Copyright Act just got a little better in terms of video game history.
In several acts in succession, the Library of Congress has identified solutions that will help the movement of archiving and saving video games.
New regulations of the Library of Congress brought good news for the business of preserving old video games. In an 85-page act covering everything from electronic aircraft control panels to agricultural equipment diagnostic software, the Library of Congress described the permissions to “ fair use ” of video games and software falling under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA). These resolutions will make life easier for archivists who preserve historical video games and museums exhibiting cultural heritage for all to see.
"The registry supports the expansion of rights to own software in quite specific cases where an organization engaged in the preservation of intellectual heritage legally owns a copy of the video game server code and local game code," the Library said in a statement . “Under such conditions, actions aimed at preserving the heritage are likely to be considered fair use.”
These rules are good news for single player games. "A major change regarding single-user games occurred during the last revision of the DMCA rules in 2015, when the Ministry of Intellectual Property determined that museums and archives have the right to break into the online authorization procedure for single-user games that attempted to contact the server solely in order to prevent illegal copying "- told the magazine Phil Salvador , librarian and archivist of the Washington, DC, site owner of The Obscuritory , engaged in discussion and preservation maloizve tnyh old games. This revision was supposed to end its action this year, but, thanks to pressure from activists, it was restored anew.
“These rulings are a big win,” Kendra Albert, an instructor at the Harvard Law School's Cyber-Education Clinic, told the magazine. Albert represents the Software Preservation Network, one of the organizations that advocated changes in laws before the Ministry of Intellectual Property. “The resolutions of 2015 opened the way for many things, but the permits issued in this case turned out to be much wider.”
This news should appeal to archivists and museums who have long tried to find the best way to save video games like Everquest or World of Warcraft. Such multiplayer games require both software locally launched by players on their computers and software running on the company's server. The latest software for archivists is much harder to find and run. And when they manage to launch an independent server, gaming companies, for example, Blizzard, begin a legal attack on people supporting unauthorized servers.
The new rules will disappoint the average user, hoping that they will be able to play the forgotten games again, just for fun. Albert told the magazine that the Museum of Art and Digital EntertainmentHe demanded the inclusion of “cooperating archivists” in these permits, which would allow individuals to participate in the preservation of software. “The Ministry of Intellectual Property refused this request,” they said. “I think that one of the reasons for their concern is that the number of people involved in this should remain relatively small.”
However, for organizations engaged in such work, there is a catch: the archivists and defenders of the intellectual heritage must obtain the server code by a legal method, and this is a difficult task.
The rules give permission to use only the "complete set" of games, which means that the archivist must acquire both the original game code and the original server code. And any “library, archive or museum” that made the online game work in this way will not be able to provide public access to it “outside of its physical area”. This means that if the museum launches an old IMO , it will not be able to exhibit it for a worldwide audience of fans - only visitors or researchers can play it. This restriction partially negates the sense of preserving old MMOs, since part of the image of World of Warcraft games is that thousands of people play it at the same time - and this will not work if you can play it only in a museum.
Emulation, or the re-creation of server code for launching a multiplayer game, also does not fall under the list of allowed DMCA actions - and this is a problem. "It is unlikely that someone will save the server code," said John Hardy, director of the National Museum of Video Games in Frisco, Texas, told the magazine. - In all of our archival practice, no company has yet told us: “here, please, our server code”. In nine cases out of ten, the server code was not archived and was not saved. It is simply formatted, or something like that, or thrown away with the server. ”
For games like World of Warcraft or missing MMOs like City of Heroes, there are private servers. But they usually do not work on legally obtained code. Many of them painstakingly restored the work of the server software, intercepting packets and studying other data. Such emulation is not subject to the new fair use regulations.
A special blow to the decision that server emulation is not a valid exception from the DMCA was for the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE), which helped submit this petition to the DMCA Policy Council. MADE is currently working on rebuilding Habitat, 1986 online games from LucasArts, one of the earliest examples of the virtual world online. The creators of the game joined MADE to restore it using the original code and emulate the Commodore 64 and Quantum Link computers. Such an emulation of the server code, judging by our reading of these rules, will not be a valid exception from the DMCA.
“There are still a lot of legal problems in the preservation of video games, but the rules adopted eliminate some of them, and this will make it easier for organizations to save video games, which is very important,” said Albert. - Also, what has traditionally been hindered by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) (a lobby group acting on behalf of video game manufacturers). This victory is the result of the work of activists from the Conservation Network and MADE. It is important to note that the ESA was not always right in its statements. ”
Of course, it is worth noting that, although the new rules can be considered a victory, given the current state of the law on intellectual property, it makes us wonder why we have such heated debates about the right of historians to preserve important historical artifacts, especially considering that gaming companies most often don’t do the hard work of saving them.
As Sara Jeon wrote in 2015:
The DMCA 1201 section has become a very odd amateur with zero amount. NGOs pay lawyers for throwing their time and energy into a black hole. As a result, video game museums are able to save video games after heavy and prolonged battles (with ESA protests). This cannot be called a huge victory, and we have to ask ourselves, why did we have to fight for this victory at all? Why was this originally illegal at all?