ESA Deems Modding Retro Games for Historical Preservation Illegal
The ESA intends to crack down those who mod or "hack" retro titles for the sake of preserving video game history, including museums, archivists and researchers.
The ESA is here to ruin all your fun with its rule about modifying games in order to keep them playable after publishers have shut down their servers and stopped supporting them. IGN reports that the ESA (the Entertainment Software Association) has come forward to say that it's looking to prevent fans from bringing their favorite video games into the present day. While the ESA has a legitimate cause for its claim, specifically Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions, it would still be a total bummer. Section 1201 is to prevent not only users, but also communities, museums, archives and researchers from bringing games up to speed or playable on various forms of current technology after the publishers of those games have shut down the servers and are no longer producing anymore copies of them, whether they be arcade cabinet or cartridge.
What this means for fans of old video games is that, unless you have some seriously old equipment at home, you probably won't be able to play them soon. Section 1201 isn't just causing problems for people who decide to make emulators, either, it's causing problems for museums such as Oakland's Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment and for the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization that allows fans to play thousands of older titles.
The Internet Archive runs the risk of taking the biggest copyright infringement hit of all, after its launch of the Historical Software Collection. This collection encompassed a ton of classic console as well as computer games and software and made them playable on today's PCs and Internet browsers. However, the organization didn't stop there and continues to expand with its most recent addition of close to 2,400 MS-DOS games that are no longer being supported on current-gen, last-gen or even grandfather-gen hardware. Internet Archive's games include titles such as Bust-A-Move, Commander Keen and Metal Gear, not to mention 900 classic coin-operated arcade games.
This is why the Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking, or possibly more accurately begging, the Copyright Office to be lenient with academics, museums and archivists. The EFF, ESA, MPAA and RIAA have all contacted the Copyright Office in support of Section 1201. The basis for which being that allowing exemptions could be misleading and show that, "hacking — an activity closely associated with piracy in the minds of the marketplace — is lawful." These organizations also feel that it would undermine, "the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based."
Basically, the ESA is wanting these games to be lost in the abyss of time, since more and more systems and cartridges are becoming unplayable as the years pass. It will be interesting to see how this issue is resolved, but for now, it's not looking too good on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's side, or retro gaming's side for that matter.