Thursday, November 06, 2014

Petition To Remove Copyright To Revive Classic Games

Classic gamers, like myself, were giddy to see the Internet Archive release a sub-section called The Internet Arcade earlier this week, with a collection of 900+ games for digital consumption. Nothing recent, but games from the 1970's up to the 90's for a variety of publishers and systems to keep them alive and well for years to come.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to take this a step further by filing an exemption request to the U.S. Copyright office to make it legal to modify older games. As I've mentioned in prior posts, releasing a remake of a game is a lot of work - not just technically, but legally as well. When you look at a game like Daytona USA, it's littered with advertisements from Lay's to Pepsi. Some of those products no longer exist and contracts expired. They need to be renegotiated to give license to show the content in the games, and if you're an outside developer, you have to get the original licensing team involved. Most of the time, that's easier said then done, which is why we see so few remakes, reboots, and re-releases of classic titles.

The exemption request wants to change all of that and make it feasible for developers to bring Atari and NES games to modern times. Most of these adjustments developers want to make is simply bringing the games up to codes. Modern machines are not made to play the retro stuff. It's as simple as that. Emulators are constantly tweaked by fans to keep games going, but even then some content is not able to match the pace. One game I was considered playing for Extra Life was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but even with an outdated emulator I kept running into clipping issues that the game unplayable and unwatchable.

By focusing on abandoned games, those who have been long left alone by developers and are no longer useable on today's machines, are stuck under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It also makes it impossible for law officials to access your car's software during emergencies like, oh, let's say you rolled off the road into a ditch and your OnStar isn't working. Yeah...cops can't help you. They're legally forbidden from accessing the tracking software that may be programmed in your car without your express consent. This is an extreme example, but it can happen.


I don't know if something will come from this petition, but like films and books, as our technology advances, we are leaving older content behind and, unwittingly, forgetting our past. It would be good to preserve it in today's digital realm, however we can take it.


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