The U.S. Copyright Office will consider whether to update DMCA rules to make an exemption for abandoned online games. If an exemption were offered, it would allow certain organisations to provide copies of abandoned online servers, potentially allowing ‘dead’ games a second lease of life.
The recently shut-down Marvel Heroes could potentially be brought back to life if the exemption is passed.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a US copyright law intended to stop the public infringing upon digital intellectual property. The Act’s anti-circumvention provisions are due for renewal, but before that happens, the Copyright Office is running a public consultation.
The rules have previously been adapted to allow organisations like libraries and museums to emulate classic games, but those rules are yet to be extended to online games. For older online titles, once servers go down, the entire game is lost forever. In an article from TorrentFreak, however, The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE), argues that “today, local multiplayer options are increasingly rare,” and that many single-player games also now require online connections, posing a potential problem to future games archivists.
With this in mind, MADE is asking the Copyright Office to extend exemptions to cover online games, citing a list of 319 titles that have been abandoned since 2012 - just over one game per week. Should the Copyright Office approve the exemption, organisations like MADE would be able to copy old servers, allowing them to maintain games after their official hosting servers have been deactivated.