The Museum Of Art And Digital Entertainment Calls For Anti-Circumvention Exemptions To Be Extended To Online Game Archives

from the preserve-and-protect dept

Now that we've covered a couple of stories about game companies, notably Blizzard, bullying the fans that run antiquated versions of MMO games on their own servers to shut down, it's as good a time as any to discuss a recent call for the DMCA anti-circumvention exemptions to include the curation of abandoned MMO games. A few weeks back, during the triennial public consultation period in which the U.S. Copyright Office gathers public commentary on potential exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, a bunch of public comments came in on the topic of abandoned video games. Importantly, the Librarian of Congress already has granted exemptions for the purpose of preserving the art of video games so that libraries and museums can use emulators to revive classic games for the public.

But what do you do if you're looking to preserve a massive multiplayer online game, or even single-player games, that rely on server connections with the company that made those games in order to operate? Those servers don't last forever, obviously. Hundreds of such games have been shut down in recent years, lost forever as the companies behind them no longer support the games or those that play them.

Well, one non-profit in California, The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, wants anti-circumvention exemptions for running servers for these games to keep them alive as well.

“Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical,” MADE writes in its comment to the Copyright Office. “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.”

“Today, however, local multiplayer options are increasingly rare, and many games no longer support LAN connected multiplayer capability,” MADE counters, adding that nowadays even some single-player games require an online connection. “More troubling still to archivists, many video games rely on server connectivity to function in single-player mode and become unplayable when servers shut down.”

Due to that, MADE is asking the Copyright Office (and the Librarian of Congress) to allow libraries and museums exemptions to run their own servers to display these games as well. Frankly, it's difficult to conjure an argument against the request. If games are art, and they are, then they ought to be preserved. The Copyright Office has already agreed with this line of thinking for the category of games that don't require an online connection, so it's difficult to see how it could punt on the issue of online games.

And, yet, we have examples of fan-run servers of abandoned games, or versions of games, getting bullied by companies like Blizzard. These fan-servers are essentially filling the same role that groups like MADE would like to do: preserving old gaming content that has been made otherwise unavailable by companies that have turned down online game servers.

It's enough to make one wonder why a group of fans of a game shouldn't get the same protections afforded to a library or museum, if the end result is nearly identical.


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  • identicon
    Christenson, 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:32pm

    The end result of this is that the fans will form museums...

    and, unfortunately, we need a doctrine of copyright abandonment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Feb 2018 @ 7:16am

      Re:

      You're describing "orphan works" and basically they're mired in a situation where automatic copyright means you can end up being sued if you can't prove you either own the works or that it's firmly in the public domain.

      Since this suits the gatekeepers they resist any effort to change the status quo.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Christenson, 14 Feb 2018 @ 12:14pm

        Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

        By calling them "Orphaned Works" instead of "Copyright Abandonment" you weaken your persuasive power -- which is unfortunate, because I think you are also right.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 14 Feb 2018 @ 2:49pm

          Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

          Orphaned works is the correct term of art.

          Post-1976 US copyright law does not recognize a concept of copyright abandonment.

          "Abandonment" is not an entirely accurate thing to call it, either. Abandonment implies intent. Typically, when a work's owner is unknown, it's because the author died with no heirs, or with heirs who were unaware of their inheritance.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            christenson, 14 Feb 2018 @ 4:22pm

            Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

            These are wonderful, fine distinctions amongst the terms of the art. Those distinctions are besides the point and don't begin to cover the depths of the issue or grab hearts.

            At least for a patent, a showing of "due diligence" is required...you know, you have to apply for one, pay some fees, etc. Meanwhile, this post, or the silly naruto photograph, has a copyright applied to it and I have the right to sue even if it's just a throwaway, and I do nothing except wake up years later and decide I don't like you quoting me. I didn't even have to stick on a (C)!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 15 Feb 2018 @ 12:27am

              Re: Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

              It doesn't matter how the copyright is applied, be that through deliberate application or automatically. With orphaned works, what matters is that it's impossible to gain permission from the author, either because they no longer exist or because nobody knows who they are.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2018 @ 2:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

                With most old published works, the author is not the copyright holder, but rather some publisher, and if they disappeared without passing on their rights, or the records get lost through multiple mergers and takeovers, nobody knows who actually owns the copyright.

