This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation updated followers on their on-going crusade to fight for the rights of gamers and communities looking to keep their favorite games and communities going after publishers shut down servers and means to access said games.
We brought up this battle awhile ago, at it seems that the EFF’s fight has only been met with stark resistance from the publishers, specifically the Entertainment Software Association. This blog like both the EFF and the ESA, as they’re both doing some great things on the front of video game struggles and research, so it’s unfortunate that they haven’t found common ground.
Let’s go over their update:
The EFF recently petitioned for “legal protection to game enthusiasts, museums, and academics who preserve older video games and keep them playable”. Specifically, they’re seeking exemption in certain cases from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions. Their petition has been strongly opposed by the ESA, whom is arguing that any exception will send a statement to would be hackers that some forms of piracy is lawful. Damn pirates, always wanting to try do something ridiculous like play the games they bought online after they’ve been abandoned. What a bunch of jerkos!
This issue is an important one for gamers and researchers seeking to preserve gaming history. As we approach a time in which video games are slowly making their ways into museums and dedicated channels, such a blanket stance against communities trying to keep certain games from falling into obscurity is counter-productive and harmful to the industry. As it’s been mentioned on this blog before, certain games only exist playable in some form because of the efforts of hackers and pirates; without, it’s unknown whether we’d still have these games.
This isn’t a closed case, and the EFF is still fighting for the rights of these groups. I’ll try and update this and the case goes on,
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a petition to allow consumers to modify their games to enable users to continue playing after video game companies have abandoned certain features in the game. This seems like a obvious push, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless. With so many games offering online components it is inevitable that eventually the servers and networks for these games will cease to run, leaving some parts of the games completely unplayable and unusable. For example, If Petz’s online servers get shut down years after the game is released, the EFF is fighting for the rights of users to disable authentication checks and allow them to connect to third party servers..
This has already happened with many popular games, including Star Wars Battle Front 2 and Phantasy Star Online. Once the official servers for these games are cut off, the only way to play the games have been third party, unofficial servers. Often time this requires patches or specific go-arounds to get the games to play on these servers and, more often than not, these servers are technically operating illegally. While it sounds ridiculous, that video game companies would be against outside sources prolonging the life of their games after they themselves have shut down online components, there has been cases in which companies have shut down third party attempts. The EFF is seeking to empower the users to enable them to continue playing their games, socially and happily, for years after certain titles are no longer profitable to the company.
The EFF’s Justification:
As archivists can attest, there are a number of ways in which digital media in general are more fragile than physical media. The law should not be exacerbating that problem. But with video games in particular, legal restrictions on preserving and maintaining functionality threatens to wipe out communities of players that participate in competitive or collaborative play.
In an ideal world, publishers wouldn’t encumber their software with restrictive DRM, mandatory authentication schemes, or proprietary multiplayer protocols. In the meantime though, gamers should be allowed to continue playing the games they’ve legally purchased without a cloud of legal uncertainty hovering over them.
It all seems pretty reasonable, but we’ll see if anything actually comes out of the EFF’s attempt. They are an organization known for being quite successful when it comes to fighting for the rights of digital mediums. Go check out their website!