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IDSA Goes After Abandonware 225

unicron writes "IDSA is trying to shutdown Home of the Underdogs, the biggest and oldest Abandonware site 'round. I personally run an Abandonware site and I'd like to see how this will end. People, talk to and its members with messages that they should pick on 0-day warez sites, not on Abandonware sites! Long live classic gaming!"
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IDSA Goes After Abandonware

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  • So theoretically if you don't do anything with a piece of code I can take it under the public domain right?
  • Actually I read a few years ago that some company bought the rights to the book on which the Hitchcock movie Rear Windows was based and they intended to have all existing copies of the movie removed from collective memory (by banning it's sale, viewing, etc), so they could pass the remake they were planning to make off as the only version.

    I never heard what happened next, but Rear Window (the original) has been on TV some times since then so I guess they failed.

    It does show that some companies would wipe out a piece of history to present their new version as the only one.

  • Yeah, I think (IANAL) that it's called a suit in the public's interest. Although how providing free copies of games that are no longer available is against the public's interest is beyond me.

    Again, this does delve into copyright law, and ownership issues. This could all be solved by various software and game companies releasing stuff into public domain, but I really can't see that happening on a large scale. Maybe you'd get a few games into public domain, but that's it. Of course, I'd love to see a lawyer read this on /. and take up the defense of the Underdogs. But I don't see that happening either.

    Sad, really.

  • I took a look at underdogs and they have removed the download links on all IDSA companies's games and replaced it with something along the lines of:"please contact the original publisher to buy this title".

    I would suggest everybody do this whether you actually want to buy the game or not. As other people pointed out, publishers hate old games because they're nightmares to support, especially on new systems (remember conventional mem, EMS, XMS, DOS mouse drivers?). Tech support is a big expense, and their call centers are usually poorly staffed as it is. If their phone banks get slashdotted and callers asked to buy some long forgotten game and specifically mention and IDSA, there just might be some backlash from the member companies.

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @01:31PM (#645945) Homepage
    Imagine if the car were left in the middle of the Mohave desert - for 20 years. No one has touched it. The tires are all flat. Maybe a bush or something it growing up through the middle of it. Perhaps all the paint is scoured off one side by wind and sand...

    Is it abandoned? By any sane reasoning, the answer would be an emphatic YES! But by law - it is a totally different matter.

    You are right - only the owner can decide whether it is abandoned or not. Car or software, the owner should be asked. But what do you do if the owner can't be located? What if he is dead? What if his whole family is dead? Who owns it now?

    In the case of a car, probably the state (you do know that more than likely you _don't_ own your car outright - that it is a joint ownership between you and the state? - that is, unless you paid in full, in cash, and got the MSO to boot)...

    Software, though, is more ephemerous - can disappear like the wind, never to be seen again. Sometimes, even when you can find the owner, he will either blow you off, or never respond...

    Case in point: I own a copy of Gates of Delerium (for the Tandy Color Computer), which was created and published by Diecom Software, a company that was based in Canada. Dave Dies, the founder, now works for a company that makes games for handhelds (like the Gameboy) - I have the website address and contact email addresses - but no matter what, I can't get in contact to find out what I can do. What is my problem? I own the disks of the game. I still have them, but they don't work on my CoCo anymore (they used to work fine, now it won't boot - all my other floppies are ok, though). I just want to know if I can make an emulated copy, or try to pull the info from the disks, or if he can give me help of any kind.

    Small problem, but I want to play this game again - I liked it, and I would love to see it once more.

    The whole issue is a very gray area - software isn't like hard items, and the licensing complicates the issue. Then it goes bizzare when you want support, and the company isn't around, but the founder is, etc...

    I support the EFF [] - do you?
  • I want games of old. The company sees no demand but hassles people who demand and there are many who demand.

    Is there a demand or isn't there?
  • The clause IDSA cites in its complaint applies only to sites for which (through its "FreeStepSite" service) provides web hosting services, not to domains for which it only acts as registrar.
  • It was built to hoist copyright in its own petard. It spits into the wind, to hit copyright in its own face. It is a way to tie the snake in a knot.

    I'm sure RMS would actually prefer a world where there were no copyrights or patents of any sort. The comunity is about sharing- not about preserving the copyright fallacy. And a totally uninhibited world would have the same net effect as a totally GPL one.

    The GPL exists in spite of copyright law- not because of it. It is a totally consistent position to champion the GPL and to regale Napster, Abandonware sharing, DeCSS, ogg, LiViD, and so forth.

    The backers of copyright, invariably those who wish to turn dime on the work of others, cannot seem to understand that to defend the GPL is not the same as defending their copy"right".

  • As sad as it is, the publishers would rather let these games vanish, rather than letting us play them for free. After all, they may put out a compilation of classics someday, so they want to protect their rights. At least I assume that is their reasoning.

    No, that's not their reasoning. The fact is that they know that people would often rather play the old games, rather than the latest glossy-graphics mindless first-person shooter. Their economic model doesn't involve creating games that last; it involves creating something that sells for a couple weeks, and then superceding it with something else.

    If they wanted continued revenues, they'd continue selling their games. Like you said, compilations are always nice -- but only show up very rarely. It seems that most of the abandonware gamers are fairly responsible people -- I think that most of them would buy a compilation of old games, unlike the standard warez crowd. They 'pirate' the games because there's no alternative way to get them, not because they're too cheap to pay for them.

  • Why? I mean, one is no different than the other.

    Most, if not all, 0-day sites are simply run by the 'warez' culture that gets a boner off of hoarding large collections of software. Big deal. Most of the warez dudes I know don't even RUN the stuff they have.. they just trade software like pokemon. Very little of it actually ends up used by anyone.

  • I thought it was more...

    your free to salvage abandoned ships - unless they have enough value in them that some government might get offended and jumps in.

    Afterall...they can change (er I mean re-interpret) such things at will. Whatver suits them at the moment you know.

    You think that anything salvaged by the US military from German Uboats is being returned to the current German government?

    "Whoever salvages something from an abandoned/sunken ship ownes it...oh unless it was a warship - then its owned by the government that owned it....oh yea unless WE want it...oh yea and if you bring it up on a tuesday then...."

  • Also good are the early Sierra games.
    Amen and Hallelujah. Actually, not just early. In the early-to-mid 90's, they were still making games with memorable characters and plots, except with high-res VGA they could use beautiful hand-painted backgrounds and facial expressions too.
    Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. There's a huge bug in it when it runs on Pentium chips, which I haven't been able to fix, but I haven't forgotten it from my 486 days. I cried the first time I saw scene of Toby's sacrifice.... I can't say anymore. But play that game. Oh my god. Play that game.
  • I understand and agree with your assessment, however it's worth noting that Underdogs does not make availabe games that they know to be available through retail channels. Since there is literally *no* way for you to get those games, they provide a means. This doesn't make it legal, but it should be enough so that boneheaded corporate types could see that they're doing them a favor, not trying to ream them.
  • As a side note... there is an emulator for several of these that will run on a Palm Pilot (zork and hitchhikers at least).

    It has been a couple of years since I tried it, but it worked fine then. Should be easy to track down on or similiar site.

    Basically, you get the emulator, and just move the data onto the palm is a slightly modified format.

  • Nobody sold the disks. They were later found, stuck in storage with other odds and ends. Plus, I still had in my possession the box it originally came in, which contained the licence agreement.

    I guess the question is this: Does one own the game (the media), and therefore we are free to do what we want with it, or the *licence to* the game? Microsoft, in particular, seems to support the second one, as they sell licences and media seperately, and you must have several licences to use their software on multiple computers legally.

    It seems like if this is the case- if I can prove that I have the licence to the software- I can download the software legally.

    Or must I now erase the 'warezed' copy off my computer and install from the media? Seems very silly- they are the exact same thing, but one would be installed from the Official Media (tm) and one from a .zip file from an abandoned software page.

    What do I do, when it seems I relate to Judas more than You?
  • While what you say may hold true for abandonware in general, Underdogs is quite scrupulous to make sure that it does not make available any game that is available through retail channels.

    Does that make it legal? Of course not.

