Obsolete Video Games

For almost as long as the internet has been around, geeks and other enthusiasts have been using it to share and make archives of “copyrighted” material. I put the word copyright in quotes there because a lot of the time the material so copyrighted is out of print or otherwise unavailable for the general public to use because of technology changes or other issues.

Recently, the Librarian of Congress announced several classes of material that would be exempt from DMCA under fair use policies for the next 3 years (at which point the exemption has to be renewed). Included was this:

2. 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 shall be considered 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.

So did all those archives of game roms just get protection from prosecution for copyright infringement? It certainly became harder to do so, in any case. I also wonder how Nintendo’s efforts to collect various obsolete and OOP game makers to make such things downloadable for Wii will affect what classes of items are affected by this. You certainly can’t buy a Commodore 64 any longer, but does the Wii’s existence make those games not a part of this group? As it reads, I’m thinking it doesn’t save them.


  1. Elana:

    I think Nintendo is safe since the Wii runs engines to translate the games from their original format. I think Atari games are not so safe. :-)

    One of my main motivations for getting a Wii (besides it being fun with new stuff) is the ability to play Duck Hunt. :-)

    (December 4th, 2006 at 1:53 pm)
  2. K:

    Well, I mostly meant, does Nintendo have a case against all the sites with C64 games up? On the one hand, yes, because they have licensed them. On the other hand, no, because they certainly aren’t making C64s again.

    (December 4th, 2006 at 6:36 pm)
  3. Elana:

    Well, if the game is owned by Nintendo and playable in full on another system they’ve licensed it for (such as the Wii) then it’s not obsolete even if the original game is on an obsolete system.

    (December 4th, 2006 at 7:37 pm)