File this under the completely absurd – the Entertainment Software Association, the trade association that essentially governs the video game industry in the United States, is blocking attempts to enable the protection of individuals who modify abandoned video games – in order to keep playing them.
So what is happening exactly? The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working alongside law student Kendra Abert, to petition the Copyright Office for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They’re doing this in order to protect the rights of the consumers who modify games so they can continue to use their online functionality or multiplayer, even after the developer or publisher has shut their servers down.
This essentially boils down to where the rights of the consumer end, and where the rights of the developer and publisher begin. Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it very difficult for enthusiasts to legally modify these games, so that they might continue enjoying the product they purchased, legally. So what did the ESA do in response? They have opposed this plea for an exemption, because in their minds, modifying games to continue playing them is too similar to “hacking,” and all hacking is “associated with piracy.”
We here at Niche Gamer stand with the consumer in all regards, so it’s a bit strange to see the ESA making these claims. Allowing these exemptions to the 1201 blanket ban of “hacking” would apparently “undermine the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based,” according to the ESA. They go on to say that passing the exemption would make people think that “hacking—an activity closely associated with piracy in the minds of the marketplace—is lawful.”
This kind of legal red-tape is making it especially difficult for organizations like the Internet Archive or museums like California’s Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment preserve games that had online multiplayer or functionality of some kind. Clearly, this isn’t a matter of piracy but rather the power resting entirely in the hands of the publishers, and not the consumers.
What are your thoughts on the DMCA, and section 1201? Sound off in the comments below!