    Should anybody try to stop it? No, because Underdogs is offering to fill a void that is obviously not being addressed by the companies in question. Since they only offer for download games that are not available through any legal means, there is no revenue loss. Further, they allow any rights holders to contact them to request that their games be removed from the archive.
  • Where can you obtain one that runs well on old hardware?

    a) Where: have you looked up the sites mentioned in this article?

    b) Hardware: has it ocurred to you that when old software was made they didn't have anything but "old hardware"?

  • I have to agree here....

    Just about every book ever written - or at least every book that some librarians can get their hands on - is archived somewhere.

    With the exception of things only available in a few copies - nothign will make a book completely dissapear from the world. At any point in the future - we will be able to find them and have new copies made or just read them.

    There is nothing to protect software in such a way. I think its sad to know that so much is being produced, and continues to be produced - which will someday be gone forever.

    Whenever something is released to the public - it becomes part of our culture. To loose such a thing forever is to lose forever part of our cultural memory.

    I think thats truely sad.

  • > Still, I grabbed a copy of Leather Goddesses of Phobos in about two minutes with Google.

    I own Leather Goddesses of Phobos, as well as the original Popluous, and a few other titles on 5.25" floppies. But I don't have a working 5.25" floppy drive installed, at the moment. Every now and then, I have a wish to bring one of these oldies out for a spin, but it's not worth the effort of opening the case, and fussing hardware around. It's especially obnoxious because I'm bay-limited, and some of these old games are A:-only. It's just more trouble than it's worth.

    But an abandonware site... That's a neat idea, and I already OWN the games, just on obsolete media.
  • by g_mcbay ( 201099 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:08AM (#645960)
    Why is it on Slashdot that many of the same people who think its okay to break copyright laws in cases of emulation, 'free' music and abadonware are the same people who would scream the loudest if a company were to run afoul of the GPL?

    The GPL is built upon copyright law. Copyright law is the foundation of the GPL (or any other license you care to mention). Take it or leave it.

  • Thank you! Awesome. Time to renew some old ties, I guess.
  • Theoretically yes, realistically probably not. The various DVD cases running through the courts right now are exploring some of this ground, but the lower courts have (despite a VERY consistant AFAIK Supreme Court stance otherwise) a bad history of considering copyrights to be natural rights.

    And the DMCA is part of current copyright law. While I'd like to see a return to the more sensible laws of old (pre 1976 at least) I'm not holding my breath.
  • by An El Haqq ( 83446 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:11AM (#645963)
    I was under the assumption that the enforcement of copyright law is okay. If you didn't buy the game, then you have no rights to play that game. We live in a capitalist society, not some sort of utopic, world-property community.

    Don't get me wrong. I support the idea of shortening copyrights on computer software. I would even suggest 5 to 10 year limits, but I don't think that people should complain when the current law is being enforced. You should instead try to change the offending legislation. You should draft a bill and send it to your Congressman. You should contact your representatives and tell them how you feel.

    If enough people care, maybe Slashdot could be used as a forum for drafting pro-freedom legislation. Think of it as community-developed (cleverly avoiding the typical buzzword) government.
  • Ok, so there must be a strategy behind this tactic. Does anyone see it? Perhaps they want to squeeze out all the classic (read: FUN) games, thus making available only new game sales.

    Capitalism in action -- Wondertwin powers Activate! Form of -- an attorney shark! Form of -- a marketing weasel!

    What next, sue record stores for selling used CDs, so all we can buy are new ($18+) CDs? Yeah, sure, that'll work. That'll not drive us to the internet and underground Game and MP3 sites.

    Stupid clueless twits.


  • Make no mistake: I war3z as much as anyone out there, and love to see the new CD rips on the shiny FTPs. I however, make no mistake that what I'm doing is immoral, and unethical. I simply DON'T CARE.

    On the other hand, it's rediculous to say that war3z doesn't hurt authors and publishers -- you can argue that the 15 year old would have never bought Maya 3 Unlimited anyhow, and while that's true, he's actively helping distribute said software to people who /might/ have otherwise purchased it, but now don't have to. It's not right, and if you happen to care, you'd be on the side of the publishers as well.

  • Of course, now that these abandonware sites have been posted here they will get slashdotted to death... effectively taking them down anyway.

    Who submitted this story?

  • You call it 'abandonware', but that doesn't mean that the author or publisher has relinguished rights. 'nuff said.
  • Just like WOS, The Underdogs already DO remove abandonware from their site when requested by the original author or puublishing company.

    Not all the links on the Underdogs lead to downloads. Sometimes they just provide info on the game and where you can still buy it(if possible). if publishing permission was refused

    The problem for sites like theirs is when you get classics like Elite, where one author agrees to the program being uploaded and the other still wants to enforce their copyright and refuses.

  • I'm all for abandonware sites, don't get me wrong. I also agree that they are in fact violating some rights of the original authors. I don't think anyone can dispute that. So with that in mind, why not a proposal that abandonware sites, instead of blatently putting up software for download, contact the original companies/copyright holders/authors for permission. Herein lies the rock and a hard place problem. In some cases, (perhaps most) the original authors are gone off the face of the planet. Many software companies from the 80s that had one hit wonders are gone, never to be seen again in the gaming industry. So what about their products? Who owns them. Also, there is the fact (coming from experience) that some companies ignore any requests for copies of the software, permission to put the software up for downloads or even releasing the software to the public domain. They simply don't bother answering some of us and in some cases even deny they created the software in the first place. I think there's problems on both fronts. The abdonware sites would do well to try to contact the original authors and make a proposal to make the software available to the public, even linking to the new site if possible. The software companies would do well to start releasing games into the public domain or releasing the source under a GPL (or similar) license so people could build new versions and the life-cycle continues on. Instead these kind of things happen, sites get shut down and nobody benefits. Why can't we all get along? It seems so simple. liB
  • I can't speak for anybody else, but for me it's the nostalgia factor.

    I'd love to find a version of Archon (old EA for C64 game) that could run under Linux. Hell, I'd even settle for a version that runs on 'bloze if I had to.

    Give a man a match, you keep him warm for an evening.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @09:25AM (#645976) Homepage Journal
    A flame about that high...

    Current copyright laws make no allowances to preserve works that will be lost due to the original authors abandonment of them, either due to them going out of business or just dropping the product line. A considerable chunk of our history is legally bound to be lost because the only people who care to preserve it get cease and desist letters from corporate lawyers. This despite the fact that the corporate viewpoint seems to be that if it's not current, it's not valuable.

    This doesn't just hold true of digital works. Movies, books, music and video footage from previous days all stand to be lost because no one cares to maintain them.

    Have you seen that Qwest commercial where the girl goes into the bookstore and asks for Homer's Illiad and the guy says they have all books ever published in every language? That's ideally where the net is going. The truth of the matter though is that you won't be able to get to any content without going thorugh some Internet toll booth and while you might be able to find Homer's Illiad, you'll never find a current work due to copyright issues. And even if you can, you'll have to pay each time you want to read it.

  • who are they representing in these cases?

    I was around when they hit davesclassics, and other classicgaming sites, but at least they were pretending to represent a legitimate client then.

    this doesn't make sense.


  • "The GPL is built upon copyright law. Copyright law is the foundation of the GPL (or any other license you care to mention). Take it or leave it."

    This is a common misconception. The GPL doesn't NEED copyright law. It protects software authors *from* copyright law abuses.. i.e. somebody copying your code *and then selling it* with their own copyright attached such that others aren't allowed to distrubute it.

    If copyright law wasn't so fundamentally messed up, the GPL would be unnecessary.
  • by ( 84577 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @07:50AM (#645983) Homepage
    People, talk to and bombard [IDSA] members with messages that they should pick on 0-day warez sites, not on Abandonware sites!
  • When I want to play a game I like a nice long plot/story and I usually can't find that in most "classic" games.

    Are you sure you want to play the game, rather than just follow the storyline? Plot is utterly, utterly irrelevant when it comes to gaming, and yes, most classic games have little or no plot. But what they do have is buckets and buckets of playability. At the end of the day, that's all that really matters (IMHO, of course). I just wish modern games would concentrate more on gameplay. As it is, I can always use an emulator to go back and play Battle Squardon or Paradroid or even Manic Miner.

