Gaming archivists seek exception to intellectual property law

For many in New York, gaming is a passion. What started as computer games and software is now prolific interactive games with massively multiplayer online games gaining in popularity. Each of these games and its technology is the intellectual property of someone and protected by copyright law. The exception to this protection is enjoyed by those who run museums and archives that house software for games that are not available because their publishers have abandoned them. Gamers can come to such places to play those long-lost games.

Recently, some of these archival organizations petitioned the U.S. Copyright Office to amend the exception that allows them to host not only software for gamers to enjoy, but online games whose servers have been shut down. Currently, gamers, many of whom are devoted fans, can no longer play MMOs like Star Wars Galaxies that have been abandoned. The archivists want to operate servers in their museums allowing gamers to experience games they could not otherwise play.

Opponents such as the Entertainment Software Association feel this would be more than a modification of copyright law. They feel the exemption would enable archivists to recreate a copyrighted game. Furthermore, since the museums housing these games charge admission, the ESA sees it as a commercial undertaking even though the museums make no profit.

Software designers fight for their original ideas and may not be amenable to their work being passed along to others, even if it is abandoned. The U.S. Copyright Office is accepting comments for the foreseeable before making a decision on the archivists' petition. Meanwhile, those in New York who experience loss or damages because of the theft of intellectual property have an advocate in a dedicated and experienced attorney.

Source:, "U.S. Copyright Office considering exemption for abandoned online games", Eric Brackett, Feb. 18, 2018

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