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Slashdot Abandonware And Copyright Laws

Original Length of Copyright (Score:4, Informative)
by Deven ([email protected]) on Thursday August 10, @01:38PM EDT (#316)
(User #13090 Info)

Note that if copyright only lasted 15 years (as I believe it was originally written), Big Daddy's works would be in the public domain by now, and the public could rescue them freely. It seems as though copyright is interfering with the process of restoring and recording history.

The U.S. Copyright Act of 1790 allowed for a 14-year duration (a quite reasonable timeframe and a good balance of author incentive vs. public good), with another 14-year optional extension (in the 14th year), for a maximum of 28 years, which is plenty of time to capitalize on a creative work. (Especially when you consider that businesses usually make their plans based on expected returns within 5 years or so!) Works had to be registered with the Copyright office to receive protection; many works entered the public domain directly because the author didn't bother to register the copyright.

Copyright has been extended many times since then for the further enrichment of the rich, with no consideration given to the balance inherent in the "bargain" between the author and the public that copyright is supposed to represent. It's been twisted into an entitlement in many people's minds, a tool to enrich a few at great cost to the public. Copyright extensions (especially the last one) are enacted to preserve corporate profits (and the GNP), public be damned. It's a gross perversion of a system that was originally designed to benefit the public, not to enrich authors and "IP" owners.


"Simple things should be simple, and complex things should be possible."

Out of print books? (Score:5, Interesting)
by KahunaBurger on Thursday August 10, @10:01AM EDT (#43)
(User #123991 Info)

One could compare this to a situation with out of print books. There is a definite owner of the IP, (s)he is still alive and owns the copyright, but the work is no longer commercially available. If there was a surge of interest in such a book, and I had a copy, I would never consider it acceptable to just scan it in and let people read it without asking the writer.

Thats the problem. Calling it "abandonware" makes it sound like a little lost puppy that you can't find its owner. They know who the owners are. Why not (scarey thought coming) ask them? The guy profiled in the article has ad revenue coming into his site. He is likely making money off of other people's IP. Why not send a form letter stating the purpose of the site, what titles they would like to feature and offering a profit share based on downloads?

In most services, requiring an "opt out" rather than "opt in" is considered predatory marketing. In a situation where the legal lines are so well drawn, simply offering to remove is not enough. There are ways to do this right, and making money off of doing it wrong is not aulteristic, no matter how you try to spin it.

Kahuna Burger

Abandonware Prevention (Score:1)
by SEWilco on Thursday August 10, @10:02AM EDT (#45)
(User #27983 Info)

I notice that the examples given are mass-market software. Large companies have been aware of the risks of enterprise-level software being abandoned, and try to avoid it happening. Some purchasers demand software escrow, where the source code is deposited someplace where it will be available to the customer if the manufacturer goes out of business. However, I have seen a preference for the accounting packages for which source code is available -- even if is not currently needed, executives like having it on the shelf so the company's accounting system can be revised if the software manufacturer is unable to keep up with the newest twists in local, state, or federal laws and taxes. And if the manufacturer abandons the package, the company can maintain the software and is not forced by the next major tax changes to select a new accounting system.

Full Circle (Score:1)
by vapour on Thursday August 10, @10:03AM EDT (#50)
(User #102049 Info)

...and here we are my friends. The open source circle finally meets.

"We are not out to get [software publishers] or to steal from them," says Kenyon. "We are just here to provide the public with software that can't be obtained by any other means."

Everything is free, past it's shelf life, the expiry date.

heh, the highest form of hypocrisy.

I bet the Napster and Nutstella fans will be all over this one.

Copyright, Intellectual Rights, and your right to freely distribute, at no cost, that which is not yours.

In the UK, this would, in common parlance, be called "Fencing". It's where thiefs offload thier goods to middlemen.

Its theft, pure and simple.

