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DRM Games

DMCA Exemption Sought to Save 'Abandoned' Online Games (techspot.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes TechSpot: Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews and renews the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions at which time it considers exemptions to the law. It is currently looking at a proposal for allowing museums, libraries and archives to circumvent the DRM on abandoned online games such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar and The Sims.

The proposal was initiated by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE). The Made is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a physical museum located in Oakland, California. The gallery "is the only all-playable video game museum in the world, [and] houses over 5,300 playable games." The Made is concerned that certain multiplayer and single-player games that require a server to run will be lost if exemptions are not made to the DMCA. It is not looking to circumvent current games but instead is looking to preserve titles that have already been shut down by the producer -- City of Heroes (and Villains) would be a good example.

"Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical," a Made representative wrote to the Copyright Office. "Online games have become ubiquitous and are only growing in popularity. For example, an estimated fifty-three percent of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week, and spend, on average, six hours a week playing with others online." The number of abandoned games is not insignificant, either. According to the Electronic Arts "Online Services Shutdown" list, more than 300 titles and servers dropped out of service just in the last four years. These games are not played anymore because they require an active server.

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DMCA Exemption Sought to Save 'Abandoned' Online Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 25, 2017 @01:46AM (#55803273)

    I have to agree there needs to be a way to legally revive software titles from the economic dust-bin. Either though philanthropy or crowd-sourcing games that people have paid money for (like a book) should have a way to recover when the original source abandons the media. Having said that there will also be some legal issues that need to be tackled head-on or us digital denizens will suffer the wrath of the SCO.

    I vote Yes for this effort!

    • The problem is very few mmos much less single player games with multiplayer components have any means of recreating the server. Someone from the original developer either has to steal a server, or the game has to be reversed while it was still running (eg maple story, Mabinogi, Wizardry Online, Final fantasy XIV 1.0) so that often is a very small window between final patch and sunset.

    • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @02:18AM (#55803365)
      if a game maker wants copyright protection they need to provide to a 3rd party every bit of code required to run the game....expressly so it can be preserved.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Either corporate hacking/espionage/leaks, or a big pocketed non-profit whose sole purpose was buying complete source code and data files for major applications and releasing them as open source (or modifying them until they can be released as open source, as applicable.)

      The former solution would be a lot better from the 'snapshot of real life' point of view, while the latter would be the more legally palatable option.

      Many franchises are essentially dead today. Many more never had their source code transferr

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert.slashdot@firenzee@com> on Monday December 25, 2017 @04:59AM (#55803595) Homepage

        The problem as always, is that copyright laws are outdated..
        The original 20 years and then a work falls into the public domain made sense when works were written on paper and transport was slow. These days a lot has changed...

        The Internet allows near instantaneous distribution worldwide, so the copyright terms should be much shorter...
        Media such as software is much more complicated than a book... Whereas with a book it's possible to rewrite the words into a new book, reprint, or even chop up excerpts for use in another work, this isn't the case with software distributed as binaries, only software distributed as sourcecode. Similarly software can have external requirements (like an externally hosted server) which books, video and music cannot.

        There needs to be sensible reforms to ensure that the original goals of copyright are met, that is authors have a limited time to profit from their works after which the work must enter the public domain so everyone can benefit. For software this should be a mandatory requirement that the fully buildable sourcecode of both client and server components be made available upon copyright expiry, or upon end of availability - whichever is sooner.

        The current copyright system does not benefit society at all. People claim that works won't be produced, but visit any country where copyright laws don't exist or aren't enforced and you will see lots of locally produced content.

        • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @06:15AM (#55803711) Homepage

          In other words, copyright should work more like patents. Not that there aren't a ton of problems with the current patent system, but at least patents ensure publication of the invention and don't last forever.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Copyright needs to be reduced to 7 years max with no extensions for any reason. Any works over 7 years old immediately and permanently enter the public domain. Any work that is out of print and any version of any software that is no longer supported become public domain immediately. Software and business method patents are outlawed and cease to exist totally. The DMCA needs to be repealed, and all forms of DRM outlawed forever. The patent system drastically needs to be reformed. Patents should be limi

        • Slight correction, copyright is the remaining life of the author plus 70 to 125 years.

