The U.S. Copyright Office has revised copyright law, as it does every three years, enabling players to circumvent DRM for nonsupported games and allowing museums to jailbreak gaming consoles to preserve games.
(Photo : Joe Raedle | Getty Images)
Electronic Arts recently announced that it was ending support for 50 of its games. While we might love many of these older games, the fact that they are no longer supported makes it hard for organizations aiming to preserve history to step in and preserve them, especially with copyright law.
Once a publisher ends support for a game, the only way to keep it running is to break copyright law by surpassing digital rights management, or hacking the game console, which is, of course, illegal. Or at least it was, until today.
Basically, the U.S. Copyright Office reviews its copyright laws to ensure that they’re still relevant every three years, and the office now says that there are a number of exemptions to the law, which were asked for by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, or EFF.
One of the exemptions is that players are now able to circumvent DRM for single-player games that are rendered unplayable after the publisher stops supporting those games. This rule does not apply to multiplayer games.
This will be a big deal for both players and game archivists, and will allow players to be able to check in with an authentication server to legally circumvent DRM.
Apart from games themselves, another win is that museums, archives, and libraries will be able to jailbreak consoles themselves, if that’s what’s required to keep a game running. One of the biggest concerns with this is that archivists may actually use this kind of jailbreaking to pirate games, which is probably why the law only applies to organizations and not individuals.
While these two revisions to copyright law will be big news for the EFF, the organization still is pushing for a number of changes. The law applying to multiplayer games, for example, is one of the next steps.
“The good part is that we’ll get another shot at this in three years,” said Kenda Albert, a Harvard Law student who helped the EFF, in an interview with Motherboard. “The bad part is we have to do the entire process again, and there’s no presumption that the exemptions that were granted in this round will get granted again.”
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