Incredibly tricky (Score:2)
by Keelor (keelor at on Thursday August 10, @10:07AM EDT (#64)
(User #95571 Info)

Abandonware is a tricky subject. A couple of points the article failed to bring up:

1. In some cases, people _need_ older copies of programs. There are some document formats that, for one reason or another, are no longer supported--even through modern conversion software. If that old document happens to contain password-protected tax data, and no modern software will read it, where does the user turn to but to abandonware?

2. On the other hand, compilations of old games are a relatively popular low-budget option for game publishers. They're almost guaranteed to make money for the company (since they're dirt-cheap to make). I for one jumped at the chance to purchase Interplay's compilation of the SSI Gold Box games. However, if these games are freely available on popular abandonware sites, then it makes it difficult for a publisher to convince anyone to buy it.

3. Here's the real sticking point (which I'm also the most out-of-my-league about): if it can be proved that a copyright holder knowingly allowed someone to infringe on that copyright and did not take action to prevent it, then the rights to that material can be permanently lost. This prevents selective enforcement, but at the same time obligates the companies to go after abandonware sites if they want rights to a future version of the game.

It seems that this whole area is in a kind of legal void, with the two sides of the argument brought up in the article both having valid points. It will be interesting to see if this ever gets brought to court--doubtable, though, since people running abandonware sites will probably never be able to afford a lawyer for a case like that.

Fragturi te salutant

Fair use? (Score:4, Insightful)
by Kickasso on Thursday August 10, @10:10AM EDT (#70)
(User #210195 Info) Homepage (optional:you must enter a fully qualified URL!)

Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Copying abandonware is not commercial, and has no effect upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. So that's 2 of 4 points. I think it's not unreasonable to treat such copying as fair use. (Not all 4 points must be satisfied; courts will consider all of them and their relative importance in each particular case.) Granted, this is not scholarship or research or news reporting, but it need not be. For instance, backup and timeshifting are not mentioned here, but they were found to fall under fair use.


osOpinion: Abandoned Intellectual Property
Oct 23, 2000, 06 :45 UTC (25 Talkback[s]) (2111 reads)
(Other stories by Susan Aker)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"Most states have laws governing what is to be done with property that has been abandoned. In one state the amount of time before something is considered abandoned ranges from a mere 2 years up to 15 years. After that maximum -- depending on the type of property -- the property can be put up for auction, absorbed by the holder of the property, or possibly revert to the state, again depending on the property in question. The laws vary between states, but the principle is there. Property that is not claimed after a reasonable amount of time ceases to belong to the owner."

"Think of how this might apply to intellectual property. Copyright law allows an inordinate amount of time before works revert to the public domain -- author's life plus 70 years, and 95 years on corporate copyright. But, what if the owner of this property had to make sure it was kept available in order to keep the copyright? Any work that has been out of print for more than 15 years probably isn't going to earn its owner anything more anyway. What if these works automatically reverted to the public domain? Couldn't this be a compromise between the entertainment industry and the public? Either the work must be kept available for purchase or else it is available for free, but it is always available."

Complete Story

Related Stories:
NY Times: Copyright Extension Stifles Creativity, Lessig Tells Court(Oct 06, 2000)
Boston Globe: Copyright Should Be Balanced(Oct 05, 2000)
LA Times: Whose Art Is It, Anyway?(Oct 01, 2000)
osOpinion: What Every American Should Know About Copyright(Sep 29, 2000)
SJ Mercury News: Digital Copyright Act comes back to haunt consumers(Aug 29, 2000)
NY Times: Whose Intellectual Property Is It, Anyway? The Open Source War(Aug 24, 2000)
Motley Fool: Intellectual Property Is an Oxymoron(Aug 20, 2000)
LinuxPlanet: Stallman/Stanco: A Dialogue on Copyright Law and Free/Open Source Software (Part 9)(Jul 25, 2000)
Brian Martin: Against intellectual property(Jul 25, 2000)
NY Times: The Concept of Copyright Fights for Internet Survival(May 11, 2000)
Arne Flones -- The Digital Millenium Copyright Act: A Corporate Bully Bludgeon(Jan 25, 2000)



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