Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Reserved for classic gaming discussions.
User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby scotland » July 26th, 2015, 11:31 am

This is from Family Computing Magazine, Number 1, September 1983. Althoug its issue 1, there is a sort of Ask Me A Question section, and this was the question:
What is the law on copying disks? Almost everyone recommends making backup copies but others say this is a form of piracy. Where is the line drawn?

Paraphrasing the response, the editor responds saying he is not a lawyer but he says if you bought a program you are entitled to a backup copy. Be sure it is only used as a backup, and you should not allow others to copy the program or even if you loan out the original and you use the backup.

I thought this was interesting in that the line for piracy was not drawn at actually bringing forth a new physical copy of the program, but in how the original and new were used. For instance, you could loan out your original, but using the backup was wrong....but what if your friend left town/lost the disk/etc. Could you then use your backup?

If you set the wayback machine to 1983 (the year the great crash came upon us all), programs might come in a variety of media. ROM carts were beyond my capacity to backup, but they were also impervious and along with cockroaches, were thougt to one day inherit the earth. Programs on tape however, and more especially on the floppy disks of the day could be fragile. Magnetic fields could erase the data, heat, repeated use, stretched tape, and the floppy disks were really floppy. We often carried them in hard plastic cases, and probably everyone had damaged them from getting poked or something. We were taught to have backups of all our programs; recall that machines did not have hard drives then. A program you spent money on needed a backup too, but companies were of course uncomfortable with that. Many of us had some sort of disk copy utility, while some companies tried various ways to combat copying. An interesting twist was Infocom and their physical feelies...copy the disk all you like but you migt hit a roadblock without a clue in a feelie. (Something continued up until the Star Tropics letter circa 1990, which made little sense for a ROM cart). Nintendo had some issues with the famicom disk system.

What do you think? Is piracy different if the medium is fragile? Is duplication okay, but the line drawn in how that duplicate is used? I guess there are the legal answers, the moral answers, and the de facto internet age answers.

User avatar
VideoGameCritic
Site Admin
Posts: 13965
Joined: April 1st, 2015, 7:23 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 26th, 2015, 1:57 pm

The lines were really blurry in the early 80's when it came to pirating/copying games. At first it was really easy to copy a floppy disk game; programs were freely available.

Then publishers started employing copy protection so even if you wanted to make a backup, you couldn't. I think some gamers were indignant about this and used it as an excuse to break the codes and copy the games.

Another factor was the idea that floppies were very fragile media that would not last for more than five years. This was wrong. If you take care of a floppy disk and store it in reasonable conditions, it will probably outlast YOU. Looking back it was a silly assumption. How would they know how long a floppy disk could last?

One great thing about the cartridges is that it virtually eliminated piracy. Then when the PS1 became popular there was a resurgence in copying games.

The sad part is, the end result is that publishers today want to remove control of the media from the customer. And they are using the Internet to enforce that.

Sut
Posts: 840
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 4:23 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby Sut » July 26th, 2015, 2:04 pm

Wow this brings back many memories and many topics of discussion when the systems media was floppy or cassette.

One odd thing I remember is that adventure and simulation style games often encouraged you to back up but arcade action games did all they could to prevent it. Not sure why.

I have Gods for the ST and this goes against my statement above but I thought it worth a mention in that it asks (if memory serves) you to back up disk 2. But you must have an original disk 1 to use the back up of disk 2.

User avatar
C64_Critic
Posts: 221
Joined: April 11th, 2015, 11:51 am

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby C64_Critic » July 26th, 2015, 3:30 pm

I have actually seen manuals for some C64 games (I'm sure other systems had these too) where the publisher actually tells you in the instructions to make yourself a copy of the game you just purchased, and use the copy instead of the original. I can't imagine that sort of thing happening today.

User avatar
Gentlegamer
Posts: 525
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 1:01 am

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby Gentlegamer » July 27th, 2015, 12:39 am

C64_Critic wrote:I have actually seen manuals for some C64 games (I'm sure other systems had these too) where the publisher actually tells you in the instructions to make yourself a copy of the game you just purchased, and use the copy instead of the original. I can't imagine that sort of thing happening today.


