant permission to third parties wanting to provide ongoing support if they are unwilling to do so themselves.

    • Re:ESA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @10:54AM (#49438465)
      Well, for what it's worth (which is probably about $100 a year) I stopped gaming when games started requiring Internet connectivity to play. We went from an era where the player could compete against a fairly well-implemented computer opponent to where the player only or mostly competes against other players. I had a lot of fun in games like Doom and Quake where it was just me, an agressive midi synth track, and a bunch of startled monsters screaming at me, and I didn't have to worry about having a connection or dealing with racial epithets from random strangers.

      LAN parties were fun, but mostly fun because I was playing against my friends all in the same room, so our trash-talking was moderated by the fact that we had to look each other in the eye and wanted to continue being friends. Internet play can be fun too, but mandating it just to play a game, and at the will of the game publishing company's interest in keeping servers running doesn't do it for me.
      • There are a -LOT- of single player games these days. A lot fo multi player ones too, but that one exists doesn't get rid of the other. Whatever genre you like, you can find some of both.

        Since you mention shooters, Wolfenstein the New Order is a single player only shooter acclaimed by critics and fans alike.

    • The game makers are all about today's games. They hate last year's game because there's no profit in it. Ten year old games are right now. The game industry seems more worried about reselling or regifting games than with actual piracy. Thus the rise of ubiquitous DRM which has never slowed down any pirates but which punishes consumers who legally purchase the games. Always-online games may be the more onerous of these types of DRM, but all DRM is fundamentally designed to restrict the consumer's rights

  • 20 years too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:05AM (#49437369) Journal
    these years now that feel like the golden age of online gaming will be the dark ages of games as historians of the future try to recreate what online play was like now for many titles.

    While I agree with your premise, you overlook the fact that many of us in the "first gen" of gamers already view this as a "dark age". Personally, I have a fairly impressive game library, spanning a dozen platforms and worth probably tens of thousands of dollars (at original retail price*) worth of games. And I basically stopped buying games about a decade ago, with a few notable exceptions.

    Make no mistake, I still game regularly - Between the occasional non-obnoxious modern release, and the back catalog of once-great games that I still haven't played (just finished Fallout a few weeks ago, no idea how I never got into that when it first came out), I figure I have enough material to keep me content for the rest of my life. But I will not play any game that depends on any aspect of the game under the exclusive control of a third party. Open servers and a really viable single-player mode, or GTFO, simple as that.

    * Not that I actually paid full retail, which counts as an entirely different problem with modern games - Reselling a game used to mean putting it back in the box (or putting everything you had left in a ziplock bag), and passing it along to someone else for a few bucks. Now, if you even have the option of reselling it, you usually need to do so with the "permission" of the publisher. Fuck that!
    • by orlanz ( 882574 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:44AM (#49437737)

      I don't think its the dark ages. The gaming world has just been redefined and left us old timers out. From my view, the average game is now an interactive movie. The old school definition of "fun" has long ago died. Its all about graphics and "showing" a story or a cool suit or a cool weapon design. In some ways its just playing dress up with dolls, or action figures, but now they call them "video games" and the accessories are DLCs.

      Gone are the complex paper,rock,scissor strategies or couch coops and personal connections. Now its very anonymous and the player is the key content in the game without which other players would stop playing. Its up to the player to create the micro stories like kids used to with dolls/action figures with their imagination. The game itself is just a catalyst to bring the faceless masses in for the movie watching and of each other.

      As for us old school gamers, we are pretty much irrelevant. The current set of gamers are on mobile phones and only online. They need instant gratification and once the next one comes out or the trophies are achieved, they forget the last. No significant number of them care about replay or nostalgia. And they will pay up front and months in advance based on the cover or press release. Whether it meets their expectations or value is irrelevant, because that money is spent and the next press release just came out. Not much different than the IT stock buyers in the last 90s.

      I miss the old days but .. damn-it those kids are on my lawn again!

      • by Minwee ( 522556 )

        The "Dark Ages" are called that because of the lack of historical records from that time.

        Really. It has nothing to do with how complicated their games were.

        Since so much of modern culture -- not just video games but also books, music and movies -- is locked into digital formats which prioritize new sales over preservation of the original, future historians may well look at the current era in the same way.

        The ESA is trying to ensure that we continue to live in a Digital Dark Age.

      • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @11:43AM (#49438951) Homepage
        The gaming world hasn't left you old farts out, you just need to go beyond watching the latest Call of Duty ad, huffing and puffing a bit about it and declaring gaming dead.

