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Dumping ROMs without consent of machine owner

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There's a huge story of Scott Evans, and how he found and donated a ton of Atari Material,

including ROMS to prototypes like Maze Invaders:

 

https://www.giantbomb.com/articles/a-museum-just-acquired-22-pallets-of-atari-history/1100-4905/

 

We met the person who owned the materials, who acquired them when Midway liquidated all of the Atari assets before Midway closed that office. [Editor's Note: This person is well-known collector Scott Evans.] Before they closed that down, they had a series of auctions. This was over a decade ago. This particular collector had the foresight of saving this stuff from being dumped or, if not thrown away, maybe being dispersed. I’m sure much of it would have been thrown away. Even then, some of it would have been dispersed in many different directions. We connected with him through an industry conference. You might be familiar with DICE. We connected with him at a conference, and it’s just been working with him for over a year.

 

We had an exhibit last summer about Atari coin-ops that we had based on a small sample, about 250 design documents that we had acquired from this same person. We had built a relationship there. He saw what we did with these things, he saw they were going to a museum, and they would be preserved, exhibited, and they would be accessible for research in the future. Some of it was just relationship building.

 

later

-1

Edited by negative1
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I guess I had assumed that when most prototypes were gotten rid of, it was at a point at which the companies considered them junk. That is..they were trashed/given away/forgotten about/downsized/whatever. That makes the most sense to me anyway.

Correct; that's the usual pattern. Depending on the company, the prototypes may be destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable before being junked; some may be tossed out in working condition. More on this further down.

 

I am sure there have been prototypes that WERE stolen/snuck out the back door. But it seems hard for me to believe that is the majority of the cases, or even a real common occurrence. Was there like a big proto theft at some point or something?

 

There absolutely have been stolen prototypes, but things like that usually don't happen until after a go/no-go decision is given regarding production. Taking them out in advance is asking for a very unpleasant investigation and a world of hurt to come down on the person who took it / them when they're found out; even doing so after production can be a career-killing move if proper permission wasn't obtained.

 

One other thing that does happen: a company cleans out its labs and employees take stuff home as part of the cleanup. Sometimes there's an explicit OK given from the employer to do this; other times, it's along more implicit lines of, 'we really don't care where all of this ends up as long as it frees up square footage'. Either way, in those situations, that would generally be considered legitimate acquisition.

 

(Personally I believe I have something in my collection that has a "return to Atari Sunnyvale" sticker on it somewhere. Don't call the feds guys. I'll be sure to return it to Atari ASAP. They still own a tenth, I suppose)

 

The 'Return to Atari Sunnyvale' sticker sounds like it's probably applied to a loaner cartridge, which were usually sent out for review purposes.

 

I used to work for a company that did both hardware and software development. We were located in an area where the dumpster-diving laws were basically as follows:

 

1) If something has been placed in or reasonably near to a recognisable trash receptacle, and / or has been left in an area that is normally designated for trash pickup, it's fair game and anyone can take anything they want from the trash.

 

2) Number 1) above only applies in places to which the public reasonably has common access. Kerbside, fine. In an unlocked dumpster in an alley behind a business, fine. Trash cans in someone's side yard, not OK. Locked dumpster or enclosure, also not OK even if in a publically-accessible area. Trash or dumpster room inside a property, OK for tenants or residents, not OK for the public.

 

That company was usually pretty careful about disposing of and properly depreciating assets, including prototypes. However, they also knew that a number of us who worked there wanted mementos of the things we'd worked on, or that were part of the company's history. To satisfy everyone's desires, the facilities folks (whom we'd directly follow out the doors when they were taking out the prize junk during a cleanup) would carry out the items being trashed and set them down next to the dumpsters, at which point we'd pick them up right up again and load them into our cars. It was a completely legal and legitimate change of ownership.

 

We were keeping to the absolute letter of the law - but why leave good stuff out there for people who wouldn't know what it was, or have any sort of attachment to it? It'd just end up on the shelves in the (now-departed) Weird Stuff Warehouse as surplus a few days later and you'd have to buy it back if you still wanted it.

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Yes, the abandoned warehouse scenario. If a machine is left behind after the lease ends or sale of the property and goes unclaimed, it belongs to the new owner or landlord. They may sell it.

 

Even if a machine was taken by an employee as opposed to given to the employee, how would you prove it. There's some truth to the saying that possession is nine tenths of the law. In all cases a sticker that says property of atari doesn't mean much anymore.

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Yes, the abandoned warehouse scenario. If a machine is left behind after the lease ends or sale of the property and goes unclaimed, it belongs to the new owner or landlord. They may sell it.

 

Even if a machine was taken by an employee as opposed to given to the employee, how would you prove it. There's some truth to the saying that possession is nine tenths of the law. In all cases a sticker that says property of atari doesn't mean much anymore.