                The Author is often only relevant because their death starts the clock for release to the public domain ticking, or rarely somebody wants film or similar rights that were not transferred on publication.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                christenson, 15 Feb 2018 @ 12:13pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

                paul:
                It *does* matter that copyright is applied and maintained casually and without effort and in secret....because there's then no good way to certainly determine that a work is out of copyright.

                There's a reason you have to put your patent number on products, and there's a reason the patent lasts for only a few years beyond the last time someone contacts the patent office and, in addition to paying fees, provides contact information. Is that too much to ask when a (C) holder can haul someone into court for what is now pushing a button?

                Same needs to apply to (C), assuming (C) is to and should remain meaningful.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:14am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

                  "It *does* matter that copyright is applied and maintained casually and without effort and in secret....because there's then no good way to certainly determine that a work is out of copyright."

                  But, that is not what's happening. The copyright terms and rules are well known. They're changed constantly and retroactively applied at the expense of the public, but they are relatively clear. However, because of this, things like orphaned works are inevitable because when you have things like life +70 years and corporations buying out the copyright then failing, you can't do anything legally with many works until they enter the public domain (which, if the corporations get their way, will be never).

                  I agree that automatic copyright is a problem and that the public would be much richer for having it reverted back to a sensible, deliberate system, but don't pretend for a moment that the rules and their problems are secret.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Thad, 16 Feb 2018 @ 9:07am

              Re: Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

              the silly naruto photograph, has a copyright applied to it

              Uh, no it doesn't.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 15 Feb 2018 @ 12:26am

            Re: Re: Re:Orphan Works/Copyright Abandonment

            "Typically, when a work's owner is unknown, it's because the author died with no heirs, or with heirs who were unaware of their inheritance."

            It's also increasingly because the copyright rules were retroactively changed after the original creator died, thus violating the agreement in place when the work was created.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:50pm

    Asking the wrong question

    "It's enough to make one wonder why a group of fans of a game shouldn't get the same protections afforded to a library or museum, if the end result is nearly identical. "

    Right. Because the game makers don't want to give ANYONE ANY RIGHTS and they reluctantly do so for the libraries.

    You ask "You'd do it for Randolph Scott, why not Lauri Love?"
    They say: "Yes, you dimwit, we BARELY do it... because... it's Randolph Scott!!!"

    Sorry you don't get it.

    Watch Blazing Saddles.

    Read Arstechnica.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon E Mouse, 14 Feb 2018 @ 2:03am

    This sounds like a good idea. Lord knows I've wished for something similar whenever I've ran across some interesting sounding MMO only to find out it shut down years ago. And these have mostly been the free-to-play kind of ones. Had I bought an actual boxed copy of a game only to find out it does not work and never will I would have been less than pleased.

    On the other hand, why mention Blizzard here? All their games that I know of still have their servers online. Can't really think of other video game companies that release regular free updates to their almost-twenty-year-old games, either (StarCraft was released in March 1998, latest patch is dated 2018-02-08).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 2:13am

    "But what do you do if you're looking to preserve... single-player games, that rely on server connections"

    That's easy. Any single player game that relies on a connection will have been hacked within hours/days so that paying customers can use the product they damn well bought when they have no internet connection.

    Preserving games that actually have real multiplayer and network components is a bigger task, but since the majority of single player games only have network components to implement half-assed DRM, there's usually a workaround out there already.

    "For example, an estimated fifty-three percent of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week"

    Now, this I find interesting. By that measure, 47% of gamers aren't really bothered about multiplayer, or even just don't play it at all. I find that fascinating in terms of how the industry has been trying to shoehorn multiplayer components into so many games that really don't warrant them, as well as in terms of how they've gone with lootboxes and the like in recent years. Since half the potential audience aren't even going for online play once a week, I wonder what actual percentage of the overall gaming audience are actually paying for the things the industry is trying to make the norm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 6:03am

      Re:

      That's easy. Any single player game that relies on a connection will have been hacked within hours/days so that paying customers can use the product

      Jason Scott has made a similar point: the early PC games (e.g. for the Apple II) that have survived to this day are the cracked ones. Sometimes the developers don't have the source code, assets, or even a released copy. So when you look at the historical artifacts of gaming, you're also getting a history of cracking groups and the messages they added.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 6:36am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, I found the same thing a while ago when I started looking at my old Atari ST collection. The original disks often had weird disk formatting that was essentially unreadable in a standard 1.44" PC floppy drive. Even those that could be read often depended on the silly manual page checks or other codes that means the game was unplayable if you'd lost the other contents of the box. There were ways around all these things, but it took a lot of work. So, it was very difficult to get certain titles to run in an emulator even if you were doing so perfectly legally.