  • No, actually copyright law was designed to establish property rights for people's creative output.

    Nope; you're both wrong. It was established to enrich the public domain by encouraging artists and writers to produce more works. It did so by establishing a system like property ownership for things that can't, under ordinary circumstances, be owned (how do you own sound, or thought, or words?)

    The bargain is struck thus: you have exclusive rights to your works for a limited time (enough time to make money off of the work, and then some in the case of individuals, for whom the copyright expires long after the author hasdied). But, after that time is up, you must release it into the public domain.

    If I want to write a story, record a song, etc. and then stick it in a vault, and LOSE MONEY by paying a storage fee, because I don't wish for it to be distributed, that is my right as the creator.

    This is very true. It is also very stupid. This is exactly why copyrights were established, so you wouldn't have to do this.

    Consider the case of Stradivarius, generally considered the greatest violin-maker of all time. There was no such thing as a patent system in his time, so he kept his methods secret (as this was the only other method available for keeping his methods private). However, because of this, after he died no one knew how to continue his craft. That is why today, with all our technology, we still can't make a better violin. Had there been such a system in place, he could have disclosed his invention, secure in the knowledge that only he could make money off of it, and that after he was gone his art could be continued.

    Further, the owner of the copyrighted work has every right to force upgrading, if they so wish.

    No, they don't. It's generally against the law for companies to coerce customers into upgrading their products.

    Are you going to claim that sculptors should be forced to sell duplicates of their sculputres, and if they don't sell at least one copy every 3-5 years then anybody should be able to sell copies?

    And are you going to claim that sculptors should be able to sell duplicates of their sculptures, and can force everyone who has ever bought one of their works to keep buying the same sculpture again and again, regardless of the relative quality of the works over time? It's what you seem to be saying should be allowed.

    A copyright for an individual is one thing. Certainly such copyrights should extend at least for the life of the creator (and perhaps somewhat longer, perhaps 25 years, to provide for the creator's family). The reason is simple: people need some source of income for their entire lives.

    But for corporations, which exist solely to make money and don't have the same sort of lifespan as human beings do, these copyrights should certainly exist for no longer than the life of the corporation (which has no family to provide for), and more ideally should only exist for as long as a corporation can provide a demonstrable need for it.
  • "They 'pirate' the games because there's no alternative way to get them, not because they're too cheap to pay for them."

    There is some of both. Almost all of the people I know who are into classic gaming own more than one arcade cabinet, and even those are falling into conditions which are becoming increasingly difficult to repair.

    It all comes down to your view on if they are actually preserving games which would otherwise be lost forever, or if you think they are stealing games... in this case from companies which no longer even exist.


  • I think one of the things that the game companies are trying to do is along the lines of the motion picture companies -- create a catalog whose "value" gives an apparent weight to the company. Think about any media company -- other than the "current" songs/films/etc, what value does the company have? Film companies may own a set and some props, but that gives the overall business very little capital value -- there's no "there" there.

    But the rights to a movie catalog makes a film company suddenly much more valuable in terms of their capital holdings. Even though some random 1960s movie may only generate a few 10s of thousands of dollars in revenue through licensing of visuals and clips or video rentals. Some even less money than that.

    Game companies may see themselves as doing the same thing -- build up a catalog of past hits that you own and you kind of build up a capital base.

    While the idea of a game catalog may sound perverse, the gaming community has really closely paralleled the film community -- many of them see themselves as a new-economy interactive film studios.
  • Long after a product has ceased to be viable to them...
    Long after a failed product has any hope of ever giving them a return on their investments...
    Long after all those interested in the money side of the software have forgotten about it....
    Even long after the company has died....

    You still find bonehead managers thinking they have something to lose by releasing the software to the community... idiots! pathetic loons! incomprehensibly devoid of imagination and vision!

    This is the reason the gaming industry sucks now! It's being managed by stagnant blobs who are devoid of even a micro-hint of good-will.
  • by g_mcbay ( 201099 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:13AM (#645994)
    Seriously though, other than a few classic games (For me, 'classic' refers to the Mega Man series, but for some it may be the Zelda series, the Ultima series, and who knows what else), will these games be missed? From my understanding, it's not like there is money being taken, because the only money that the companies would make is from royalties, and you can't make royalties off games that aren't sold anymore (used games shop don't pay royalties). So how is theft occuring?

    You make a good argument, but it doesn't take into account reality. In reality, companies still make money off these old games. Many times in the past companies have rereleased old games, often on newer systems, usually in complilation format.

    It is not hard to make an argument that they might lose sales in this situation when many of the classic game fans that might buy these titles can already easily download the games and play them via emulation.

  • Photoshop 6.0 was being warezed all over the place just one day after its release, and Adobe is taking no action. Yet the IDSA goes after Abandonware sites! Gee, what's wrong with this picture?
  • when there is no copyright there is no incentive to hide the source code except in situations such as Gov't secrets.

    I couldn't disagree more.

    If I write a computer program and distribute it as object-code-only, my customers are forced to come to me for upgrades and bug fixes.

    Plus, if I customize the computer program for each customer, then only that customer can effectively make use of the program. If I am writing an application to manage a bookstore, I might hard-code in certain categories, such as books, magazines, etc that make the application useless for managing a toy store. I might hard-code in information to make the program worthless to anyone else -- such as a provision to print out the store's name, address and phone number on the top of each page that gets printed by the software.

    I might include calls to a dongle-checking routine, to make sure that no one can use the software except for the person who paid for it.

    Even with the legal protection of copyright, there are enormous incentives to hide the source code to software. Those incentives do not disappear if copyright disappears. They only become more acute.

    Right now there is no incentive to reveal source code besides the incentives offered by the GPL:

    1) You can incorporate other GPL source code and save development time.

    2) Your code may, if you're lucky, be subjected to an external audit, and you may receive feedback in the form of bug reports and/or enhancements.

    So, the mandatory disclosure of source is simply an artifact of defeating copyright law- not an intrinsic of freedom.

    Disclosure of source code does not defeat copyright law. A program has no more or less legal protection if it is released as source code or as object code only.

    Disclosure of source code defeats efforts to commit fraud and invasion of privacy. Over and over again, we find that software companies simply cannot resist the urge to secretly collect personal information, and lie about it. You might assume, without knowing better, that you can write an anonymous document using Microsoft Word. Then you find out that Microsoft has arranged for the serial number of your computer to be concealed in every document you write. You are told by Digital Convergance that that nifty little cuecat only reports statistical information about what you scan, but then you discover that it also secretly sends a serial number. How do you know that your Windows 98 software doesn't have back doors to allow Microsoft to tap into your machine? You don't. You simply have to trust Microsoft.

    What is freedom if not the ability to protect your own interests? How can you protect your own interests when you are forced to, in effect, wear blindfolds so you can't see what's going on. That's what you do when you use object-code-only software. You are trusting a corporation to safeguard your privacy and interests in the face of overwhelming evidence that these are not the interests of corporations that sell software.

    Source code disclosure creates confidence that a program operates as represented. Without source code verification, your privacy and freedom are unprotected.

    So yes, I believe that source code is intrinsic to freedom. The fact that very little software is released in source code form has had the result that most software users enjoy very little freedom over their own products. Look in the End User Licenses of all your proprietary software. Where are your rights? What do you actually own? Answer: You don't have any rights, and you don't actually own any of your software. How can freedom exist without rights?
  • Yes, and enjoy.
  • "Perhaps a law stating that you loose your copyright after 3-5 years of not selling your work would be in order."

    Many books have been very successful and have been reprinted with many years between editions. How recent are your copies of Smith's "Lensman" series []?

  • IDSA seems to have a monopoly on educating the government about "strong intellectual property rights." Why can't the Free Software movement participate in such training, and FSF lawyers ver the training materials? If we don't educate people, the other side will!

    From IDSA's site []:

    IDSA anti-piracy efforts include: direct investigation and enforcement actions around the world and on-line, working closely with government agencies such as United States Trade Representative, the United States Customs Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and foreign government officials, training and educating customs agents and law enforcement officers in the United States and around the world.