 

I know it me me...I was being a semi-troll to point out to people that 9/10s thing. Possession is still a HUGE factor in any ownership claim. On older items with uncertain/unknown providence, is akin to an ace in the hole, almost.

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Posted (edited)

Well, there's the ownership of the physical property, and the ownership of the copyright (I hate the term "intellectual property", as it confuses three unrelated things) to any of the code in the ROMs.

Edited by The Usotsuki

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Yes, the abandoned warehouse scenario. If a machine is left behind after the lease ends or sale of the property and goes unclaimed, it belongs to the new owner or landlord. They may sell it.

Even if a machine was taken by an employee as opposed to given to the employee, how would you prove it. There's some truth to the saying that possession is nine tenths of the law. In all cases a sticker that says property of atari doesn't mean much anymore.

Nowadays, it'd be a Popsicle Stick of Authenticity.

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Posted (edited)

Now this poor collector has to find some other rare multi-thousand dollar item to buy so he can feel special again.

 

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-J727AZ using Tapatalk

Edited by zetastrike

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Now this poor collector has to find some other rare multi-thousand dollar item to buy so he can feel special again.

 

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-J727AZ using Tapatalk

Narrator: The sad fact was, he never felt special, even when having amassed a huge collection of rare games. He felt hollow and brittle, like a fragile egg-shaped loser.

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Posted (edited)

Now this poor collector has to find some other rare multi-thousand dollar item to buy so he can feel special again.

 

Narrator: The sad fact was, he never felt special, even when having amassed a huge collection of rare games. He felt hollow and brittle, like a fragile egg-shaped loser.

you guys need to get your facts straight.

 

try learning to read before you state something.

 

scott evans already has a lot of rare, and special games, like marble man.

 

and he has also donated tons of documentation, roms, and other material for preservation:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/290596-dumping-roms-without-consent-of-machine-owner/page-6?do=findComment&comment=4267641

 

don't let that blind your ideas of what people collect.

 

 

later

-1

Edited by negative1
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scott evans already has a lot of rare, and special games, like marble man.

 

and he has also donated tons of documentation, roms, and other material for preservation:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/290596-dumping-roms-without-consent-of-machine-owner/page-6?do=findComment&comment=4267641

 

This is nice and all but it ony takes one flood, fire or some other freak accident and poof! the museum collection is gone forever. Instead, seeing as we live in 2019, a reasonable chunk of it should be available online so it can be experienced by the whole world, not just some random scholars. Just like the recent Infocom cache was made available on github.

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Posted (edited)

 

This is nice and all but it ony takes one flood, fire or some other freak accident and poof! the museum collection is gone forever. Instead, seeing as we live in 2019, a reasonable chunk of it should be available online so it can be experienced by the whole world, not just some random scholars. Just like the recent Infocom cache was made available on github.

This is a completely absurd argument. A good museum understands how to preserve items and data and will do off-site backups. How much have you spent on one-of-a-kind video games that you have then released for free to the world? As I said earlier, preservation is not the same as access and it is ridiculous to expect that you should have free access to someone else's property. Heck, many museums have at least part of their collections that are not accessible to the public for a variety of reasons.

Edited by bojay1997
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Narrator: The sad fact was, he never felt special, even when having amassed a huge collection of rare games. He felt hollow and brittle, like a fragile egg-shaped loser.

 

The most important thing to me is this sense of schadenfreude.

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This is a completely absurd argument. A good museum understands how to preserve items and data and will do off-site backups. How much have you spent on one-of-a-kind video games that you have then released for free to the world? As I said earlier, preservation is not the same as access and it is ridiculous to expect that you should have free access to someone else's property. Heck, many museums have at least part of their collections that are not accessible to the public for a variety of reasons.

It doesn't matter what the current owner's of the machines want; copies have been made before they purchased them. All items in a museum are accessable; if not on display than by appointment.

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You wouldn't download a highway sign, would you?

 

I tried to make that work with the lyrics to

, but just couldn't get it to scan. And believe me, I tried.

 

From watching threads on the subject both here and elsewhere, there's (unsurprisingly) a great deal of commonality of opinion regarding multiple facets of the situation. But there's also a common denominator that's become apparent across the lifespan of all of these threads, which is that each of them inevitably reaches a point where the same arguments regarding preservation vs. distribution of software that we've been hearing for the past couple of decades become the dominant part of the conversation.

 

To my mind - which I recognise only represents my opinion, though there may or may not also be others who share it - the truly interesting part of all of this is the story of how the ROMs came to be acquired and distributed, as well as the motivations for doing so. By that I don't mean the account of the mysterious tech who surreptitiously copied them; frankly, it doesn't hold up to critical analysis in my book and can at best be filed under, 'yeah, sure, I guess that's a possibility that can't be adequately disproved at this time'.

 

That's the backstory I'd like to hear, and without speculation or fabrication. The motivations for a release now as opposed to at any time in the past are what particularly have my curiosity piqued - what changed to make now the right time? And if now truly was the right time, why would it possibly be felt necessary to do so with a cover story that can't even prop itself up?

