EFF petitions to make abandoned games exempt from DMCA restrictions

— 10:29 AM on November 5, 2014

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) forbids modifying the copy protection measures in games and other media. Exceptions are granted in certain cases, though, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has applied for one to cover video games that have been abandoned by the developers. The request (PDF) asks that players be able to eliminate authentication checks and switch to third-party matchmaking services in cases where the game's official servers have been shut down permanently.

This request isn't just about ensuring that gamers can continue to play the titles they own. The EFF also wants to remove restrictions inhibiting "archivists, historians, and other academic researchers." Part of the goal is to preserve games "in a usable state for future generations."

If granted, the exception would cover both single- and multiplayer games. However, it's not meant for MMOs and other titles with "persistent worlds" where "the game's audiovisual content is primarily stored on the developer's server and not in the client." Folks wouldn't be able to start their own World of Warcraft servers if Blizzard ever shutters its popular MMO.

PC, console, and handheld games are all included in the exception request, though mobile devices aren't mentioned specifically. They presumably fall into the handheld category.

As part of the DMCA's once-every-three-years exception process, the EFF is also requesting allowances for jailbreaking tablets, tinkering with automotive software, and remixing snippets of downloaded video, among other innocuous activities. The full collection of exception requests is available here. Thanks to Ars Technica for the tip.

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