You paid a nice chunk of change and you do own that Entertainment-related intellectual property, right? It may sound familiar to fans of digital music who sought to resell their “used” collections through the online marketplace ReDigi, but a new battle has erupted regarding some of the coolest video games — products that these days have become as big an Entertainment cash-register ringer as the movies. Many video game publishers increasingly require their customers-buyers to connect into publishers’ servers to unlock a game for playing. But here’s the twist: publishers often take those servers offline as soon as they are no longer economical to run. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says this leaves gamers unable to play the lawfully purchased video game. In response, the EFF has petitioned the Copyright office and Librarian of Congress seeking an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) anti-circumvention provision. This exemption would allow video gamers to circumvent the authentication checks and connections to the servers so that they could continue playing their games after they officially end.
The DMCA circumvention rule is designed to restrict access to copyrighted works. However, the act was passed in 1998, when public use of the Internet was much different — yes, dinosaurs, dial-up rocked back then! The act’s blanket restriction can restrict freedom of speech and fair use. To curtail those harms, the U.S. Copyright office holds a rule making proceeding to consider exemptions circumvention rule. EFF submitted this petition to be considered at the 2015 DMCA Rulemaking Proceeding.
As the foundation notes in its post, some of the industry’s biggest games like Mario Kart from makers like Nintendo have drawn fan ire for their intellectual property practices, with Electronic Arts, in particular, getting big blasts, including a designation it disputed as Worst Company in America. It will be interesting, too, to see whether the legendary, perhaps mythical, “market forces” will help improve practices. A leading site, for example, has started to provide not only game reviews but also more detailed commentary about the quality of service provided by video game manufacturers and publishers.