    The IDSA piracy program has three main components: policy work, education and enforcement. Our policy work focuses on domestic and foreign legal and regulatory issues affecting member's intellectual property rights and the market access barriers that member companies face when trying to enter a foreign market. In the education area, we have developed training materials for U.S. Custom and law enforcement personnel and do several training sessions around the country every month. In addition, IDSA staff educates foreign visitors on our industry and the importance of strong Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection around the world. This effort includes training foreign custom agents to identify pirate entertainment software, working with foreign prosecutors on running raids and prepare cases, and training judges on IPR. Finally, the association runs an anti-piracy enforcement program in selected foreign markets, as well as domestic piracy in the U.S., through the Internet, computer shows, etc. This program is completely funded by membership dues and is open to all IDSA member companies.

  • by tinla ( 120858 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:17AM (#646021) Homepage Journal

    Isn't it OK to copy games that are no longer distributed in the stores or commercially exploited?

    No, the current availability of a game in stores is irrelevant to its copyright status. Unlike trademarks, copyrights are not considered abandoned if they are no longer enforced. Copyrights do not enter the public domain just because they are no longer commercially exploited or widely available. Therefore, the copyrights of games are valid even if the games are not found on store shelves, and copying or distributing those games is a copyright infringement.
    (From [])
    What exactly are the IDSA doing wrong here? People should write to the member companies and ask them to change their corporate policies, not flame the ISDA. The companies signed up because they didn't want their IP put on the web for download.. you're allowed to complain to them but you can't just ignore them because you don't like what they have to say. The ISDA are doing what they're paid to do. They hit high profile sites because it is easy, low risk (they clearly have legal right whatever the moral viewpoint) and sends a message. If they let these high profile sites go it whould imply acceptace of copyright devalument after, say, 6 years or so. The members don't want that.

    I know people here get very worked up about GPL violations, well these guys appear to be engaged in wholesale licence violation. Its not as if these companies aren't trading anymore or that these games have no value. Companies like Namco still make good money from 20yr old games being sold today. Maybe EA want to put Gunship [] in thier next flight sim as a secret sub-game in the air traffic control system computer (Day of the tenticle anyone?). These guys were giving Gunship away, which devalues such a promotion.

    Am I missing something or is this whole "Abandonware" tag being abused. Who says these games are Abandoned? Doesn't that happen when the Publisher/whoever formally Abandons it, or changes the licence or the copyright expires? Maybe if they go bankrupt (although such rights usually find a buyer even then). There are examples of companies releasing old IP because they don't need it, think its good PR, had a fit of humanity etc.. but this site doesn't look like a repository of that to me.

    I don't see the IDSA overstepping any marks here. This one of the roles they exist to carry out. Complaining to the members [] makes sense. If you alert them to a market for old games them may make them a $1 dload...

  • Gandi [] was created by hacktivists who know their shit about censorship ... among them [] is Valentin Lacambre, former operator of, the ad-less free hosting service which had to close dues to too many lawsuits and unfriendly laws.


  • by Nickbot ( 15172 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:19AM (#646025)
    Yes, I agree.. how dare anyone on slashdot take a moderate position on copyright law? How dare they suggest that copyrights might a good thing in one instance, but not in another? Don't they know that the only proper course is to be fanatically for or against something, in complete disregard for the real world? I for one support this user's previous post. We shouldn't have to consider opposting viewpoints. Extremeism is the only way.


  • I'm hunting high and low for an old game called "Epic" by Ocean, made by Digital Image Design in 1991. Because of its generic name, a search such as "epic space game" will turn with 1000s of useless links.

    Anyway, I found download links for the Amiga version of that game, but noone (not even Ocean) was able to point me to the PC game. Yes, I asked Ocean for the possibility to buy it...

  • Nope; you're both wrong. It was established to enrich the public domain by encouraging artists and writers to produce more works. It did so by establishing a system like property ownership for things that can't, under ordinary circumstances, be owned (how do you own sound, or thought, or words?)

    Copyright's purpose is not to encourage artists and writers to produce works. It's purpose is to encourage artists and writers to publish their works.

    These are very different purposes. There is absolutely nothing in the copyright law that encourages the creation of works. The entire purpose of the law is to encourage the publication of works.

    The problem with modern copyright law is that the publishers have convinced Congress and the public that they, not authors, are the intended beneficiaries of copyright.

    The only type of authors who are actually able to keep their copyrights anymore are certain print authors. Stephen King's books are still, "Copyright 2000 Stephen King." If you want to make your living as a songwriter/performer, however, you will quickly discover that the price of admission -- your "recording contract" -- is that you have to sign over all of your copyrights. All your songs will be, for instance, "Copyright 2000 Warner Communications." If you want to become a filmmaker, the price is the same. "Copyright 2000 United Artists." If you want to write textbooks or make maps, your work is "work for hire", and the copyrights on your works are automatically assigned to your employer. "Copyright 2000 Prentice Hall."

    Copyright wasn't always for the benefit of authors. Originally, copyright was conceived as a means of censorship. The British Crown wanted to control book printers, so, in exchange for accepting censorship over what they published, the Crown granted monopolies to individual publishers over works -- even works that they had nothing to do with creating.

    One of the great innovations in the Constitution was the change in copyright. A new form of copyright was created -- one that incited publication and was intended to benefit authors. It was a noble experiment -- The founding fathers took something that was absolutely evil and against the public interest -- the Stationer's Copyright -- and recast it into something that was in the public interest -- modern Copyright.

    It's taken about 225 years of gradual change in the laws, but copyright has finally reverted to its original purpose.
  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @09:43AM (#646033) Homepage Journal
    No no they did not and yes they do have a right to force them into oblivion. Should they have a right to do so? NO. Do they have a right to do so? Yes under the current law they do. The only bargain they made with the public was to provide a whatever they said was in the box when they sold the box to someone. Is there some kind of social contract going on here. Not at all. Should they act as though there were. Yes I think so. My whole point was and is that they have their heads up their asses and that they do treat software as though it needs to bo controlled and limited. As for me I will not give such people my money. Of course since Id seems to pretty much be on the cluetrain I don't have alot to worry about.
  • If the GPL was just a way to keep all derivative works freely distributable, it wouldn't say anything about the source.

    It's really about documentation. Not only must you allow people to copy the software, you must give them all your notes on how you constructed it so they can see everything you did, and make any changes they wish.

    That's what source code is: documentation. It's a formal explanation of what the software is intended to do. Actual construction of software from good plans is so trivial that we tend to dismiss it and treat the design as construction, but that is not accurate. Note that the GPL forbids stripping comments, mechanically obfuscating source, and distributing unedited translator output. That has nothing to do with being able to recompile at will, it's purely a requirement to leave your notes in.

    Without copyright, it would be entirely possible to build elaborate copy protection schemes, user-spyware, advertising, and restrictions to using it only with "approved" services and hardware into proprietary software based on free software. Removing such things would then be a difficult problem of reverse engineering. More importantly, hardware interfaces could be obfuscated to the point where it would take longer to reverse engineer than to come out with next year's model.

    GPL protection extends far beyond what free software would have without copyright. The GPL is not made necessary by copyright (it is not necessary at all), it is made relevant by copyright. Closed source software would continue to thrive in the absence of copyright.

    Personally, I believe in public domain software. For one thing, I suspect that in today's legal/political climate, with MS being split up for, of all things, giving away a free piece of software, that GPL may well be ruled to be public domain. But questions of enforceability are only one issue. The big one for me is license incompatibility, though the overhead of trying to sort out what is and isn't allowed is another significant issue.

    Sure, with public domain, people can take what you've written and hide rotten things in it. All the more reason for users to avoid proprietary software. I feel no particular need to try to directly force other programmers to change what they do with their work. The advantages of public domain, open source software speak for themselves. If someone is willing to write it, it only makes sense that people will eventually catch on and start using it.

  • by AstynaxX ( 217139 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:19AM (#646044) Homepage
    Just because someone feels the GPL, or certain licences are logical and valid, does not mean they need to accept en mass all of copyright law. That's like saying because you agree with the right to freedom of speach, you must agree with later constitutional amendments with no regard to their content or effect since they are all part of the same 'law'.

