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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  1. 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?


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