New Laws Concerning Old Games?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996 was a much needed revision of the copyright code during the Clinton administration. The administration fought to bring internet to many places in the United States, it was only right they provide a way for the new industry to copyright its material.

Now, the U.S. Copyright Office has ran into a problem, a similar problem it faced with books, music and video: what happens to the content when it is no longer profitable?

When a book or video’s copyright expires it enters into what is known as the public domain and it becomes available on several websites, museums and other public sharing mediums for anyone to view for free.

The argument the U.S. Copyright Office is making is one of actual merit and much of the gaming community would agree. The U.S. Copyright Office already grants permission to some archives and libraries for video games that are no longer publicly available. If an online game has been abandoned by its developer, or has been shut down, why can’t the game be rebuilt by the community or enter into a digital museum?

Classic MMORPGs such as Star War Galaxies and City of Heroes still have very loyal and passionate fanbases, but the players are unable to log into the game because the servers have been long shut down. This is a nightmare situation for an MMO player who often times devote years of time to a single game.

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment are the leaders of the new movement to expand video game copyright.

“Online games have become ubiquitous and are only growing in popularity,” a representative of the Museum wrote. “An estimated fifty three percent of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week.”

If you are thinking about opening up your own server after the new rules arrive, you should take one thing into consideration: a dev may keep a tiny server active to stop you. If a developer wants to maintain an intellectual property in the online gaming market, and if loop holes like these are not closed, all they will have to do is reserve a place for a very tiny piece of their fanbase.