Game Preservation Groups Ask for Exemptions Regarding Online Games

The U.S. Copywrite Office renews its rules every three years

'PlayStation Home,' an online-only game currently unavailable

Many prominent video game publishers and developers are opposing The U.S. Copywrite Office's consideration to allow the public to revive abandoned online games, Torrent Freak reports.

As of right now, the Copywrite Office has exemptions for private groups, such as libraries and museums, to make old game accessible through emulators. However, as Torrent Freak points out, some of these private groups, such as the Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment (MADE), are asking the Office to expand these exemptions to online-only games, allowing members of the public to tinker with the game's code, bringing them back online. 

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), though, doesn't see eye to eye with these private groups. 

The ESA has allowed older, single-player games to be recreated for use in libraries, museums, etc. with little-to-no push-back. But it finds fault with allowing anyone but the game's developer or publisher alter an online source code. 

"The proponents characterize these as ‘slight modifications’ to the existing exemption," the ESA said in a statement on the matter. "However they are nothing of the sort. The proponents request permission to engage in forms of circumvention that will enable the complete recreation of a hosted video game-service environment and make the video game available for play by a public audience.”

“Worse yet, proponents seek permission to deputize a legion of ‘affiliates’ to assist in their activities,” the association adds.

The issue really comes down to money. While groups such as the MADE do charge admission for attendees to play its games, it's not exactly a large number. But, if these groups were to bring back an old online game, the ESA argues, it could be accessed online by the public at large, possibly creating competition for companies from private groups with their own IPs. 

“In sum, expansion of the video game preservation exemption as contemplated by Class 8 is not a ‘modest’ proposal. Eliminating the important limitations that the Register provided when adopting the current exemption risks the possibility of wide-scale infringement and substantial market harm,” the ESA argues.

The U.S. Copywrite Office reviews its exemption rules every three years, listening to public statements from multiple parties on the matter. The Office is expected to review its rules soon. 

"Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical,” the MADE said in a statement.