Unknown Nintendo Game Gets Digitized With Museum's Help, Showing The Importance Of Copyright Exceptions

from the lost-history dept

Roughly a year ago, we wrote about how museums were requesting an exception to the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions in order to preserve online games. While the Librarian of Congress has already allowed for exceptions for preserving non-online games, the request led to pushback by the Entertainment Software Association, which indicated preserving online games would be copyright infringement. Nintendo is a member of the ESA and the gaming giant was at the same time going around to ROMs sites all over the internet and either threatening them with legal action or scaring them into shutting down. This happened all while Nintendo also released several retro consoles, essentially cashing in on the nostalgia that the emulation sites had kept alive for the past decade or so.

All of which is to say this: Nintendo is not generally friendly to the idea of preserving Nintendo games via digitization that it does not control itself. Standing in contrast to that is the recent discovery of an otherwise essentially unknown Nintendo game from 30 years ago that, upon discovery, was swiftly digitized for posterity.

When UWC—a NES game that had been hidden from the world for 30 years—was uncovered last week, one of the first orders of business was getting the game off a cartridge and into the digital realm so that it could be properly preserved.  The new owner of the game, Stephan Reese, aka Archon 1981, said as much last week, and that job has now been completed thanks to the efforts of the Video Game History Foundation.

Saying “we were more than happy to lend our expertise and digitize the game for its owner”, the VGHF haven’t just ripped the game, but also went and finished it (as in, played to the end, not finished development), uploading gameplay footage to YouTube so we can all see some more of UWC in action.

Were it not for the exceptions that allowed the VGHF to have helped Reese out, the game could quite easily have been lost to history. Perhaps more importantly, if the general posture of companies like Nintendo led someone like Reese to believe the illegality of this wasn't even worth questioning, the world may never have seen this game at all. And, whatever you think of the importance of gaming to our culture, it cannot be argued that this would have been a cultural loss concerning the history of a popular entertainment medium.

These exceptions to copyright law are very, very important. This is just one of many examples as to why and yet another reminder that the pervasive culture of ownership and restriction carries with it a danger to literally everyone else who is living or will live. That danger is the potential to lose parts of our culture and history.

Filed Under: archives, copyright, copyright exceptions, digitization, lost content, lost games, nes, uwc, video games
Companies: nintendo


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 6:51pm

    License vs Ownership

    Nintendo is all gangbusters for enforcing the "Licensing" of their games, even games legally purchased on the original carts. They recently sued the Japanese video game bars out of existence, because they had original consoles and games that patrons came to play.
    This is what Copyright is for, right?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Fanboys, Astro-turfers, Re-writers, Techdirters, 20 Mar 2019 @ 8:25pm

      Re: License vs Ownership

      They recently sued the Japanese video game bars out of existence, because they had original consoles and games that patrons came to play.

      This is what Copyright is for, right?

      Yes. That boils down to unlicensed public performance besides grifting without reward to those who created the draw. It's just CHEAP and SLEAZY for a business to not pay a pittance, too.

      And, key point: it's been found ILLEGAL. You may not agree with the principles, but that IS the operative principle round the world.

      No one but the creator (owner) has any right to gain money from ANY use of copyrighted content.

      [pro-tem horizontal rule substitute] [pro-tem horizontal rule substitute]

      By the way, "Gary": it's a hoot that you comment favorably on your writing using a sock puppet.

      I bet you're the minion what came up with nixing my favored horizontal rule, you rat.

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

      • icon
        Gary (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 8:41pm

        Re: Re: License vs Ownership

        Also, please explain how this git in with your Colander Law? Such important law you know. You are always telling us about it.

        Serious question - If you don't want to be called "Blue Balls," what is a proper form of address?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 8:45pm

        Re: Re: License vs Ownership

        Did you just equate paying to rent physical video game consoles from someone to play someone else's legally purchased copies of videogames with, in a designated location... with downloading ROMs?

        Who the fuck am I kidding. this is out of the blue. You could pay for a CD purchased from a licensed vendor and he'll still accuse you of piracy.

