US Copyright Office Considering Abandoned Online Games Exemption

The U.S. Copyright Office is currently considering easing DMCA anti-circumvention provisions which come up for renewal every 3 years. One of the most important topics being considered this year center around the preservation of abandoned video games.

Previous rulings have granted museums, libraries, and other archival organizations the right to use emulators and other tools to make old games playable. But as we know, those tools alone cannot re-create an online gaming environment that requires an ongoing connection to an external server.

Last year, the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (the MADE) argued for an expansion of the archival exemption to also cover online games. The MADE wrote to the US Copyright Office:

“Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical. 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.”

This push for further exemptions from copyright and DMCA laws hasn't gone unanswered by the video game industry. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) which represents Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Ubisoft, and others vehemently oppose the proposed changes. They claim the new rules would allow outsiders to recreate online game environments using server code that was never supposed to be made public. Among the largest complaints the ESA has is the potential use of third parties to assist museums in reverse engineering server-side code:

“Worse yet, proponents seek permission to deputize a legion of ‘affiliates’ to assist in their activities."

No final decision has been taken by the copyright office, but its clear where we stand on the issue. There are dozens of culturally important MMORPGs that have long since been abandoned by their copyright owners. There is no good reason these cultural relics should not be revived for archival purposes, especially when you consider the fact that there are already many gray market commercial private servers already in operation for many of them.

Further Reading: Torrent Freak Article, ESA Response [PDF]

  • Although game companies of today can shut down or abandon games as they please, you gotta take into consideration what you're leaving behind. Someone, somewhere cared enough to play these games to the bitter end, its only natural that they wouldn't want it to be forgotten.

  • Preciel

    i almost got excited because you used a screenshot of my favorate game, i thought it was coming back in global..

  • XellDincht

    it would be great to play games like Tabula Rasa again

    • darkfyra

      Found a box of it in a closet downstair in my home,never used,shame that I can’t play it does look neat

  • TianlanSha

    I wish I could play Global Agenda as I never could - back when it was still a thing I couldn't run it on my computer, or at least thought I couldn't.

  • Michael Carroll

    Goes to show who the most greedy evil game companies are. I suppose though if you didn't know ea and Nintendo were evil and greedy hopefully you do now. There is no reason to not want a bill to pass yo make abandoned games playable like vanguard , other than evil greedy bastards.

  • braneman

    Well of COURSE they don't want you to play abandoned games, they're violently opposed to this because with this they couldn't force you to sit down and buy the always online games they decided to shut down. They're wrong in this case, they are wholly and entirely in the wrong for wanting to kill games like this.