    As a side note, quite often the folks on /. bitching about GPL violations are NOT the same folks championing Napster, emulation, etc. Please keep that in mind.

  • I dunno. That's true in some cases, but the graphics and music and scope of games has improved vastly and continues to do so. (Gameplay is another question, of course.) There will always be a market for the latest and greatest games.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:21AM (#646050)
    copyright -- take it or leave it.

    The GPL is built upon copyright law. Copyright law is the foundation of the GPL (or any other license you care to mention). Take it or leave it.
    Don't forget what the author of the GPL says about copyright: that free software would be much easier to produce and use without it. The GPL does indeed utilize copyright, but the GPL is made necessary by copyright in the first place. Without copyright, the GPL could not exist -- but it would not need to exist. So, personally, I'm with RMS: LEAVE IT.
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:32AM (#646051)
    I was recently backing up and preparing to throw away my last 5 1/4" drive, when I found one of my disks was defective (Sorcerers Get All The Girls). I sent an email to the company, asking them if I could purchase again this old favorite, and the answer was "no". Fortunately, I found it for free at an abandonware site.

    However, I think their business model is wrong. Keeping my old games will not stop me from buying new ones, if the new games are good enough.

    Perhaps they are afraid of comparisons. When a company starts, they usually have an outstanding product, or they will not survive. Then it's just a matter of creating so-and-so follow-ups, coasting on the fame of their oldest hits. That's why sequels are "never" as good as the original.

  • by Sheeple Police ( 247465 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:22AM (#646052)
    It is not hard to make an argument that they might lose sales in this situation when many of the classic game fans that might buy these titles can already easily download the games and play them via emulation.

    The only problem I have with that argument, is it seems to be based on games which were not capitalizing on the prevalent social belief. For example, a game like Civilization - great game, but comparitively week now a days. However, it can (and has been) released in the sort of 'classic' form. However, a game like 'Little Mermaid Fun Studio' or 'CHiPS: Living on the edge' (or for an even better argument in the feminaziest modern day and age, a title like 'Barbie's Paint and Play') [note: I do not know if these games actually exist. They are mentioned for use as example], there is really no marketability.

    So I suppose it's subjective to the game. There are certain genres (ie: simulation, adventure, fantasy) that would no doubt suceed with a little touch up work and repackaging. I mean, heck, I've seen old Atari games repackaged by Activision and sold for $40 for the bundle of 12 - but those were all games without significant social connections.

    Personally, I think it would be better if games stopped trying to capitalize on the social trends, and instead focus on quality, not cross-marketeering. So many great games existed on the Nintendo because movie/media companies weren't willing to spend money to platformize a movie/show, although, when they did, they often did so so sparingly w/ the money that it resulted in really CRAPPY games.

    But thanks for bringing up that good point that some games still have a market, but just remember that some games are doomed to be abandoned - hence the 'need' for sites that host Abandonware.
  • I noticed a few days ago (through The Underdogs site no less) that LucasArts is still selling many of their classic games here []. Stuff like Maniac Mansion, Monkey's Island, Battle Hawks 1942. Most of them are in collections. Of course a lot of them are only offered on 3.5" floppys, so if you really want an 'archive' you still have burn it to CD.
  • For example, several Spanish galleons chockful of gold were recently found off the Florida coast by a treasure hunter. The US Government stepped in and said they can't salvage the ship. Governments and their heirs retain rights to warships unless they expressly give up those rights.
  • I have had this sig for months. None of these things will enter the public domain.

  • So I went on the Internet. Tried to find a copy, so I could still play the game that *I still own*. I finally found a copy, and enjoy playing it just as much as when it was new. It's kinda like downloading an mp3 of a song that you already have on CD.
    Serious question - is this explicitly legal? If so, can anyone provide a reputable link to either a law or a treaty? I know this has been used as a defence on Ebay and by I need to know if this is legit.
  • The GPL doesn't NEED copyright law. It protects software authors *from* copyright law abuses..
    The GPL grants specific additional rights on top of those that copyright law grants, but places a condition on the exercise of those additional rights, being that you have to redistribute your modified source code. I believe the GPL does require copyright law in order to be effective. Public domain code can't be restricted by the GPL.
  • But "Day of the Tentacle" contains the origional "Maniac Mansion" game embedded within it (find an old computer in the game, and use it) so that collection does include the origional Maniac Mansion :-)
  • Abandonware is actually good business sense.

    Once a title is no longer generating any sales revenue for the owners, it is actually to their benefit to allow it to be archived and publicly available. By making the software more accessible, the older property can stay fresher in public awareness, thus paving the way for sequels and other exploitation of the original names and concepts.

    That's where any ongoing revenue is going to be found.

  • For me, 'classic' refers to the Mega Man series, but for some it may be the Zelda series, the Ultima series, and who knows what else

    Ironically, Origin and Capcom are two of the few companies (Activision's Infocom being another) that are still selling their old titles... generally, every game on a single CD-ROM. Origin is selling the entire Ultima line (including the white on black vector "Mystery Mansion" style Aklabeth, titled Ultima 0) on a CD. In Capcom's case, they are even selling arcade ROM images along with an emulator and real arcade style joystick.

    It's nice to see that most of the Abandonware sites seem to be aware of this, and don't carry those games that are sold. Still, I grabbed a copy of Leather Goddesses of Phobos in about two minutes with Google.


  • I'm not saying they have zero impact whatsoever, but I am saying that, if you look around, the vast majority of those at *all* levels of the warez scene hoard software for the sake of it. Even 99% of the stuff I've downloaded to goof with was erased (or rather, uninstalled) and shelved within days.. either that, orleftinstalled, and just forgotten about.

    For the vast majority of pirated software, I'm willing to bet this is the case, at least in north america.

  • Heh- who are your customers in a copyrightless world?

    Non-programmers who need and want software. Just like today.

    they would probably demand the source code since the only way they would hire you to make something for them would be a one-time commission

    I would refuse to provide them with the source code. So would all my competitors. Now what do they do?

    Answer: They buy my object code, or my competitor's object code, or go without.

    The "upgrade & bug fix scam" has nothing to do with copyright. It has everything to do with access to the underlying source code. If you don't have access to the source code, you can't realistically modify or understand a program.

    Without copyright, releasing the source code is giving away the store, which is why very few people would release uncopyrighted source code. The GPL is a way of distributing source code without necessarily giving away the store.

    Copyright protects source code just as copyright protects the contents of a novel. People publish novels largely because of the legal (not technological) protection of copyright. GPL'ed software is no different. The difference is that with software you have a choice -- you can publish source code, or object code.

    There should be a copyright incentive to publish source code. My point is that the GPL provides an incentive that is lacking in copyright law.
  • by mwalker ( 66677 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @07:54AM (#646094) Homepage
    If a manufacturer stops selling a title, why don't they partner with sites like this who are already making the title available, and come up with a licensing agreement? You can't buy Electronic Art's "Balance of Power" anymore. They're not making money. Why are they spending money to send out cease-and-desist letters? Where's the revenue stream? What's the business model?

    Does this make sense to anyone?!?

    Or is this just a FORM LETTER that someone at the IDSA sends out everytime they see software on the Internet?

    You decide...
  • Mrrrp! Wrong- they take it for free. Since you have to give away copies of your binaries for them to work, you sell one copy- then the whole world takes it for free (legally). How can you sell copies?

    You customize each binary so that it only works on that user's machine or is tied to a non-reproducable physical device, like a dongle, or has a "license key." I deal with this sort of "hassleware" all the time on unix systems. It's a big pain in the butt when you migrate to a new CPU, with a new CPUid.

    You can distribute as many copies of this sort of software as you want, but those copies won't work without a key. Heck, whenever we buy an AIX server, it comes with a raft of CDs full of software that doesn't work, because we haven't purchased a license key for it.

    Sure, people can "hack out" these sorts of access control mechanisms, but remember, unlike entertainment software like DVDs, computer software has a short shelf life. The copy protection on version 1.3 of some application only really has to work until version 1.4 is released.

    Perhaps you have gotten the idea that people like to pay for things needlessly. If so I'd have a business where I resold air in invisible containers for high prices.