        But, of course, all the hacked versions were freely available online and working perfectly. They had already put the official releases to shame for many reasons (for example, some crews managed to get games that had been released on 3 floppies down to one disc, and still had room for a couple more games and the animated menu screens). But now, they beat them by simply being usable a couple of decades later.

        The losers in all this? Games which had not been freely pirated back in the day, that were now even more likely to get lost to history.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 6:34am

      Re:

      I don't care for multi-player games at all. I have rarely ever played one, and the ones I've played tend to be like bowling or golf games. I got the latest Doom on Steam as I'm a huge Doom nut, but fortunately, it works in offline mode. The cable connection here is pretty decent, but goes down about twice a month for hours on end. My younger brother then pisses and moans about not being able to play Hearthstone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 7:15am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, I don't mind multiplayer games so much, but it's not really my thing and there's too much grinding to get achievements, etc. for my tastes. I'd rather play a single player Bioshock/Assassins Creed/Tomb Raider game through its story than spend hours in a multiplayer sandbox, and I'm well aware that those aren't anywhere near as deep and immersive solo experiences than the games some others like to play.

        There's plenty of room for both experiences, but it is telling that the industry seems to be gearing itself to extract money out of one side of that equation recently.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 14 Feb 2018 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      It's *technically* easy...but not *LEGAL*! (and I'm one of the 1% that watches the scene without actually playing the games!)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 2:33am

    This is easily fixable

    "And, yet, we have examples of fan-run servers of abandoned games, or versions of games, getting bullied by companies like Blizzard."

    If every gamer patronizing Blizzard stopped immediately and refused to do so again until this bullying stopped, it would be solved in a day or two. Cutting off Blizzard's oxygen supply would bring them to their knees immediately.

    But gamers are too stupid, too weak, too selfish to make that happen. And Blizzard knows it. So you know what? I'm rooting for Blizzard to crush them, because they DESERVE to be crushed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 2:53am

      Re: This is easily fixable

      I love the fact that everything on this subject turns into whining about gamers somehow being uniquely stupid. There seems to be a certain type of insecurity that leads you to attack consumers of that kind of content specifically, but not consumers of other kinds of content. Why is that? I mean, when we point out how Hollywood is doing things, we don't get people coming in here and specifically attacking movie fans. I don't recall a litany of personal attacks on drinkers when there's brewery trademark bullying nor people telling readers they're all stupid when a publishing issue rears its head. Only gamers. It's a strange thing...

      Anyway, to answer your stupid question - most people paying Blizzard don't know about or care about the fan run servers being attacked, so they don't take any action since it doesn't affect them. It's a niche issue that is important, but the mainstream don't know or care (just as most music fans don't know or care about how the industry treats musicians, comic readers don't know how comics are published, etc.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 3:16am

        Re: Re: This is easily fixable

        I see you've missed some of my other acidic comments.

        There are things we consume because we have to - like food - and things we consume because we want to - like games or movies. Unfortunately there are people who've reclassified items in the second group into the first and behave accordingly.

        Nobody NEEDS to game. It's one of the easiest things in the world to give up. But gamers won't do it and CAN'T do it because they're stupid and weak. As a result, game operators and game vendors know that they can do ANYTHING they want to gamers and they'll keep right on throwing money at them. Gamers could put a stop to this. Gamers could boycott an operation until it goes bankrupt and then use that as a pointed example to others. But they won't. Like i said, they're stupid and weak. And so, in my view, they deserve to be shit on. And you know what? They are.

        This wasn't how I always felt about it: I was initially sympathetic. I was sympathetic for a few years. But after watching this idiocy nonstop for still more years, I finally decided that if I have to choose between the competent evil of the gaming companies and the abject stupidity and cowardice of gamers, I'm siding with the former. At least they have spines and a clue.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 3:37am

          Re: Re: Re: This is easily fixable

          "I see you've missed some of my other acidic comments."

          If you wish people to track your comment history, posting as an AC really is counter to that aim.

          "Nobody NEEDS to game"

          Nobody NEEDS to listen to music, watch films, watch TV, read books or comic books, drink beer, play or watch sports, etc., etc., etc. ALL of those industries are screwing with their consumers in one way or another, sometimes far worse than gamers are screwed with.