 

These are the questions we're not seeing answers to, and I honestly don't believe that we're likely to get those answers any time soon. But I feel that it's important to not lose sight of them because they can potentially have ramifications for seeing the release of other preserved but unreleased items down the road.

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It doesn't matter what the current owner's of the machines want; copies have been made before they purchased them. All items in a museum are accessable; if not on display than by appointment.

Sure, but the attitude expressed by many in this thread that anyone who collects and doesn't share their collection with the world for free is the very reason that we will never see some of the "lost" games that people are curious about ever released. Frankly, whether true or not, this story just reinforces the belief that a lot of wealthy collectors have that others are looking to steal from them and abuse their generosity and trust. With regard to your museum argument, it's just not accurate. Some items are donated to museums with specific restrictions in place and in some cases, museums and libraries act as archives and do not allow public access to those archives.

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Posted (edited)

If a museum owned an akka arrh machine and a mame developer requested access for analysis they would be given access. Further, it would be completely legal to make a copy of the roms for reverse engineering and emulation. If atari decides to put akka arrh in their next anthology package, the owners of the machines have no say in the matter.

Edited by mr_me
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If a museum owned an akka arrh machine and a mame developer requested access for analysis they would be given access. Further, it would be completely legal to make a copy of the roms for reverse engineering and emulation. If atari decides to put akka arrh in their next anthology package, the owners of the machines have no say in the matter.

It depends on the museum and what the deed of gift retrictions were. The point is that by perpetuating this argument that everything must be made available to the public for free, you're just driving certain collectors further underground. There is an appropriate way to approach the holders of unique items from a preservation and public access standpoint and violating trust and using deception to copy software without permission is not the way to do it.

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It depends on the museum and what the deed of gift retrictions were. The point is that by perpetuating this argument that everything must be made available to the public for free, you're just driving certain collectors further underground. There is an appropriate way to approach the holders of unique items from a preservation and public access standpoint and violating trust and using deception to copy software without permission is not the way to do it.

Never said everything must be made available to the public for free. If these guys want to be buried with their akka arrh machines that's their business.

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Posted (edited)

I don't agree that people are demanding everything be released or else. They want the data preserved. Hoarding video game history in secret is just sad. Something undumped/released really shouldn't be worth that much more. But it may be ONLY within the ultra small niche of people who collect rare items and then hide them away like mouse would cheese in your walls.

Edited by Greg2600

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This is a completely absurd argument. A good museum understands how to preserve items and data and will do off-site backups. How much have you spent on one-of-a-kind video games that you have then released for free to the world? As I said earlier, preservation is not the same as access and it is ridiculous to expect that you should have free access to someone else's property. Heck, many museums have at least part of their collections that are not accessible to the public for a variety of reasons.

 

What does it matter how much I did or did not spend? Can we swap it for man-hours perhaps? It doesn't matter either way, it's still a lame strawman.

 

You can go into semantics about what is and what isn't preservation but in the end of the day it's completely irrelevant that something is "preserved" if nobody bar a handful can ever experience or see it. We live in digital age and one perk of it is is total accessibility. While a trip to Strong or other museum can be fun, and it's undeniably great that they exist and care for these collections, a modern museum should also put whatever is possible online (and in much better capacity than a poor slideshow that the Strong for example offers). And I'm sure they could be able to negotiate and convince the more stubborn collectors, if they wanted to.

 

The copyright argument in most of these cases is ridiculous, and a function of the skewed legal reality we live in. If you'd read that giantbomb article you'd see that huge chunk of this stuff is impossible to monetize. Even if it was, it could be granted personal use, non-commercial licenses or some such, just like it was in Infocom's case.

 

Personally I do not have anything against collectors at all - at least not the sharing-is-caring ones. I think it can be a fun hobby and I like owning retro physical items myself. I will never understand the Gollum mentality some of them espouse though. It's quite illogical, because the item you own can still be rare and precious, despite a digital part of it being released. This is the sick bit that they create between themselves. And being "underground" or "further underground" is actually the same thing in this situation (ie still inaccessible) so I couldn't care less about upsetting them. Furthermore, by scooping up rare items for their personal hoard they deny the possibility of purchase to somebody more sharing-minded.

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If a museum owned an akka arrh machine and a mame developer requested access for analysis they would be given access.

On what basis do you make that rather absolute assertion? There's no guarantee that such a thing would happen.

 

Further, it would be completely legal to make a copy of the roms for reverse engineering and emulation. If atari decides to put akka arrh in their next anthology package, the owners of the machines have no say in the matter.

It's also legal to make a copy for backup purposes. Distribution is where the legal issues crop up.

 

Further, if Atari decided to add Akka Arrh into the next anthology package, it would legally be no different for the owners of those machines than it would for owners of machines containing other Atari arcade IPs.

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