Latest EFF DMCA Exemption Requests Include The Right to Tinker With and Maintain Unsupported Video Games

from the game-not-over dept

As we've noted more than a few times, we live in an era where the products you think you own can be disabled, crippled or held hostage on a whim. That's been particularly apparent when it comes to video game consoles and software, with an increasing array of titles relying on server connectivity not only for multi-player content, but also for DRM authentication in order to play single player titles. The former was an issue earlier this year when Nintendo announced that the company would be killing online functionality for a wide variety of Wii and DS titles, some of which were only a year or two old. The latter was an issue with Blizzard's Diablo 3, EA's latest incarnation of SimCity, and a growing number of other games.

When these servers for older titles get shut down, often gaming communities are left trying to cobble together functionality with little to no support from the companies that made them, and/or with concern they'd be violating section 1201. In their latest list of six DMCA exemption requests, the Electronic Frontier Foundation includes the right to tinker with older games. Not just for the enjoyment of keeping these gaming communities afloat, argues the EFF, but because as games become an increasingly integral part of our culture as entertainment and art, they need to be preserved for historians. That's obviously something you can no longer do if the games are utterly unusable:
"The inability to play older games (because the necessary servers have been shut down) inhibits scholarship and research as well – it is much more difficult for game scholars to access older works due to a lack of playable archival copies, and archivists have less incentive to preserve games that are unplayable or only partially playable. Jerome McDonough, a professor who specializes in digital preservation, put it simply. “Digital media are inherently fragile and the ability to migrate games to new hardware/media is critical to any preservation activity we might take, whether through migration or emulation. [The] DMCA’s technological protection measure language takes the difficult case of software preservation and transforms it into a fundamentally impossible case." In the case of multi-player games, it can be impossible for scholars to replicate the experience of playing the game, since player communities often die when servers are deactivated.
As the petition notes, the exemption would not apply to persistent online worlds and MMORPGs, where online functionality is all there is. Among the EFF's five other DMCA exemption requests includes two governing the right to bypass automobile DRM for repair and testing, two protecting the remixing of DVD and various online video sources, as well as the renewal and expansion of cell phone and tablet unlocking exemptions. As usual, the EFF expresses justifiable disdain at having to jump through "burdensome and confusing" hoops every three years simply to defend common sense under the dysfunctional mess that is the U.S. Copyright Office's DMCA exemption request process.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, exemptions, freedom to tinker, librarian of congress, triennial review, video games
Companies: eff


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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 5 Nov 2014 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You are clearly uninformed about the importance of games.

    First, games are a form of literature (in the same way that movies are a form of literature). They have cultural relevance no different than other forms, and to say that doesn't deserve study is to say that no form of artistic expression deserves study.

    Second, game development is where a huge amount of technical advances in software comes from. The modern games of any given time period make use of and contribute to the development of, many important fields including mathematics, artificial intelligence, heuristics, statistics, and on and on and on. It's no exaggeration to say that no other branch of the software industry has contributed as much to society and the advancement of knowledge as game development has. Does that not make it a topic worthy of serious study?

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