          So, I ask again - why are you so single-mindedly against one group of people, and not against the others? Why is there a litany of personal attacks on gamers who don't give a shit about your personal crusade, and no comment about the many, many other people who do the same thing with other pastimes. (and that's even without mentioning the idiocy of assuming that gamers only game and do nothing else, but that's a different conversation).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            OA (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 9:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This is easily fixable

            Nobody NEEDS to listen to music...read books...play<...>sports...

            Are there humans that can live without music?

            I'm thinking that reading books (or some equivalent) should be something we pressure each other to do.

            At the very least playing sports is useful for providing exercise without resorting to otherwise pointless physical activity.

            .

            Anyway, entities should not be allowed to say, "Do it my way or not at all".

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 15 Feb 2018 @ 12:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is easily fixable

              "Are there humans that can live without music?"

              Yes. It's not a full existence, but it's not something that's required to exist. Especially in terms of the music industry, which is the analog here to what he was referring to.

              "I'm thinking that reading books (or some equivalent) should be something we pressure each other to do"

              Agreed, but it's not something that's required to live.

              "At the very least playing sports is useful for providing exercise without resorting to otherwise pointless physical activity."

              Agreed, but people can live without playing such games.

              My response was merely in response to the guy who thinks that only things that are required to live are important. I was pointing out that this exempts most human activity outside of those things required to survive.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 6:06am

          Re: Re: Re: This is easily fixable

          Nobody NEEDS to game. It's one of the easiest things in the world to give up.

          People don't even need to give it up, they just need to stop supporting certain companies. There are open-source games, and there are old games from companies that no longer exist (and old games are really easy to get...).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 6:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This is easily fixable

            Well, that's the other reason attacking gamers as a whole is utterly moronic - there's a *lot* of different types of games, many of whom are actually doing the exact things the whiners want them to do.

            For every person who buys only AAA games, there's people who only buy indie games. For every one who buys new games at all, there's a bunch of people going through their backlogs and not spending a penny. For every person who obsessively plays CoD or Overwatch, there's a bunch of "casual" gamers who have never picked up a FPS in their lives. For every one who plays multiplayer, there's people who *only* play single player. For every one who buys loot boxes, there's people who avoid certain games because of them. For every one who buys EA games because they care more about the licensed property than DRM or lootbox issues, there's a bunch who will never buy one of their games again.

            As stupid as it is to single out gamers for personal attacks because they don't support a specific cause in a certain way, it is utterly moronic to pretend they are a single group with the same tastes and goals.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 10:35am

          Re: Re: Re: This is easily fixable

          Oh look bitching about gamers. How edgy, in a churchgoer newsletter mid 2000’s get off my lawn, kinda way.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 9:33am

    Yeah, "fans will form museums" as a dodge around copyright. -- Better stated as "alleged adults still playing their childhood games will lie in order to evade clear law".

    And that these games are "art" that must be preserved!

    Sheesh. What are you, 13?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 10:31am

      Re: Yeah, "fans will form museums" as a dodge around copyright. -- Better stated as "alleged adults still playing their childhood games will lie in order to evade clear law".

      Attacking a museum is pretty low even for you isn’t it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 10:32am

        Re: Re: Yeah, "fans will form museums" as a dodge around copyright. -- Better stated as "alleged adults still playing their childhood games will lie in order to evade clear law".

        Answer the question blue. Why are you hiding? Just admit you hate all of culture. Sheesh.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 15 Feb 2018 @ 12:22am

        Re: Re: Yeah, "fans will form museums" as a dodge around copyright. -- Better stated as "alleged adults still playing their childhood games will lie in order to evade clear law".

        No bar is too low for this pathetic waste of carbon.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2018 @ 7:44pm

      Re: Yeah, "fans will form museums" as a dodge around copyright. -- Better stated as "alleged adults still playing their childhood games will lie in order to evade clear law".

      Funny thing is, games actually cost millions of dollars to develop. They're on par with the $100 million movies you like to suck the cock of so much.

      Damn, that must strike a nerve, eh blue boy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 15 Feb 2018 @ 12:24am

        Re: Re: Yeah, "fans will form museums" as a dodge around copyright. -- Better stated as "alleged adults still playing their childhood games will lie in order to evade clear law".

        Yeah, I'll bet if we go through other threads he's rabidly defending some Disney movie aimed at the under 6s like the hypocrite he is. One of the many reasons he refuses to offer a login and searchable comment history.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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