    Of course not. They only do so when they have no choice. Removing copyright protection would give people the right to use software without paying for it, and the only possible response from the computer industry, besides going out of business, would be to attempt to remove the ability to use software without paying for it. The only way to remove the ability to freely use software is to conceal the operation of the software -- to not release source code.
  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @12:07PM (#646098)
    Don't forget what the author of the GPL says about copyright: that free software would be much easier to produce and use without it. The GPL does indeed utilize copyright, but the GPL is made necessary by copyright in the first place. Without copyright, the GPL could not exist -- but it would not need to exist. So, personally, I'm with RMS: LEAVE IT.

    The GPL is not made necessary by copyright. The GPL is made necessary by the failure of copyright.

    Compare computer software to, for instance, a printed novel. There is no such thing as a "closed-source" paperback novel. When you purchase a Stephen King book from the bookstore, you acquire a copy of the work in its most complete, useful form. Granted, >99% of the people who buy the book will put it to no other use then to obtain personal pleasure by reading the book. However, the remaining 1% are extremely important. To a budding author, a novel is a real-life lesson in how to write fiction. To a social critic, a novel is a source of ideas; of quotes; something to criticize and analyze. To a historian, a novel is a snapshot of current events, mores; a source of history. These are the people who advance the progress -- by building new works on the foundation of previous works. That fraction of 1% of a novel's readers will become the writers of the future, and copyright is properly functioning by protecting their right to learn.

    However, when you buy a software package, you acquire a copy in a obfuscated, concealed form -- precompiled. You don't know what has been compiled into the program. All you know is that the program is represented to be, say a word processor for instance.

    This state of affairs is perfectly acceptable to 99% of the population. Most people will buy, for instance, a copy of Microsoft Word, because they want to use it, not study it.

    However, that leaves a critical 1% of the population who are completely unrepresented and abandoned by software copyright law. It is generally against the "license" of a piece of software -- and with the DMCA it is now a felony in certain cases -- for that 1% to attempt to read the program (also known as reverse engineering); to attempt to discover the details of what the program really does and how it actually works. To learn from it.

    To a budding programmer, a copy of Windows 98 is useless. It will not teach her how to program a computer. To a computer scientist or researcher, it is worthless. A copy of Windows 98 is not a suitable subject for study. Studying Windows 98 does not teach one about operating system concepts. You can not experiment with Windows 98 by, for instance, replacing or modifying the scheduling algorithm.

    The effect of this is obvious. With few exceptions, we are a world of computer users, not computer programmers. Copyright law on software has led to a world of technological illiterates. A person may have the world's most state of the art software sitting in front of them, yet they are forbidden by both the license and by federal law from reading that software to understand how it works. Imagine if writers of fiction were forbidden to read other people's works. If they had to re-invent the ideas of story development, character development, plot twists, all from scratch. That's roughly the situation that budding computer programmers find themselves in. Unless they abandon useless proprietary software packages and base their self-education -- and their own original software -- on the study of GPL'ed programs instead.

    How could copyright law on computer software be fixed so as not to promote illiteracy?

    The solution is not to eliminate copyright on computer software.

    Closed-source software would be just as useless without copyright. A compiled binary is a compiled binary. Removing the copyright restrictions on Windows 98 would not make Windows 98 useful to programmers in the sense that reading a good novel is useful to a young author. Even if copyright were to be removed from software, the only way that a closed-source application could be made useful would be the long, laborious process of reverse engineering -- the reconstruction of the source code. Even then, it would only be an approximation of the original work. Besides, the elimination of copyright on software would only encourage the proliferation of "copy protection" schemes, which benefit no one.

    So why not change copyright law structurally?

    There is absolutely no constitutional reason not to make source code disclosure a prerequisite for copyright on computer software. The only reasons are political -- software companies want the benefits of copyright, and at the same time the benefits of trade secrets.

    The discussion shouldn't be "GPL vs Copyright", or "Copyright -- love it or leave it." Here's the question. There are a small percentage -- less than 1% of the population -- working outside of the "corporate software writing" establishment -- who are able and willing to advance the progress of computer science by reading and understanding source code, and creating new works. Are they better served by the traditional copyright framework, or by the GPL-modified copyright framework? From this vantage point, they seem to be choosing the GPL.

  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @07:56AM (#646099)
    >who are they representing in these cases?

    I don't think the IDSA needs a publisher's consent to move into action. This is what they DO, it's their prime function. Does the RIAA need an excuse to be a pain in the ass?

    As a gamer I think this sucks, but I can sure see their point of view. Abandonware, despite the catchy name, is still piracy. It's people distributing commercial video games that aren't in the public domain.

    As sad as it is, the publishers would rather let these games vanish, rather than letting us play them for free. After all, they may put out a compilation of classics someday, so they want to protect their rights. At least I assume that is their reasoning.

    Time to start downloading.
  • Maybe I am wrong... but I thought the whole idea behind abandonware was that it all cases you couldn't purchase the old software from the original copyright holder even if you wanted to.

    I took a look at underdogs and they have removed the download links on all IDSA companies's games and replaced it with something along the lines of:"please contact the original publisher to buy this title".

    I am willing to bet that Sierra isn't supporting Manhunter 1..
  • by sips ( 212702 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @07:57AM (#646106) Homepage
    Their theory is that if you want games you *have* to buy the current games and that you should be forced to either upgrade or buy a new device to play said game. It's all meant for them to get more and more money out of you. Suppose you have every game ever produced since games were first produced for "computers" and you could play them anytime you wanted. There wouldn't be much desire to buy the new titles.
  • I'm sure RMS would actually prefer a world where there were no copyrights or patents of any sort. The community is about sharing - not about preserving the copyright fallacy. And a totally uninhibited world would have the same net effect as a totally GPL one.

    Without copyright, the redistribution provisions of the GPL would be unnecessary. But that's only half of the GPL.

    If only software interpreters existed, and if software could only be run by executing the original, human-readable source code, then the source-code disclosure provisions of the GPL would be unnecessary. However, we live in a world of compilers and access-protection schemes. Without copyright, the source-code disclosure provisions of the GPL would be unenforcable. This would destroy a key public benefit of the GPL -- the mandatory disclosure of source code.
  • Let us hold a wake on Slashdot for the classic games which we will no longer be able to illegally obtain. Yes, dear readers, we shall all miss such classics as:
    • Sonic Spinball
    • Yo Noid!
    • Mario Picross

    Remember, dear brethren, the legacy these games left before it is too late.

    Seriously though, other than a few classic games (For me, 'classic' refers to the Mega Man series, but for some it may be the Zelda series, the Ultima series, and who knows what else), will these games be missed? From my understanding, it's not like there is money being taken, because the only money that the companies would make is from royalties, and you can't make royalties off games that aren't sold anymore (used games shop don't pay royalties). So how is theft occuring?

    Or are they saying you are 'introducing' more 'copies' of a game then the market initially had, and thus the amount of money being lost is equal to the price of the game at market introduction? Sounds like that would be a pretty weak (and greedy) excuse.

  • Where have you been? Every 20 years, they are simply extended by another 20 years.
  • Legend (the company which released the Sorcerers series) released a whole slew of their older games on CD-ROM. The compilation is called "The Lost Adventures of Legend" and is published by Mindscape.

  • Please back up your statement that it's the same people who say two totally different things. I for one am NOT an advocate of "free" music, but I AM an advocate of abandonware.

    And, never underestimate the power of the vocal minority to sound like the majority.
  • From the: It-gets-more-dented-the-older-it-gets dept.

    I think perhaps one of the largest problems in the computer industry and others is the incorrect idea that many people have about the depreciation rate of software and hardware.

    Everyone knows if you buy a new car, the moment you drive that thing off the dealer's lot, you can almost watch the value fall out the back of the car. It's called "depreciation", a feature which also occurs as a car/house/anything ages.

    What I've found as a vintage computer collector [] is that people don't see computer hardware/software depreciating fast enough. Heck, if the thing was new 2 years ago, it should be at least 75% of its new value! WRONG.

