Entertainment industry opposes DMCA exemption for abandoned games

— 9:27 AM on April 9, 2015

Games increasingly require online authentication even for single-player campaigns. That can be an annoying inconvenience when titles are new, and it's potentially crippling when they're not. Publishers seem to be developing a habit of shutting down their servers long before players are finished playing. For example, 2K Sports recently cut-off online support for NBA 2K14 just 16 months after its release, wiping out player save games in the process.

NBA 2K14 remained playable when the servers were axed, at least, and 2K Sports has since restored online functionality and promised a longer support window for future titles. But reversals like that aren't the norm, and worse, many games lock players out completely if they're unable to phone home. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants coders to be able to modify these so-called abandoned games so that players can continue to enjoy them. Modification requires circumventing copy protection, which runs afoul of the DMCA, so the EFF has asked the U.S. Copyright Office for a formal excemption. As one might expect, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) that represents game publishers is opposed.

According to the EFF, the industry group has urged copyright regulators to reject the proposed excemption because allowing coders to restore functionality in abandoned games would "undermine the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based." The ESA is apparently worried that making an exception would communicate that "hacking—an activity closely associated with piracy in the minds of the marketplace—is lawful."

The Copyright Office is accepting public comment on DMCA exemptions until May 1, so a final decision hasn't been made. Since the ESA's cronies in the movie and recording industries have reportedly penned their own rebuttals to the EFF's request, it only seems appropriate for gamers to chime in with their own thoughts on the matter.

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