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Washington Post Op-Ed on Roms and “public availability”

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#26 Blazing Lazers ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:49 PM

Anybody who truly cares about videogame and more general cultural preservation, or who just wants to enjoy a game, already treats anything to do with Copyright as no more than a polite suggestion.


The one good thing about this article is that it might make a few more Washington-area policy wonks aware of just how screwed up the current Copyright system is, as videogames and their preservation are a fairly non-partisan hobby. Outside of raising awareness, there's little to recommend in this article. Austin's TL;DR summary above says it all.


There is one thing I can add from personal experience, having actually done a few research and preservation efforts: a lot of older stuff never even had any sort of Copyright status in the first place. So the issue is irrelevant to a large part of early gaming history. And as a practical matter, the Copyright status of a lot of later stuff is completely untraceable, if there even is any.

#27 Blazing Lazers ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:08 PM

Completely unscientifically asking here-- what would be a fair amount of time for a game to exist before entering the public domain; just your gut reaction? 30 years? 35?

Ideally? None. Very little of the earliest games had any sort of Copyright. Nobody bothered. RCA was one of the first to bother Copyrighting a lot of their games. Even the idea of licensing games wasn't there at first. The earliest Star Wars videogame, planned for the Studio systems RCA had, was just something they had created without any concern for Copyright (although had they released it here in the US it would likely have led to a huge legal landmine going off on them).


If there does have to be some sort of Copyright for games (or for anything at all), the original time of only 14 years plus a single 14 year one-time renewal option if the creator is still alive would be more than sufficient.  


30+ years is way too long, particularly when dealing with technological advances that can cause content to become lost or unavailable in that time. Lifetime plus decades beyond is insane and shortsighted greed.

#28 youxia OFFLINE  



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Posted Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:39 PM

Re: archive.org, apart from the library status they also have this DMCA exemption: https://archive.org/about/dmca.php

This is more about old software on magnetic media and would probably not apply to roms, but it is something, adding to their defence systems.


Overall though yeah, none of that would matter much if any corp lawyer really chose to go to town on them. That's why they have to say "we will remove anything if you ask us to" and why the nice fact that you can pretty much find anything there at the moment does not really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Here today, gone tomorrow etc...


iTunes for retro games? Nah, thanks. Same for some silly online-check, drip-feed, rebuy-next-gen services such as Nintendo Online. GOG for roms? That's more like it, though adding ability to own and trade them would be the perfect, if utopian scenario (applying to games and all other media too).

Also GOG's prices can be a bit of a GOuGing ones quite often these days, worryingly, so there's that too.

#29 mr_me OFFLINE  


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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:39 AM

There are limitations and exemptions that have been added to section 1201 (dmca) of US copyright law. They apply to all libraries as well as fair use activities.

You'd have to go back to works older than 1978, when US copyright law changed, to find stuff published that might not be protected by copyright. Since 1978, US copyright is automatic where before it had to be published with a copyright notice to be protected.

The idea of licensing in games was there in the early days and goes back to pinball machines. Western Gun (taito 1975) was licensed to midway eventhough it was reprogrammed and renamed. In 1977 Star Fire, a Star Wars game, was created. Here's a quote from the programmer. ..."Ted asked me to do the software, which I did. Ted and his wife prepared the graphics, which had a "Star Wars" look to them. He figured that either we would license the rights or we would make whatever changes were necessary to avoid legal infringements."... I don't think it was licensed but they were aware of the issue.

Edited by mr_me, Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:31 AM.

#30 CatPix ONLINE  


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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:43 AM

Many video games are preserved - in France.

In 1992, France extended their "legal deposit" laws to include video games. So games released in France ever since have been preserved at the BNF - not all of them yet, as, because it was new and computer capacities of the era weren't as important as they are now, the main contributors were French publishers and concerned mostly PC games. But since the 2000's it became systematic and extended to even a few web browser games, and also extended backward to older games released before 1992 - and also foreign games.


(I encourage you to read that PDF, it's very short (2 pages).


One problem they face is the reluctance of publishers to send their content, and the very little leverage they have to enforce the law.


"It  has  always  been  the  intention  of  the  library  to  collect  video   game content distributed via app stores, console stores and online  game  stores,  but  the  proportion  of  downloadable  content  in  the   BnF's  holdings  is  still  low,  due  to  the  lack  of  preservation   solutions for these digital objects, whose distribution channels are  laden with DRMs"


and more in topic :

"The BnF does not have the means to maintain in the long term the  set  of  original machines it has acquired to match the various platforms for which  the games were published. As the library cannot depend on them for access, it turned to emulation early on,when technologically possible."


Also, as mentionned briefly in the PDF, it is possible to access those games, in situ for now.

Edited by CatPix, Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:52 AM.

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