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OPLIN 4cast #441: Save the game

Posted in 4cast

ESA vs. EFF robotsA number of serious issues have recently come under discussion due to a contest over gaming. The Electronic Freedom Foundation [EFF] has asked the Library of Congress to provide an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] so that libraries, museums, and game enthusiasts can preserve online games that have been “abandoned” by the publisher. The argument is that preservation of access to these games also preserves important cultural history. But the Entertainment Software Association has pointed out that the workarounds needed to preserve these games are also the same techniques hackers use to pirate games. It remains to be seen who will win this contest.

  • The legal battle for gaming’s past (Polygon | Philip Kollar)  “Let’s say you own a gaming museum or even just a large personal collection that has historic value. When a publisher shuts down the online servers for one of your games, you may want to hack the console hardware in some way to allow it to continue being played. In this way online-only games or modes wouldn’t be lost forever. But, according to the EFF, this technically isn’t legal, which is why it reached out to ask for a special exemption.”
  • ESA oppose DRM law change preserving online games (Rock, Paper, Shotgun | Alice O’Connor)  “The EFF proposed an exemption for ‘abandoned games’ as comments to the Copyright Office in February, and the ESA have now responded. The proposed exemption would allow folks to pick at shut-down games, creating workarounds for authentication or starting their own servers without getting in legal trouble. It’d cover publishers closing services for games, like EA routinely do, as well as the hypothetical shutdown of Steamworks, which many games rely on for their multiplayer. […] However, the exemption wouldn’t cover games with persistent virtual worlds like MMOs, or browser games either.”
  • Publishers fight to block third-party revival of “abandoned” game servers (Ars Technica | Kyle Orland)  “In a 71-page brief [pdf], though, the ESA says that these kinds of workarounds can’t be separated out from the wider piracy-prevention functions that the DMCA protects against. To add third-party server support to a console game, for instance, the ESA argues that a user has to first get around access controls built into the software and the hardware itself to modify the code. ‘Consequently, the proposed exemption would, in effect, eviscerate virtually all forms of access protection used to prevent video game piracy.’”
  • EFF seeks DMCA exemption to preserve abandoned games (Torrent Freak | Andy)  “Indeed, the testimony of ESA Senior Vice-President and General Counsel Christian Genetski before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet last year (pdf), outlines the software group’s position clearly. ‘[W]hile addressing copyright infringement is one important objective of Section 1201, it is not its only objective,’ Genetski said. ‘[A] prohibition on the hacking of technological protection measures controlling access to protected works (even if the hacking does not result in any copyright infringement) [is] necessary in order to encourage innovation in the online distribution of copyrighted works.’”

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