        If you care as much as you imply, look for new games. No, you won't find them in TV ads. You didn't find them on TV way back when anyway. There are dozens, even hundreds of new games that come out that have amazing gameplay, depth and breadth and everything in between. Yes, some of them even look pretty while doing it, *gasp* you don't have to look ugly to be engaging!

        You want strategic depth? Beyond the obvious choices like Starcraft 2 (which has more strategic layers than most RTS of yore), you can find stuff like Cities: Skylines (amazing, in-depth city builder, released less than a month ago), Endless Legend (amazing and beautiful 4X), Homeworld Remastered (yes it's an old game but it plays like a modern one with the remaster), Crusader Kings 2 (you want complex interactions? this goes way beyond rock/paper/scissors), Europa Universalis IV (it's Crusader Kings but with a scope 10x larger), Kerbal Space Program (make rockets, send things to space, all physically-driven), Invisible, Inc. (early access turn-based spy game, extremely well crafted and difficult), Planetary Annihilation (spiritual successor to Total Annihilation, but set on multiple planets in the same match, with all that that entails), Civilization V (the pinnacle of the series with both expansions), Wargame: Red Dragon (latest in a series of highly accurate historical RTS games, focus on realism and scale, very detailed), Frozen Cortex/Synapse (turn-based duel games where you give orders to a squad and watch your orders and the enemy's unfold simultaneously, very high skill ceiling)... need I go on? I've barely checked 10% of my own library here.

        Then there's the stuff outside of the more strategic/planning. Let's only name a few examples: Transistor (amazingly beautiful and atmospheric isometric brawler with unique pause planning combat set in a cyberpunk setting), Bayonnetta (probably the best spectacle fighter ever made, easy to learn, hard to master, incredible depth), The Stanley Parable (very funny, very enjoyable interactive fiction with a lot of branching paths), Antichamber (really really novel puzzler, lots of interesting brain teasers), Portal 1 and 2 (if you don't know about them, where the hell were you?), Gunpoint (excellent noir-style 2D hacking game) and more besides.

        So I'm sorry if I'm not partaking in the Slashdot tradition of bashing on modern gaming as though it lacked substance and depth, but unlike most people here I seem to have actually followed gaming's development instead of merely going "get off my lawn."
        • For whatever reason, humans (some of them at least) have this need to view the past with rose coloured glasses and then whine about everything modern. Happens with gaming just as anything else.

          An objective look at gaming shows we are in an amazing golden age of gaming right now. Tons of games are being made. With that means tons of crap, of course, but plenty of good ones. What's more, basically everyone's needs are being met. Gaming isn't targeted at just one or two demographics, there is a massive variety

    • There are some publishers that actually have the balls to call the first sale doctrine legalized theft
  • Perhaps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:06AM (#49437381)

    Perhaps the security technology in the abandoned games is the similar to that in the non-abandoned games.

    If so, the game makers would really not want folks to know how to open the abandoned games.

    That would explain the situation.

    If so, seems the game makers dug the hole they are in.

    • Why would the fact that it's not legal to circumvent protection in old games be any sort of deterrent to people willing to illegally circumvent protection in current games?
    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      This isn't about breaking the DRM so much as working around company servers that no longer exist.

      Of course, there are cases where these overlap (call-home style copy protection,) but in those cases, if the servers were still available for non-abandoned games then they'd also still be available for abandoned games.

      Unless the company is such a dick that they use the exact same server tech and just change the IP address or similar in order to explicitly break older games. I'm pretty sure they'd find themselve

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Any true nerd would know that ESA stands for the European Space Agency.

    Non-nerds ( and their "Editors" ) should clarify other uses.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You mean I only get to do this one thing for three years and after that the results of such an exemption are back to being illegal again? The DMCA is one bad idea after another.

  • by Bonzoli ( 932939 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:17AM (#49437487)
    Just have the Library of Congress step in and ask to have a copy of every game and its backend supporting software for the archives. Have a game assignement number for tracking like a book. We have an institution, it just needs a storage and process upgrade.
    • by romiz ( 757548 )
      The French national library is doing it - they have all physical software releases since those started, and they have some technical folks that try to keep them readable and running. But they do not really have all the hardware means to do it, so they usually use emulators to run the software.
  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:23AM (#49437523) Homepage
    Just refuse to buy any game that can't be played in standalone mode. If it requires an online server, just say no.

    If enough people do this, the companies will have to change their perverted business model.

    Can you live without your online gaming habit for a year or two?
    • by _xeno_ ( 155264 )

      Assuming you're aware that it requires an online server when you buy it.