          Personally I think 20 years would be fine for copyright (I think you got confused with patents), but roughly 100 years is insane.

          • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

            It used to be between 20 and 30 years in 1790, back when distribution of media was slow...
            For it to be longer now rather than shorter is ridiculous and a clear case of extorting and abusing the public.

    • All Copyrights should terminate 5 years after the owner stops selling it. If they don't plan on making money from it, why should we spend money to defend their copyright?
  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @01:53AM (#55803295)

    I'd hate to see some of the classics of my youth lost forever due to legal issues with unlocking DRM. Personally, I would appreciate seeing the game authors prepared to unlock the content with a final patch as a responsible sign-off to their customers when they abandon publishing that particular content, or running the servers. There are a few particular favorites, such as the old "Marathon" games, that I'd welcome seeing in Steam or preserved for posterity for some of our children.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ..... Personally, I would appreciate seeing the game authors prepared to unlock the content with a final patch as a responsible sign-off to their customers when they abandon publishing that particular content, or running the servers.....

      What? And miss the opportunity to force you to buy a new game? Possibly from them? Companies only act in the interest of consumers when it benefits the company. If it also benefits the consumers, that is a happy side effect, but they only seek to maximize their own benefit.

    • there was some old Sega Channel only stuff some may even still have the CD roms with the rom files that where used at the cable head ends (mostly non us systems) or the at the master header that was C-band up linked to other head ends (most US cable systems)

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Same with some Nintendo games that were only ever transmitted over satellite radio and stored in battery backed RAM carts.

        I'd love to play my old Medal of Honour games online again too, but they used GameSpy so are dead now.

    • by fyrewulff ( 702920 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @04:25AM (#55803539)

      The entire Marathon series has been available for quite some time via the Aleph One open-source engine. Additionally, Bungie released the entire trilogy as freeware.

      https://alephone.lhowon.org/ [lhowon.org]

      http://trilogyrelease.bungie.o... [bungie.org]

  • There was this Zork Clone (text adventures) on the Apple II, called SMIRK, and you were a man starting out in a tent with a lantern, and you walk down a path, into a cave. The SMIRK is guarding Emeralds. There are two Tigers guarding dandylions and alo some Rubies. If yo piss of the SMIRK, the SMIRK will point at you and turn you to Ashes.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @02:30AM (#55803381)

    also add it right to repair / suicide battery.

    There are some hacks and dumps of suicide battery backed arcade games but It will be nice to have the laws made to make them legal to be hosted.

  • City of Titans (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @04:16AM (#55803525)

    City of Heroes is an interesting example because there's a fairly significant developer presence on the 'City of Titans' project, which aims to be a 'spiritual successor' to CoH/CoV.

    https://cityoftitans.com/ [cityoftitans.com]

    Currently, those folks are developing in a 'Clean Room' state, building what will hopefully be a great game.

    Imagine, however, if an 'abandonware' exemption is passed. Would it ONLY give rights to non-profits like MADE, or would it give rights to individuals like myself who are damn pissed their favorite MMO got canned and/or folks like the CoT crew who are seeking to replace said MMO with a new model. If there was suddenly no penalty for examining reverse-engineered or decompiled code, would it help them or would it hinder them in their efforts. Some would argue that the latter might be true. It's better to make a clean break from old client/server limitations and build something new. I personally take the middle ground. Yes, you do want to erase any limitations you can, but you'd be foolish not to try to learn from the past if that past is available to you.

    Personally, I doubt the DMCA is going to budge much in the current political climate. I'd love to see an 'abandoned code' exemption of some kind put in regardless.

    • I really wish abandonware was classified as being legal. A reasonable request would be if your multiplayer game is no longer being sold then after 10 years it becomes freeware, because obviously it has no financial value else why were the servers shut down?