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

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 9:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: License vs Ownership

          Yes, Blue Balls just equated playing a completely legit and legal video game to theft.

          Give ma a second, I need to run over to the second-hand bookstore to pickup some used books that don't pay copyright tax. BRB!

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 9:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: License vs Ownership

            I heard about the lawsuits against the Japanese video game bars, and I really didn't put a whole lot of thought into it at the time, but I just dug out some of my old NES instruction manuals to see what the EULA terms were. There aren't any. So, I have to wonder, if I bought a NES game, and there is no license that restricts my use of the game... why can't I play it in public?

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

            • icon
              Gary (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 9:51pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: License vs Ownership

              So, I have to wonder, if I bought a NES game, and there is no license that restricts my use of the game... why can't I play it in public?

              Because... Copyright! It isn't about the copies - it's about usage.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2019 @ 9:06am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: License vs Ownership

                It isn't about the copies - it's about usage.

                But limits on usage are usually specified in the license, aren't they? For example, when I pop a DVD in, there's that initial screen that appears that says something like "Licensed for private use only, public performance prohibited." I couldn't find anything for my NES game that specifies a similar restriction. I don't have the money to challenge it, but if no usage restriction was specified then I'd think that no usage restriction exists.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2019 @ 10:18am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: License vs Ownership

                  To play Nintendo's Advocate, copyright assigns all rights to the creator except as they are designated otherwise. So without a license saying you can use the software commercially, Nintendo is within its rights to restrict to whatever they want.

                  This is what got the music recording industry into a mess in the 70's and again in the 90's, as they hadn't spelled out clearly enough what copyright allowed people to do with the music.

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 21 Mar 2019 @ 1:02am

        Re: Re: License vs Ownership

        No one but the creator (owner) has any right to gain money from ANY use of copyrighted content.

        If that's your position, you should go live in a cave somewhere and not interact with society at all since you, with a 100% certainty, have made money by using others copyrighted works.

        If you deny this, it just shows us how incredible stupid you are.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2019 @ 3:09am

        Re: Re: License vs Ownership

        "No one but the creator (owner) has any right to gain money from ANY use of copyrighted content."

        You must have HATED Blockbuster and second hand bookstores! You know, the kinds of things that nobody had a problem with until lazy grifters like you demanded to be paid multiple times for work you did decades ago rather than work for a living like the rest of us.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2019 @ 4:43am

        Re: Re: License vs Ownership

        Yes. That boils down to unlicensed public performance besides grifting without reward to those who created the draw.

        Hang on a minute here, we are talking about a profitable corporation who payed people to make the games, and have long since recovered their investment. Any extra income will go into the corporate coffers, and not to the actual creators.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Fanboys, Astro-turfers, Re-writers, Techdirters, 20 Mar 2019 @ 8:16pm

    Unprecedented level of bombastic engrandizing.

    And, whatever you think of the importance of gaming to our culture, it cannot be argued that this would have been a cultural loss concerning the history of a popular entertainment medium.

    Carried away with own bombasticism. That boils down to: "it cannot be argued that this would have been a cultural loss". -- Which is FACT, it would NOT be a loss.

    Soon topped by:

    This is just one of many examples as to why and yet another reminder that the pervasive culture of ownership and restriction carries with it a danger to literally everyone else who is living or will live.

    The only "danger" you mention is "loss" of a game which by your own statement was unknown! -- Explain exactly how one can lose what doesn't know of? (You must rectify that with the pirate maxim that one can't lose income not yet gained when others copy the files.)

    For someone who used to claim "supported copyright" (like Masnick used to claim), you are now going far to condemn it.

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 8:36pm

      Re: Unprecedented level of bombastic Trolling

      Carried away with own bombasticism.

      Don't think this means what you think it does, Blue. Kettle, meet pot.

      1) Please show a site with better posting boards than TD.
      2) Your comments seem to be off topic.
      3) You replied to me, but didn't answer. "Copyright" is supposed to be about copying. Why should it cover all usage?