      I recently bought LEGO Batman 3 since I love the LEGO games and enjoyed the previous two Batman games in the series. None of them have ever had an online component. LEGO Batman 3 has no online multiplayer, it only has single player and split screen co-op.

      Guess what? It requires an online connection to some server somewhere. This isn't mentioned in the Steam page anywhere. If you can't connect to the server, you can't play the game [steamcommunity.com].

      I had

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        Yep. That one got me too. Which I probably wouldn't have even cared all that much about if the damned thing didn't take like 3-4 minutes to connect the first time I tried to play it. Don't know what was up with their servers that day but holy fuck.

        Steam really should try to pressure developers to reduce this kind of BS as much as possible. Steam's DRM works just fine. There's no real need for the games on Steam to include a second level of DRM other than the developers just being too lazy to remove it

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The point is being missed entirely. If i buy a game that requires infrastructure from the manufacturer to play and the manufacturer decides to just stop providing that infrastructure, all bets are off. I should be free to do whatever I want/need to continue to be able to play that game. if the manufacturer feels like there is still some IP there, then continue to support it. If they feel like they can't afford to continue to support it, then what IP is remaining, really?

    As soon as a good becomes "not fi

    • A use it or lose it clause should be added to copyright law.
      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        A use it or lose it clause should be added to copyright law.

        But then Disney couldn't remove movies from circulation to put into their Vault for limited-time re-releases later.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      That's far too wide. Any new laws or changes to existing laws to address this particular problem will need to be specific to the issue of online-mediated DRM. Because if its not, too many counter-examples crop up (or more likely, are made up) in order to shut the law down before it comes into effect.

      Really though, what the EFF is asking for is probably the best you can do.. its not really plausible to burden the developer with this -- they can't keep unprofitable servers running without going bankrupt (an

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:33AM (#49437599) Journal

    ...but I recall some economist observing that against market demand, arbitrarily constraining supply will create black markets.

    I'm not saying that's how it should be, just how it IS.

    I understand that ESA want to control any and all access to products of their developers (on principle, if the developers no longer exist, etc), but I expect that ultimately this will be futile, and lead to their irrelevance sooner rather than later.

  • Stop buying the crappy new games and bring them to their knees.
  • by Vermonter ( 2683811 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @09:45AM (#49437763)
    I wonder how these people would react if they were told A: their cars needed to have a GPS connection to be allowed to drive, and then B: a few years after owning their cars, the GPS system they used was taken offline and they were told they were SOL and had to buy a new car.
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      They would be indignant, I am sure.

      They are like the ISP/Telco/Wireless provider crowd though they want to have it both ways. "I am a common carrier" when it affords me legal protection or entitles me to some government handouts, rights of way etc, "I am pure commercial entity that should be except from regulation" when I want invent new revenue streams and leverage my monopoly by double dipping.

      Same for the games industry, suggest they should be regulated and the cry is "We are artists, free speech!", unl

  • The linked article says that "a user cannot hack the server-based authentication and âoematchmakingâ access controls for console-based video games without also hacking the video game console access controls", and then applies the "wolf in sheep's clothing" metaphor to it. I won't argue that this might be a concern for the ESA, and if the concern were a legitimate one, I can even potentially see how it could be a problem with respect to software that hasn't been abandoned, but does anyone have any
  • 1. Make a game that requires server authentication and have date X for the launch of the servers.
    2. Sell a boatload of games.
    3. Take the servers off-line on date X plus 10 seconds.
    4. Profits!

    According to the ESA, that would be legal and appropriate?

  • The summary (didn't RTFA so please forgive if there's more) clearly states the EFF is bringing up only those games that require a vendor-provided online service to get full functionality and that the vendor has discontinued support for that game. It's not a free for all to open up all games. Only those that the vendor has declared end of life, defunct, abandoned, etc.

    Of course the vendors want people to buy the new version of the game instead of wanting to play the one they have. That's the big reason for

  • Don't buy games that require an online component unless it comes with the server and matchmaking software for you to run. The gaming industry only gets away with its shit because consumers let it.
  • When the publishers and copyright holders cease to produce, market, support and profit from their games, yet there are still consumers demanding the game and those consumers will do whatever it takes to continue playing the games they love. Are the publishers and copyright holder then indirectly promoting the piracy of their own products? It's like giving a suicidal person a gun. The suicidal person makes the choice to kill himself or not, but the other person put him in that situation.
  • use it or lose it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neghvar1 ( 1705616 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @10:28AM (#49438233)
    First off, I believe software should have a different copyright length. (Windows XP's copyright expires sometime after 2100. How crazy is that?) I also believe a "use it or lose it clause" should be added to copyright law. If a publisher or copyright holder ceases to publish, market, support and profit from a product, then after X number of years, that game will fall into public domain. I believe this clause should apply to all copyrights and not just software.
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      holder ceases to publish, market, support and profit from a product

