Video Game Law Blog

November 28, 2006

The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the circumvention of technological measures that prevent access to copyrighted works. The US Librarian of Congress has recently announced six classes of works that are exempted from this prohibition. One such category relates to 'obsolete"? computer games; the exemption is described as follows

'Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive."?

A format is 'obsolete"? if 'the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace"?.

Some fans of obsolete games (sometimes termed 'abandonware"?) have argued that such games should be exempt from copy protection laws; the Librarian's announcement provides some support for that argument. Of course, the new exemption only applies for preservation or archival reproduction "? breaking copy protection on old games merely to play them may not qualify.

Coverage at (Gamespot)

Librarian of Congress rulemaking on anticircumvention