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Circumventing copy protection for abandonware now legal


GreenMonkey
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There's been a lot of discussion about this elsewhere. Read the fine print. It's legal for libraries & archives for storage, not for "ordinary" people to start playing cracked copies of Ultima. It's also not new - this is a renewal of the exemption with regards to the DMCA.

 

The actual relevant text from the new regulation:

 

Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

 

Coverage from GameSetWatch & a real archivist discussing this ruling.

 

Why Abandonware still isn't legal...

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There's been a lot of discussion about this elsewhere. Read the fine print. It's legal for libraries & archives for storage, not for "ordinary" people to start playing cracked copies of Ultima.

It'd be nice if they defined what constitutes a "library" or "archive" with regards to this regulation. It seems to me that anyone could successfully argue that their copy of Jumpman Jr. for the C64 is for archival purposes, or that their collection of Intellivision games, indeed all of their games, constitutes a library. What is a library, private or otherwise?

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It'd be nice if they defined what constitutes a "library" or "archive" with regards to this regulation.

 

They do, to a degree, but I can't find an exhaustive legal definition of a library or archive... From the original exemption (as mentioned above, this is a renewal):

 

(5) In order for a library or archives to qualify for the exemption under this subsection, the collections of that library or archives shall be--

 

`(A) open to the public; or

 

`(B) available not only to researchers affiliated with the library or archives or with the institution of which it is a part, but also to other persons doing research in a specialized field.

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They do, to a degree, but I can't find an exhaustive legal definition of a library or archive... From the original exemption (as mentioned above, this is a renewal):

I checked around and couldn't find what constitutes a "legal" archive either. It seems to be one of those nebulous terms that describes a broad array of collections and purposes.

 

Regardless, it seems with little effort, our own ROM libraries could fall quite nicely into 5,B of the quoted qualification. It could fall into 5,A with even less effort. Then it would just come down to which side had the better lawyer to argue intent.

 

Relatedly, if not for the ROM trade, much of the history of videogames and their culture, especially those early years, would be completely lost to even avid hobbyists looking for information other than anecdotal. I'd love to see someone take the fight to court on the merit that without what work has been done, via emulators, etc., the study and appreciation of a significant portion of early electronic entertainment would be impossible, and ROM trading should be allowed to continue unimpeded for the sake of education and preservation alone. "Don't let Alexandria burn again!" :D

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