      Its a nice idea but kinda hard to enforce. Suppose Microsoft wants to make sure XP's copyright does not expire early. They gather up 20 retail copies of "new old stock" they have somewhere an set an Outlook reminder to put one on Ebay once a year. Does that count? What if its a small ISV with a shareware product that they maybe only sell a handful of license for per year. Its not a product they pay much attention to but hey once in a while someone decides to toss them $50 to make the nag screen go away

      • And what of orphaned works? Works in which the copyright owner cannot be found or has died and that person's copyright were never handed down. There are thousands of works which will fall into the abyss of time because of IP giants who want to continue commercialy exploiting their few copyrights. http://www.public.asu.edu/~dka... [asu.edu]
      • holder ceases to publish, market, support and profit from a product

        Its a nice idea but kinda hard to enforce. Suppose Microsoft wants to make sure XP's copyright does not expire early. They gather up 20 retail copies of "new old stock" they have somewhere an set an Outlook reminder to put one on Ebay once a year. Does that count?

        If they're selling them as new products, with the support entitlements that any new copy of Windows XP should expect, and Microsoft keeps their activation servers up indefinitely, then I'd say yes. If they're selling copies of Windows XP that won't activate...not so much. More to the point, the essence of what's being asked is that Microsoft can't sue someone for running

        What if its a small ISV with a shareware product that they maybe only sell a handful of license for per year. Its not a product they pay much attention to but hey once in a while someone decides to toss them $50 to make the nag screen go away, it costs them nothing to leave the license generator and sales page up on their site, so what not? Should they not be allowed to do that as long as they care to?

        If the ISV doesn't have any server-side requirements and it's a matter of a simple keygen that displays or e-mails a serial number, then th

  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Thursday April 09, 2015 @10:29AM (#49438249)

    ESA = Entertainment Software Association

    Some of us might not be gamers and yet due to the wide applications of the DMCA still thought this article looked worth clicking on.

    The ESA I knew was the European Space Agency!

  • Go fuck yourself.

  • How do you loose a pair of cities on an industry?

    Unless you're talking about DRM, in which case the users are already f***ed.

  • The vast majority of sports-gamers are also "sports fans" want to play with the CURRENT roster, only a few cheap bastards who buy Madden 09 in 2012 or something go whining about the multiplayer servers going down. Even then, singleplayer and local-multiplayer still work, so their experience is the same as someone playing the old tyme pre-online Maddens

    Do we really expect EA to keep the servers for each year's madden release up forever?

    • Well, unless when they sold the game they STATED CLEARLY that the game was not sold, but was an 18 month lease of service then YES WE DO.
      Otherwise it is a violation of the contract established at the time of sale - at a minimum they owe the purchaser a percentage refund based on the possible
      time the purchaser could play the game - lets say 10-20 years of hardware compatibility availability? 90% should be fair.

      You see, when you sell someone an item, YOU HAVE TO DAMN WELL STAND BEHIND IT!

      Imagine if you bought

      • Well, unless when they sold the game they STATED CLEARLY that the game was not sold, but was an 18 month lease of service then YES WE DO.

        You see, when you sell someone an item, YOU HAVE TO DAMN WELL STAND BEHIND IT!

        Games aren't sold, they haven't been for a long while...they're LICENSED. Look at the back of the damn box, or the manual. And with most games the license notes clearly state the online multiplayer functionality can be discontinued at ANY time and isn't guaranteed to last forever.

        Imagine if you bought a house and it started falling down after 18 months... perhaps that would also just be ok? after all, the seller got what they wanted..

        Actually there are rules on that, and I do believe that it isn't the sellers responsibility, after a certain period of time. That's what the inspection is for, to catch things that need fixing. Now if something happens AFTER th

  • "A given examples is Madden '09, which had its"

    And nothing of value was lost.

    Seriously, games should have thought of this before buying these asnine games that force you to log into some ephimeral DRM network just to let you play.

    At this point I have written off almost all major game manufacturers cause of this crap. If I can't play a game offline, then I don't get that game (unless it's 90% discounted on steam, then *maybe*)

    I remember being really excited about Starcraft 2, until I found out that the sing

  • Anyone who parrots that "golden age" industry wank (I wish I could remember which sock-puppet kicked it off a few years back) unironically clearly didn't live through the Age of Legends (Gen 3-4 with Atari/Intellivision/Odyssey/et al as Gen 1).

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!