      • Re:City of Titans (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jarkus4 ( 1627895 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @07:13AM (#55803809)

        There is a value in things being unsold: creating scarcity in the franchise. Most obvious ones would be annual sport games (eg fifa), where even 12yo version could give you a nice approximation of current gameplay (their changes are usually focused on current players with better graphics and gameplay itself only changes very slowly) .

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Freeware does not mean copyright-free, however.... although it would not stop you from distributing it if it became legally "free", as long as the copyright is valid it could still prevent you from developing derivative works (such as certain types of interoperable software such as game servers), or cracking any technological protection measures.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I really wish abandonware was classified as being legal. A reasonable request would be if your multiplayer game is no longer being sold then after 10 years it becomes freeware, because obviously it has no financial value else why were the servers shut down?

        Why 10 years?
        If a game is no longer being sold there is no economic "loss" if it is being copied.

        It should apply to all copyrighted work. Copyright exists to encourage creation of art so that society will have access to more of it.
        If you don't make it available to the public, for a fee or for free then copyright should no longer apply and the copyright should expire immediately.
        You should not get to use copyright as a censorship tool to prevent art from being spread.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday December 25, 2017 @06:30AM (#55803729) Homepage

    there is a lot of software in use that was written by someone who is now dead and who did not leave any indication as to what should happen. I am thinking of free to use software, sometimes without a clear license. What if I want to fix bugs in it, enhance it and also release my (added) code under, eg GPL?

    OK: in truth it is very unlikely that anyone will come after me for so doing, but it would be nice to have some reassurance.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @07:25AM (#55803827)
    The Constitution states:

    [The Congress shall have power] "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

    In other words, authors and inventors are granted a monopoly over their works for a limited time, after which these works pass into the public domain so they can add to the sum total knowledge of mankind.

    If copyright is causing works to be lost before they can enter the public domain, then it's defeating the purpose upon which copyright is based in the Constitution. And the rationale for giving these works copyright protection in the first place vanishes.

    Since the purpose of the clause is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts," and the mechanism is by "securing exclusive rights for a limited time," when a situation arises where the two contradict each other, the purpose must prevail. Otherwise you're using the letter of the law to defeat the intent of the law.

    In other words, copyright law must err on the side of making sure these works make it into the public domain, not on the side of protecting the author's or inventor's monopoly. To be protected by copyright, the work must eventually make it into the public domain. So either the work has to make it into the public domain, or it cannot be protected by copyright. There is never a case where protecting the temporary monopoly is more important.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The problem with your argument is that you are slothful inducting the spirit and intent of the law, as many do.

      To be fully protected by copyright law, you are required to register your Full Completed work with the library of congress, and after some "limited" time (which has been extended excessively), that work will No Longer be protected. That means that it has been registered and will be publicly available after that date, for public consumption.

      Yes, you still have some protections if you don't first sub

  • It'd be necessary in some cases. Because of how much was on the server, you're not getting Darkspore back without EA coughing it up.
  • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Monday December 25, 2017 @10:15AM (#55804105)
    To be given protection under DMCA or even copyright, the copy right holder should have to show how the work will enter the public domain when the copyright expires. Failure to have such a plan should void the copyright. Things like the lost Dr. Who episodes should be in the public domain since the BBC has lost the originals and has no possible way of profiting from them. Create a game that requires a server and shut down the server, the game should immediately be public domain. Copyright isn't a right, it's a privileged society gives the holder, for a short period of time and that privilege comes with the responsibility of the work entering the public domain. We need to have stronger requirements that these requirements are fulfilled.
    • Dr. Who is a poor example since it's a British work and governed in the USA primarily by treaty, not by Constitution.
      But, otherwise, what you say is good.
    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      Originally to get copyright, you had to register your work and deposit a copy in a famous library, Oxford or Cambridge in the UK, Library of Congress in the States. Going back to that seems a good solution, especially if, in the case of software, it is the original source code.
      The registration process would also weed out the stuff that doesn't need copyright as well.

  • Many online games were double pay the sims online was one of them originally.

    You had to pay for the game itself and then a monthly fee for service.

    Since the servers have since shut down I no longer have any way to use the software I paid for.

Statistics means never having to say you're certain.