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.

Filed Under: anti-circumvention, archiving, copyright office, dmca, dmca 1201, drm, librarian of congress, museums, triennial review, video games
Companies: made, museum of art and digital entertainment


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  1. 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.


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