    This is a similar aspect with abandonware. These companies can't see that their major sales will come from the new games, that people will always buy new games, and so to keep their claws tight on their old titles is a silly waste of time and energy. This software really does depreciate in value, and the only value it retains after a long enough time is nostalgic. (Like Frogger. Man, what a game.)

    It's really sad that these great technologies can't be released to the appreciative public (collectors, etc.) to be enjoyed on the older hardware.
  • The legitimate abandonware sites have one goal in mind: Make software which is not available retail or through the copyright holder available through another venue.

    The problem is that the holders of the copyright feel legitimate ownership of these software titles, and have legal ane moral grounds for demanding that such software be removed.

    Granted this is a shortsighted attitude, but such is their right.

    As has been pointed out here, the GPL is based on copyright law. We scream loudly when violations to the GPL occur, and should allow others to have the same feelings toward their software.

    My solution would extend the copyright of software owners indefinatly, however there are some requirments to keep copyright.

    Those wishing to obtain a copy of said software title must have that title made available to them at a reasonable cost (Cost of media, plus shipping, plus some reasonable profit, not more than realistically obtainable via a retail outlet).

    This would allow those who want to to get a copy of whatever software titles they desired, and would allow the company to hold on to the copyright.

    If the company chooses not to make the software available, it and all related materials (code wheels, documentation...) reverts to public domain in five years. There would have to also be provisions to stop companies from holding on to a copyright without really providing access (providing only one day per 5 years or somesuch).

    If a company really has reason to hold on to the copyright of a title, they should have no problem providing it. On the other hand if the goal is control of what you see and do with your computer (as is I suspect often the case), the copyright needs to be lost.

    This should reasonably make everyone happy. If I want to I can get a game simply by writing the company. If they don't want to provide it, they loose the copyright, and I can LEGALLY get a copy from anyone who has it.

    Companies may argue that this will hurt their revenue, as they will have to expend money on software that they do not wish to support, but that argument does not hold water, as it costs virtually nothing to reproduce software, and such software could be listed as unsupported.

    There would be some cost to running the reproduction service, but that could be turned into something making a small profit simply through being able to charge a reasonable fee for such software.

    Of course I doubt such a thing will ever happen, but who knows, if some companies were to think about it rationally, they may even find it worth doing.

    Another idea would be for someone to start a company which would buy up the rights to old titles, upgrade them a little (move to linux, run under win 95, or at least not have to worry so much about the old DOS problems. Those could then be sold, and money made.

    Well, so much for my idea. You may now discuss amongst yourselves :-)
  • To second your point, I just leeched a tiny ISO from the newsgroups called Sega Smash Pack 2. It's basically an 8mb compilation of antique sega games like Comix Zone, Phantasy Star, and 4 or 5 pieces of stinky filler. I was quite overjoyed to see my 32mb video card on my 20" monitor open up a 320x240 fullscreen display. They didn't enhance the games at all.. it rather looks like they put together an emulator and dumped a few old roms that flopped years ago. Of course it's Sega and we owe them pity for their repeated failures to survive in the home market, but if this crap is their reason for fighting abandonware they're just twisting the knife in their own chest. Hasbro might deserve 1% more merit because they at least do half-decent remakes of the classics. Their mindless lawsuits are disgusting and threatening to lone-wolf shareware-style coders around the world, whose indie remakes are often more fun than Hasbro's official offerings, but at least they put a little elbow grease into the "let's rip off our fans" paradigm.
  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:29AM (#646125)
    Most of us aren't picking on the copyright system in general. What we complain about is the abuse of this system. Examples:

    1) Constant lobbying for unreasonable lengths of time on corporate copyrights, such that a corporation can screw people long after their products have ceased to make them any money whatsoever.

    2) "Copy-protection" measures which effectively extend a copyright indefinitely by enforcing a copyright after it has expired (when the maker no longer has any right to do so).

    3) Licensing terms which abridge fair-use rights on what is, effectively, a written work. Such practices would get a person drummed out of the book publishing industry; why should it be different for software (or music, or movies, or other copyrightable works)?

    Copyrights are, by and large, a Good Thing. It's the current U.S. implementation of copyright that we complain about, because it's far too open to abuse in its current form.
  • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:51AM (#646128)
    If a manufacturer stops selling a title, why don't they partner with sites like this who are already making the title available, and come up with a licensing agreement? You can't buy Electronic Art's "Balance of Power" anymore. They're not making money. Why are they spending money to send out cease-and-desist letters? Where's the revenue stream? What's the business model?

    My guess is that this is partly an "on principle" thing, but also largely an action to protect their character trademarks.

    "Balance of Power" may not be selling copies, but if they cease to enforce trademarks on their characters/designs, the designs may become public domain. This would prevent them from releasing "Balance of Power VII" down the road - and worse, it would let someone *else* release it!

    So, I can see where they're coming from (though I agree that it's a pain).
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:55AM (#646130)
    I do believe that there needs to be some sort of middle ground between basically obtaining old games without compensation to the owners, and having no access to the games. (Hint, look at BMG/Napster).

    One thing to concider is how 'abandoned' is Abandonware? A good recent example is the classic game Reach for the Stars; the original was out in the early 90s, DOS text mode based. It was probably the first commercial turn-based 4X game out there (predated by similar games on BBSes). Of course, the game disappeared up till recently; a company has now basically put a nice DirX GUI on top of the underlying gameplay and released it. From the demo, it plays nearly the same as I remember from the original game. Now, in 1998 , it would have been called Abandonware, but now it's a real product. Would the text-mode version still be considered Abandonware?

    IMO, what the companies should do is create secure sites where you can pay a small fee ($10/yr?) to gain access to the sites and can download games under the company's controlled environment; the company would not be responsible for any tech support or any documentation (save for cases where you had manual based copy protection). If a company decides to revamp a title, it can remove it from the server under their control. End result, more profits, abet small, for the company, and the games would not disappear forever, keeping classic gamers happy.

    But of course, this is logical, and we all know how most companies operate...

  • Why is it on Slashdot that many of the same people who think its okay to break copyright laws in cases of emulation, 'free' music and abadonware are the same people who would scream the loudest if a company were to run afoul of the GPL?

    They are usually two different sets of people, but whatever..

    The GPL is built upon copyright law. Copyright law is the foundation of the GPL (or any other license you care to mention). Take it or leave it.

    Please keep in mind that the Copyright law has two sides.

    On one hand, it provides an incentive to produce and distribute IP. Whoever creates a work is given a time limited monopoly on sale and distribution.

    On the other hand, the society should benefit to the fullest extent from the ideas, thoughts and experiences embodied in the work. That is why we have the notion of "fair use". Also, the work enters the public domain after the copyright expires.

    What is happening, though, is that the copyright owners are not upholding their part of the deal. Old works that have not entered the public domain yet is rotting away. We see this happening with old movie classics, with books, with old computer games. The media that many of these works are stored on will turn to dust, and as a result of that we'll loose a considerable amount of our society's history.

    It should really be the duty of the original author or publisher (or arguably, the libraries) to maintain these works until they enter the public domain.

    According to the law, abandonware sites are illegal. According to morality and the original intent of the Copyright law, they are preserving an important piece of the histroy of computing.

    And for people that really care, go read Eldred vs Reno.
  • by Syllepsis ( 196919 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:01AM (#646132) Homepage
    Copyright law was designed only to allow authors compensation for their works. Obviously, the spirit of the law is entirely absent in this case, and what I cannot figure out is why the authors and companies can possibly care about abandonware.

    The only reason I can see is force upgrading, which is a bizzarre thing to happen in gaming. Perhaps a law stating that you loose your copyright after 3-5 years of not selling your work would be in order.

  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:02AM (#646135)
    When I want to play a game I like a nice long plot/story and I usually can't find that in most "classic" games. Are there any good examples of these games with a novelistic plot?

    It sounds like you've never played an Infocom game. No graphics, all text, but some of the better stories out there. Certainly beats the weak storylines of Diablo, Baldur's Gate, and any recent Ultima game. Hitchhiker's Guide, Planetfall, any of the text Zork games, and Deadline (which I'm still trying to finish after 14 years.)

    Also good are the early Sierra games. They didn't have the graphics, so they had to balance with an awesome story and gameplay.

