Obscure games in the public domain?

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BanjoPickles
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Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby BanjoPickles » May 28th, 2017, 9:18 pm

I was thinking about this yesterday, as I was perusing the (lengthy) list of books, films, and music that has no copyright holder, that has fallen into the public domain. This got me thinking: given that gaming is inching up on fifty years in the mainstream (wow!), do you think that games will follow suit?

Given that I'm not a lawyer, and that I don't have anything but a rudimentary understanding of copyright law, my question may be an interesting one...or profoundly stupid!

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scotland
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby scotland » May 29th, 2017, 9:15 am

Are we talking about abandonware? I saw a site listing almost 12000 games, mostly old computer games. Think about how many small games were probably made for all the various microcomputers in Europe, Japan and North America. Type in games in magazines, games distributed on tape, etc. I have no idea on the copyright status of these games, but I think they are considered orphaned. That puts them in a grey area. There is no one to give permission to use these games, but also no one is going to object. It depends on where you start - do you need permission?

My own opinion is that we should preserve - and not just in official collections but in as many gamers hands as possible - everything about our hobby, even if someone objects. Sure its its playing games for the most part, but its important to keep alive. This includes scans of magazines and books and manuals, box art scans, hint books, etc beyond games. Looking into the future, it will include lets play videos, faqs, AVGN skits, etc. Someday many of the youtubers fighting takedown notices will have the tables turned.

The law in the US probably states otherwise, but laws need to consider public good and preservation. Somethings, like many of the licensed property video games, are not on the Flashbacks because of rights issues that seem overly complicated decades later. Even if a rightsholder objects, say Disney with Song of the South or Lucas hating the Star Wars Christmas Special, there is a case that its of historic interest and should be preserved. Games are the same way.

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Stalvern
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby Stalvern » May 29th, 2017, 3:32 pm

There have probably been obscure games released into the public domain, but copyright doesn't expire until at least 70 years after the creator's death.

pacman000
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby pacman000 » May 30th, 2017, 11:56 am

I've wondered this myself. While copyrights generally last 90 years for corporations or the life-of-the author +70 years there are exceptions.

Until the late 70's U.S. copyrights lasted 28 years. They could then be renewed for a further 28 years. After that they fell into the public domain. That's why some movies from the 40's and 50's aren't copyrighted.

Until 1980 computer programs were considered large mathematical equations; ineligible for copyright.

I think there was a period in the late 70's/early 80's where authors had to register their copyrights w/in 5 years to avoid having their works fall into the public domain. Some small publishers might not have done that, so a few obscure games could be in the public domain, but you'd need to do a ton of research to be sure.

Standard Disclaimer: I'M NOT AN ATTORNEY! THIS IS NOT LEAGLE ADVISE! I CAN'T EVEN SPELL LEAGLE! IT"S JUST SOMETHING I FIND INTERESTING! GET AN ATTORNEY WITH EXPERIENCE IN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW IF YOU WANT TO TRY ANYTHING!

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Gentlegamer
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby Gentlegamer » May 30th, 2017, 3:49 pm

The current copyright act is unconstitutional, everything from before 1989 is public domain.

pacman000
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby pacman000 » October 19th, 2017, 6:39 pm

http://www.ballyalley.com/ballyalley/ar ... grams.html

Apparently ICBM Attack and Treasure Cove on the Astrocade were released into the public domain.

GameOfThrones
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby GameOfThrones » October 20th, 2017, 2:16 pm


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Atariboy
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby Atariboy » October 20th, 2017, 9:36 pm

pacman000 wrote:Until the late 70's U.S. copyrights lasted 28 years. They could then be renewed for a further 28 years. After that they fell into the public domain. That's why some movies from the 40's and 50's aren't copyrighted.


So copyrights in vogue before the late 1970's, stayed under the old rules until renewed? I ask since lots of fairly modern material entered the public domain at around 28 years of age, past that time frame you've given.

For instance, CBS erred in renewing copyrights circa 1990 in a timely manner for much of their television work from around 1962/1963. It left season one of The Beverly Hillbillies, around 2/3's of season one of Petticoat Junction, several opening episodes of season 2 of The Dick Van Dyke Show, much of One Step Beyond, and others in the public domain thanks to clerical errors at CBS at the time.

Ironically, it was at a time when cable tv had breathed new life into many classics (and not too terribly long before DVD made home video season releases viable for classic television).

Alucard1191
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby Alucard1191 » October 20th, 2017, 11:48 pm

I think you're talking about Abandonware, and there is a TON of really, really good stuff out there.

Dark Sun, for example, is an extremely early Baldur's Gate style game that you make a party and go forth on an epic quest type of deal. It is an exceptional game for its time, (early 90's) and is very easy to find online and run on dosbox.

Digging through abandonware sites will yield a genuine treasure trove of dos based games for free and completely legal.

pacman000
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Re: Obscure games in the public domain?

Postby pacman000 » October 21st, 2017, 8:59 am

Atariboy wrote:
pacman000 wrote:Until the late 70's U.S. copyrights lasted 28 years. They could then be renewed for a further 28 years. After that they fell into the public domain. That's why some movies from the 40's and 50's aren't copyrighted.


So copyrights in vogue before the late 1970's, stayed under the old rules until renewed? I ask since lots of fairly modern material entered the public domain at around 28 years of age, past that time frame you've given.

For instance, CBS erred in renewing copyrights circa 1990 in a timely manner for much of their television work from around 1962/1963. It left season one of The Beverly Hillbillies, around 2/3's of season one of Petticoat Junction, several opening episodes of season 2 of The Dick Van Dyke Show, much of One Step Beyond, and others in the public domain thanks to clerical errors at CBS at the time.

Ironically, it was at a time when cable tv had breathed new life into many classics (and not too terribly long before DVD made home video season releases viable for classic television).
And that's one of those things you'd have to ask an attorney about.

Alucard1191 wrote:I think you're talking about Abandonware, and there is a TON of really, really good stuff out there.

Dark Sun, for example, is an extremely early Baldur's Gate style game that you make a party and go forth on an epic quest type of deal. It is an exceptional game for its time, (early 90's) and is very easy to find online and run on dosbox.

Digging through abandonware sites will yield a genuine treasure trove of dos based games for free and completely legal.
Strictly speaking, no. Most so-called abandonware is still technically copyrighted, and is illegal to download. There are a few games which were released under freeware licenses; those should be legal.

On a side note, does anyone know why legal isn't spelled leagle? Eagle with an "L" would be pronounced the same....


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