      Please, accept my downvotes. They prove that TF has power over you. Submit to TD's authority. Or start your own blog.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 8:59pm

      Re: Unprecedented level of bombastic engrandizing.

      Why you still here bro?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 9:06pm

      Re:

      Explain exactly how one can lose what doesn't know of?

      This was literally the entire backbone of the RIAA's "lost potential sale" argument, you brainless cretin.

      Article 13 voted!

      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, 20 Mar 2019 @ 9:58pm

        Re: Re:

        Many pirates would buy the product if forced. Many go looking for illicit copies once they decide they want it.

        The other side of piracy is that criminals are enriched by it, and that is clearly against the public interest.

        Outside of Masnick's little echo chamber, governments are working to stamp out this theft, and succeeding at their task. Article 13 will soon be law.

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

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 10:12pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So...
          How does this actually related to the article, or a 20 year old video game that is being archived?

          And how does Article 13 support Fair Use? Or enrich the arts? Just askin, you seem to have all the answers.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 10:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh look, it's Mr. Fuck-Aspergers-Up-the-Ass-Fantasies again.

          If criminals were enriched by it you'd have found the millions of dollars the Pirate Bay supposedly stole. The IRS never found it because those millions don't exist.

          And most pirates, if forced, would simply do without.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 10:58pm

          Re: Can’t even keep your lies straight

          Didn’t you just say you didn’t care about article 13 bro?

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2019 @ 3:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Many pirates would buy the product if forced. "

          Most wouldn't. In the mean time, you've prevented hundreds of thousands of independent artists from being able to be paid for their work at all. Bravo.

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

          • identicon
            Rocky, 21 Mar 2019 @ 3:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Paul, you missed the whole raison de'tre for his reasoning

            Many pirates would buy the product if forced.

            Since he views everyone not adhering to his reasoning, it must be that those "everyones" are pirates and they should either be jailed or forced to buy any content that is pandered to the public.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2019 @ 4:14am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              True, I was being rather charitable by assuming he meant "the only way to obtain the product is to pay a ransom" rather than "everyone needs to pay whether they want it or not". People like him do tend to forget that "go without" or "buy a competing product" are options people will regularly choose.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2019 @ 3:10am

      Re: Unprecedented level of bombastic engrandizing.

      "it would NOT be a loss."

      Yes, it would.

      The fact that you cannot understand this speak more to your simplemindedness than anything said by others here.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Mar 2019 @ 10:02pm

    If you have to bypass/break the law to preserve culture...

    If copyright's goal is to benefit the public by resulting in more works that enter the public domain to continue the cycle of creation, I'd say the fact that you need to either break the law or make use of a loophole in order to prevent something from fading into obscurity/effective nonexistence nicely highlights that it's failing at the job and needs to be tweaked/trimmed/scrapped replaced from the ground up.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2019 @ 6:08am

      Re: If you have to bypass/break the law to preserve culture...

      Not only that, online games should not even get copyright at all. They are intentionally designed to never make it into the public domain which is companies grabing all the rights and protections that copyright law provides for free while turning around and giving a massive middle finger to the public and the government that created the law absolutely failing to keep their end of the bargain and ignoring the spirit of the law entirely. They don't need copyright as they already protected themselves by using online servers.

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

  • identicon
    Valkor, 21 Mar 2019 @ 7:31am

    I hope this keeps happening.

    This isn't even the first time this has been done. Around Christmas last year, the same thing was done with SimCity for the NES. It had been in parallel development with the SNES version, but was never published.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2019 @ 9:37am

    It was already digital

    This isn't "digitization", it's just copying. NES cartridges, like all video game cartridges, have always been fully digital. Pinout here.

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 22 Mar 2019 @ 8:49pm

    Don't worry, streaming games will put a stop to all this filthy piracy. After all you can't "preserve" a game if nobody has access to its code. Finally, game companies will have absolute, perpetual control over their products for all eternity, the way the copyright gods intended!!!

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


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