  • It does not make sense but this is the way that "people" like the IDSA work. They own it and you can't touch it damnit. The companies pay IDSA to do this this is what they do. Their thought is that that they own the software if they wanted you to have it they would sell it to you since they don't sell it to you they don't want you to have it. They see it as a zero sum game not as something where everybody wins in other words they are idiots but we knew this.
  • IDSA are the software industry equivilent of trolls.

    It's just a bad dream. Make it stop.


  • Copyrights have a 75 year life on them, even if the company goes under, some finacial company will buy out the property of the company including copyrights as part of the liquidation of the company.

    Thing is companies are always out to get as much money as they can from the copyright. Including suing people for passing out their games. Just like the Video Game Console people suing over emulators and ROMs being passed around.

    If these products were hardware based, like someone made audio cards and then dropped support for them, would they sue people making Windows 2000 and Linux drivers for them and hosting the old DOS/Win3.1/Win95 drivers?

    I myself have some Abandonware Links [] at my web site. I hope that they don't get shut down. Too often old copies of games suffer from bit-rot and stop working. It is good to be able to download a backup in a ZIP file just in case.

  • by R. Cain ( 212785 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:05AM (#646142) Homepage
    Seems like one of the most ancient edicts of naval law allows the commandeering of any abandoned vessel and recognizes the commandering party as the rightful owner.

    Seems logical enough. Why not apply this to software?
    I mean hell, if a program is no longer being marketed nor developed by it's respective corp/programmer, then by all means it should be deligated to public domain.

    But, of course... that line of thinking would require an ounce of common sense... Something on very short supply in the electronic media industry.
  • Well, like I was saying, any copyright is constitutionally required to:
    *Promote the progress of the useful Arts
    *Only last for a limited time
    *Be granted to the author

    I find it difficult to believe that preventing the noncommercial distribution of a work which is no longer commercially available, which has been for all intents and purposes abandoned, and which the copyright holder is likely in favor of the destruction of does not promote progress. Frankly, the copyright holder is taking advantage of copyright to control his work, and refusing to submit to the other part of the bargain - releasing it into the public domain and letting people use it to promote the creation of other works. The insanely long copyright terms that we're burdened with these days don't help much either.

    Unfortunately the courts don't agree, but that doesn't prevent me from hoping that a reformation of copyright will occur so that it once again is tolerable.
  • I enjoyed Ladder [], an abondonware game, so much that I cloned it.

    I don't know how much latitude I have under copyright law to distribute a clone. Probably none. If the copyright owners were to ask me to stop distributing the game, I would.

    In my own little fantasy world, I believe that those persons (unknown to me) who originally did the game would love to see more people getting enjoyment out of it. But then again, I could understand if they did not feel this way. So get it while its hot!

  • by studerby ( 160802 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @10:17AM (#646150)
    I've seen a lot of ill-informed comments on copyright law in this thread; U.S. copyright law does NOT give the copyright owner the absolute right to lock away their works in a vault. Copyright was designed to benefit the public (it says so in the U.S. Constitution). Once a work has been published, the public has some rights to obtain a work from a public archive, especially if the author/publisher has withdrawn it from market.

    As I wrote in August in the last abandonware thread:
    Section 108 [] of the copyright law says that, among other things, libraries and other publicaly available archives may (under section e of the law) make a complete copy of a work that they have determined is otherwise unavailable at a fair price and give it to a library/archive user, provided a) they do not do so for commercial advantage and b) they display a particular notice as specified by the Copyright Office in 37 CFR 201.14 (PDF, scroll down to about page 20) []. The full text of the section e) reads:

    (e) The rights of reproduction and distribution under this section apply to the entire work, or to a substantial part of it, made from the collection of a library or archives where the user makes his or her request or from that of another library or archives, if the library or archives has first determined, on the basis of a reasonable investigation, that a copy or phonorecord of the copyrighted work cannot be obtained at a fair price, if-

    (1) the copy or phonorecord becomes the property of the user, and the library or archives has had no notice that the copy or phonorecord would be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research; and

    (2) the library or archives displays prominently, at the place where orders are accepted, and includes on its order form, a warning of copyright in accordance with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation.

    Important: other parts of the section and of the law influence the legal interpretation of the above (so consult a lawyer), but the important point is, "abandonware" sites CAN be legal!

  • by Borealis ( 84417 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @10:19AM (#646154) Homepage
    Underdogs is actually an abandonware site with morals. If they can find somebody selling the game, they don't provide a download link (rather, they provide a link to whoever *is* selling it). For a game to be on underdogs, it must be truly unavailable through other means. This probably does not hold true for many (most?) abandonware sites, but it is true for underdogs.
  • Speaking as a game developer myself, I am still amazed at the attitude that the IDSA takes over this matter of sites offering older titles. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I consider games as much a form of art as products for sale, and the 'art' value has potential well beyond a game's ability to earn money. If someone were to take any of -my- games and archive them for posterity once they were past the peak of their income-earning ability, I personally would be honored, not yelling for my lawyer.

    Is there -any- point to this other than the fact that they can? Perhaps the notion that access to older games will make people have less interest in buying newer ones has a tiny bit of merit, but that's pretty damn petty.

    Most forms of art simply cannot survive forever in their original medium. Books rot, film deteriorates, paintings get damaged, and so on. Games are no exception to this, and are even more prone to problems of this nature. The march of technology leaves many once-cherished games behind and since most companies often just do not care, the ONLY way that many of these can be preserved is through the actions of Abandonware groups.

    Christopher 'ClassicGamer' Corkum
    Pixel Rush Studios
  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:06AM (#646157) Homepage Journal
    IDSA claims an incorrect interpretation of the following US code:
    Title 17, Sec. 117. Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs - (a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy. - Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided: (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or (2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful.
    IDSA states "the right to make backup copies of computer programs for archival purposes, as embodied in 17 U.S.C. Section 117(2), does not in any way authorize the owner of a copy of a video or computer game to post or download a copy of that game to or from the Internet." The law states the purpose of copying, and does not limit the methods. Laws are written to limit actions, yet they are claiming that the law does not state you can do something, so you can't. That's like saying that since there's no part of the US Code which states I can breath, I'm not permitted to breath. It would be very sad if arguments such as this hold up in court.
  • by Zarniwoop ( 25791 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:07AM (#646163)
    Come on! I've used those sites in what I consider to be a legitement manner, even within the current copywright law (or at least grey area).

    Many years ago, I got my first PC. A 386/SX 16, with one meg of ram and forty megs on the hard drive. Not so long after, I picked up "Privateer", a Wing Commander spin-off. It was one of the best and most enjoyable games I've ever played, and I spent *many* hours on it while other people were shooting up Castle Wolfenstein. Eventually, we got rid of the computer, and in the years following, I managed to loose the disks.

    About two years ago, I decided I wanted to play it again. It's just a damn cool game.

    I couldn't find the disks. Nowhere in the house, it wasn't installed on any old computers that I could find, etc etc etc... so I went on a hunt for it at stores (I had seen in in the "Classic titles" boxes that were around a while ago). Couldn't find it. Not suprising for that old of a game.

    So I went on the Internet. Tried to find a copy, so I could still play the game that *I still own*. I finally found a copy, and enjoy playing it just as much as when it was new. It's kinda like downloading an mp3 of a song that you already have on CD.

    If the companies aren't even going to support the software, then why go after people who are sharing the old, unsupported games and utilities?

    What do I do, when it seems I relate to Judas more than You?
  • Activision has already done this. They've released at least one (possibly a few more while I wasn't paying attention) on the Playstation. I rented it once at Blockbuster and it brought back many fine memories of River Raid, Barnstorming and Hero. In fact, the memories were so fond, I later downloaded the ROMs for an Atari 2600 emulator.

  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday November 06, 2000 @08:07AM (#646165) Journal
    Yes. The entire Elite series - Elite, Frontier Elite 2 and Frontier: First Encounters.

    They have a big fanfiction following, and the Elite Club [] will soon be offering the source code for FE:2 and FFE. See Frontier Developments [] website for more info on these games, or see [] for a website set in the fictional Frontier Elite Universe.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI