The U.S Copyright Office has issued new copyright protection exemptions that allow librarians and archivists to archive and distribute copyrighted media. Sadly there’s no new protections for older games–but there are some new notable exceptions that impact game preservation.
First, the bad news. The Copyright Office has recommended that older games not be considered for archival exemption at this time, owing to “the greater risk of market harm in this context given the market for legacy video
games.” In essence, because game companies can still generate revenue out of older titles, the Copyright Office wasn’t ready to carve out exemptions that would allow them to be archived, preserved, and accessed remotely.
Libraries and archivists can still make “fair use” arguments for preserving and distributing games, but it’s not an automatic exemption.
But game archivists like Phil Salvador still celebrated today’s ruling, because the Copyright Office did approve exemptions for another piece of media–older software. The Copyright Office has recommended that the U.S Library of Congress amen its exemption lists to allow archivists to preserve and distribute copies of older software.
That means it should soon be easier to preserve older game-making tools and versions of Windows and Macintosh used to run older games.
The U.S Copyright Office apparently did express interest in revisiting its ruling on video games during its next review in three years.
Interestingly, it did also clear the way for libraries to back up and preserve copies of old out-of-print movies, if available copies are deteriorating.