Jump to content

US Congress deems it legal for games relying on a central server to be modified in order to remain playable

Recommended Posts

This is really great, guys.

Today, the United States Congress released the finalized set of new exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, which force hardware manufacturers and software developers to allow users to modify their products in order to retain usability. This means that you can no longer be restricted from tampering with your phone or whatever to keep it from breaking, but more interestingly for us (and most pertinently to this forum), it includes a section specifically outlining the exceptions for video games on pages 81-83. It's mostly in legaleze, so I'll dissect it all real quick:

Quote

 

(12)(i) Video games in the form of computer programs embodied in physical or downloaded formats that have been lawfully acquired as complete games, when the copyright owner or its authorized representative has ceased to provide access to an external computer server necessary to facilitate an authentication process to enable gameplay, solely for the purpose of:

(A) Permitting access to the video game to allow copying and modification of the computer program to restore access to the game for personal, local gameplay on a personal computer or video game console; or

(B) Permitting access to the video game to allow copying and modification of the computer program to restore access to the game on a personal computer or video game console when necessary to allow preservation of the game in a playable form by an eligible library, archives, or museum, where such activities are carried out without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and the video game is not distributed or made available outside of the physical premises of the eligible library, archives, or museum.

 

This is the key bit. It allows that lawfully acquired games that are no longer playable due to the loss of a central server to be modified in order to become playable again. Now, those games that were previously lost to always-online DRM can be legally cracked to function without it.

Quote

(ii) Video games in the form of computer programs embodied in physical or downloaded formats that have been lawfully acquired as complete games, that do not require access to an external computer server for gameplay, and that are no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace, solely for the purpose of preservation of the game in a playable form by an eligible library, archives, or museum, where such activities are carried out without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and the video game is not distributed or made available outside of the physical premises of the eligible library, archives, or museum.

The section here is really fantastic for the historical preservation of games. If a game's DRM does not work anymore, and it is no longer sold anywhere, it can be modified to work.

Quote

(iii) Computer programs used to operate video game consoles solely to the extent necessary for an eligible library, archives, or museum to engage in the preservation activities described in paragraph (b)(12)(i)(B) or (b)(12)(ii) of this section.

It's a bit vague, and IANAL, but to my understanding, emulators, at least in the name of preservation alone, are no longer illegal under DMCA. (The ROMs, however, probably still are, at least as long as they're being distributed.)

This is where we get into more specific detail.

Quote

(iv) For purposes of this paragraph (b)(12), the following definitions shall apply:

(A) For purposes of paragraph (b)(12)(i)(A) and (b)(12)(ii) of this section, “complete games” means video games that can be played by users without accessing or reproducing copyrightable content stored or previously stored on an external computer server.

(B) For purposes of paragraph (b)(12)(i)(B) of this section, “complete games” means video games that meet the definition in paragraph (b)(12)(iv)(A) of this section, or that consist of both a copy of a game intended for a personal computer or video game console and a copy of the game’s code that was stored or previously stored on an external computer server.

This is a bit of a bummer, since it means that preservation is still only 100% legal for games that only use a central server for DRM, but it's still good to have it set in stone.

Quote

(C) “Ceased to provide access” means that the copyright owner or its authorized representative has either issued an affirmative statement indicating that external server support for the video game has ended and such support is in fact no longer available or, alternatively, server support has been discontinued for a period of at least six months; provided, however, that server support has not since been restored.

This is a heavy hitter. Whether the company has officially stated that server support will return or not, after six months, modifying it to work is legal. This should make it harder for the companies to go for their beloved scummy plays.

Quote

(D) “Local gameplay” means gameplay conducted on a personal computer or video game console, or locally connected personal computers or consoles, and not through an online service or facility.

For once, this is pretty self-explanatory. It sadly doesn't include fan-made servers in the exemption.

Quote

(E) A library, archives, or museum is considered “eligible” when the collections of the library, archives, or museum are open to the public and/or are routinely made available to researchers who are not affiliated with the library, archives, or museum.

Just in case there's any confusion as to what constitutes as eligibility for libraries, archives, and museums, this is here to clear that up.

While the lack of protection for third-party servers kinda sucks, the rest of this is really fantastic for gamers. I was surprised that it wasn't already discussed at length here, so I decided to show it to you all. Hopefully this will make it far harder for companies to go after people trying to play the games they kill.

Share this post


Link to post

WE WIN!!!! WE FUCKING WON AND DIDN'T EVEN NEED A CAMPAIGN!!!! (sort of)

Edited by kennethdio
got too excited

Share this post


Link to post

However you can't make server emulators without first receiving the original server code from the owner... This is not a total win.

Share this post


Link to post
7 minutes ago, BTGBullseye said:

However you can't make server emulators without first receiving the original server code from the owner... This is not a total win.

Sure, but even then, but for most games, a fully-fledged server emulator is still not necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
11 hours ago, BTGBullseye said:

However you can't make server emulators without first receiving the original server code from the owner... This is not a total win.

It depends on the number of people working on it. Runuo, Lonewolf, Sphere, and Polserver are excellent examples of faithful mechanical recreation of a game without leaked server code. There are even some Ultima Online servers that 1:1 copy the OSI experience. The client was even encrypted and they still pulled it off.

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, but that is still illegal at that point. Without the original server code, or permission from the owner, any server emulator is technically illegal.

Edited by BTGBullseye

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in the community.

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.