The U.S. Government is Looking for Public Input on Exemptions for Abandoned Video Games

the battle of copyright 04-20-15-1

Previously, we reported on the Entertainment Software Association blocking the Electronic Frontier Foundation from campaigning to get exemptions to the outdated Digital Millennium Copyright Act, so that enthusiasts and archivists alike can modify games to continue being able to play and or put them on display, when publishers abandon them of course.

Now, we’ve learned that the US government is currently in the process of carrying out a hearing regarding exemptions for use of a large number of various software and hardware (that were abandoned by their owners) that were previously considered unlawful. While the hearing is overall not taking particular aim at video games, there are a few proposed classes for exemption that are of serious note for gamers.

Take a quick look at the three classes that have been quoted below:

Proposed Class 17: Jailbreaking – all-purpose mobile computing devices
This proposed class would permit the jailbreaking of all-purpose mobile computing devices to allow the devices to run lawfully acquired software that is otherwise prevented from running, or to remove unwanted preinstalled software from the device. The category “all-purpose mobile computing device” includes all-purpose non-phone devices (such as the Apple iPod touch) and all-purpose tablets (such as the Apple iPad or the Google Nexus). The category does not include specialized devices such as e-book readers or handheld gaming devices, or laptop or desktop computers

Proposed Class 19: Jailbreaking – video game consoles

This proposed class would permit the jailbreaking of home video game consoles. Asserted noninfringing uses include installing alternative operating systems, running lawfully acquired applications, preventing the reporting of personal usage information to the manufacturer, and removing region locks. The requested exemption would apply both to older and currently marketed game consoles.

Proposed Class 23: Abandoned software – video games requiring server communication

This proposed class would allow circumvention of TPMs on lawfully acquired video games consisting of communication with a developer-operated server for the purpose of either authentication or to enable multiplayer matchmaking, where developer support for those server communications has ended. This exception would not apply to video games whose audiovisual content is primarily stored on the developer’s server, such as massive multiplayer online role-playing games.

Among a total of 27 proposed classes (which you can read through in the complete document here), these are the ones that are particularly meaningful for the video game world. However, many of the classes in the list are very important to consider as the Information Age progresses, if we want to be able to truly record history as it is now.

This is a link to the website from which you are able to submit a comment to the hearing. The Copyright Office wants comments to come in two forms. First, the long form comment is set up for those who wish to provide a full legal and evidence-focused basis for their comment. Long form comments are limited to 25 pages, which can be single-spaced, but at least 12-point font. This page limit does not include documented evidence supporting the comment, however.

The short form comment is designed for those who want to express support (or opposition) to the proposed exemptions. The short form comments are to be no more than one page, which can also be single-spaced, but no larger than 12-point font.

For those interested in sending in a comment, the cutoff date is May 1st. More detailed rules and guidelines are on the page itself, so if you wish to send in a comment, give that a read first.

Image source: Christopher Dombres

Chris Gregoria


I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.

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  1. Sol Racht
    Sol Racht
    April 20, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    All of those seem common sense to me. I sincerely hope that they approve them.

  2. AsphaltMyGarden
    April 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    “This exception would not apply to video games whose audiovisual content is primarily stored on the developer’s server, such as massive multiplayer online role-playing games.” This doesn’t really make much sense since the audovisual content in a MMO primarily is stored on the users computer not on the server.

  3. OverlordZetta
    April 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Aren’t they usually tied to your accounts?

    I don’t play many MMOs anymore, but when I got a new PS3 after my old one YLOD, I put in Transformers WFC and lo and behold all my characters were still in there.

  4. OverlordZetta
    April 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    If nothing else, we need to get that region lock part spread around, especially to Nintendo fans. If it gets enough traction, even if this doesn’t go through, it might get Nintendo to lift the lock themselves rather than risk waiting for the government to make this legal.

  5. AsphaltMyGarden
    April 20, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    well, the data about your characters is saved on the server but thats just numbers in a spreadsheet, not the accual audovisual part. all the sounds, textures and models are saved on your machine/disk.

  6. Nonscpo
    April 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Way to go Chris, now this is journalism ;)

  7. ironexe
    April 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I’m down with these.

  8. Domhnall
    April 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Why is there a distinction between general purpose devices and specialized devices?

  9. Domhnall
    April 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    That’s just character data, not actual graphics. All of the required graphics and music/sounds are installed on the client end; you’d rack up some pretty insane internet usage if you had to download all of the graphics and audio from the server every time you played.

  10. MaidKillua
    April 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    That part about jailbreaking and removing region locks is an excellent idea *cough* Nintendo *cough*

  11. Anonymous
    April 20, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    This is awesome, gotta hype this up so everyone voices their mind here.
    Really, this is for the future of great old games, for the cultural preservation of our hobby.
    It’s going to be gamers vs ESA , IGDA and all those other big corporation lobbies as usual whenever copyright becomes an issue.
    This wouldn’t even be necessary if copyright law wasn’t such a vestigial and badly designed ancient nonsense but at least now there’s a shot for the project.

  12. TheCynicalReaper
    April 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Hot damn! Great article mate I did not know about this

  13. Audie Bakerson
    Audie Bakerson
    April 20, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Making an NTSC-U N64 run “lawfully acquired applications” that were NTSC-J (or make an NTSC-J run NTSC-U applications) required nothing more than a good knife and patience (other tools are needed if you want it to look pretty, but ultimately you only need a knife) to cut out.

    If the government told private citizens they could cut their own private property all but the most blatant stateists would mock the law. How does defeating a software lockout on personal property differ from a hardware one?

  14. dsadsada
    April 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    I’m a little confused on why the proposed class 19 exemption is trying to apply for current consoles instead of only for those already discontinued. But hey, it sounds great for Nintentdo fans. Region locks is one of the reasons I’m hesitant to jump into a Nintentdo system.

    For the most part though, they all sound nice.

  15. Zombie_Barioth
    April 20, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Bypassing and breaking DRM is technically considered illegal, mainly due to copyright laws and breaking encryption. With physical lockouts like the N64 used property laws take effect.

    Think of it sorta like its your shed but my lock and key, which you decided to brake so you could get inside.

  16. Fenrir007
    April 21, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Should non-burguers participate?

  17. Alcatraz
    April 21, 2015 at 12:47 am


  18. Softclocks
    April 22, 2015 at 6:17 am

    Excellent piece of journalism!