I remember the same thing. It was commonly part of the set up instructions.

eraserhead
Posts: 17
Joined: April 16th, 2015, 1:45 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby eraserhead » August 7th, 2015, 11:57 am

I think feelies are the best method of protection. They're fun, rather than onerous. Or questions before the program will load, like "What is the fifth word on page 8 of the manual?"

Of course, that wouldn't be very effective today. And publishers seem to dislike anything physical. I suppose a lot of customers do too, but not me.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby scotland » August 9th, 2015, 7:23 pm

C64_Critic wrote:I have actually seen manuals for some C64 games (I'm sure other systems had these too) where the publisher actually tells you in the instructions to make yourself a copy of the game you just purchased, and use the copy instead of the original. I can't imagine that sort of thing happening today.


Reading a book that says about the same. In this case it was not because the magnetic media were fragile, but that users could mistakenly reformat or copy over a program with a line of instruction. It was one of those things everyone does once, followed by Yosemite Sam dialogue. Even a commercial label may not have stopped an accident, since many used both sides or reused old commercial programs as a blank.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby scotland » January 1st, 2016, 10:06 am

Came across something the other day by Ward Shrake advocating it is okay to copy and disseminate for classic systems.

Ward seems to have retired from classic video games and sold his collection a decade ago, but before doing so he built a handful of early multicarts for the Astrocade and Arcadia. He also reviewed the VIC 20 cartridge library with small text reviews. In that list, he wrote this in 1997, still early in the Internet Age:

But more newsworthy is that most of the Vic20's software library is now freely available to anyone with an Internet account. This is thanks to the hard work of a dedicated crew of Digital Archaeologists. (Paul LeBrasse and Ward Shrake did most of the finding and archiving, with occasional help from other retrogamers on the Internet.) We made sure the Vic20 library didn't become extinct. Then I documented it. (Fifty or a hundred years from now, I hope someone is grateful!) And so far, the copyright owners have thanked us for what we've done, too. Much thanks goes to the people who wrote the Vic20 emulators, as well.


The law of the land may see no distinction with archiving and preserving to infringement, but this is an excellent snippet supporting ROMs and emulators. Systems like the VIC 20 would fade away without it.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby scotland » January 28th, 2016, 10:31 pm

Those End User Licensing Agreements (EULA), the ones we routinely click thru online, apparently go back a long way. This is from the 1984 Digital Deli, a large compendium of articles. In an article on piracy (sometimes called cracking then) talking about methods to foil pirates brings up license agreements.

These are the fearsome gray broadsides of legalese often seen scowling out at you from behind the plastic wrapper of software packages. They are a carryover from the days when programs were written mainly for the giant computers of giant corporations. In that context, it makes perfect sense to have a strictly worded document...Enforcement was easy and economically feasible. In the context of programs sold by the thousands and used in the privacy of homes, many authorities dismiss license agreements as out of place and ineffective. Their presence may be bravado, like sticking an alarm system decal on a window of your house without actually installing the alarm system.


The other thing that caught my eye in this mostly anti-piracy article was the recognition that 'try before you buy' for a software program has merit, and that many who pirate software were unlikely ever to be customers anyway.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Early Piracy Theory - Okay to Copy but not Disseminate

Postby scotland » June 26th, 2018, 8:21 am

Came across this snippet in a manual for a game - look at the list of what they say you should and should not do

dontbeapirate.JPG
dontbeapirate.JPG (70.9 KiB) Viewed 775 times


Its the intersection of the normal legally constrained currency based economy meeting the informal barter based social economies.

dontbeapirate2.JPG
dontbeapirate2.JPG (29.97 KiB) Viewed 775 times


What's kinda funny is that this snippet is in a commercial version of the Star Trek Text Game written in BASIC. The game is a version of the original BASIC game that was written around 1971 by MIke Mayfield and friends, and was in no way authorized to use the Star Trek franchise. The game was ported and published here and there, including by David Ahl as Super Star Trek which made it well known. The game required some adjustments to run on a TRS-80, but the basic game was already public domain - yet Lance Miklus claims a copyright based on a set of relatively minor modifications. That would seem pretty debatable - like tuning up a car gives you rights to it.


Return to “Classic Gaming”