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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2014 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: A simple new regulation

    14+14, as contained in the 1790 Copyright Act, has at times been attributed to Thomas Jefferson and an alleged statement by him that such a time frame seemed fair given then existing lifespans. While copyright terms did extend over time to 28+28, it was not until the US finally gave in to the international community by acceding to the Berne Convention that the truly long terms now seen became a part of US law. Accession was not a decision that was easily made (took almost 100 years) because despite some obvious pros there were also many cons. Ultimately, parity for US authors with foreign authors carried the day, and even then the move to an international norm was grudgingly made (witness the continued requirement for many years that copyright notices were mandatory lest copyright be lost).

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