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Wednesday, December 13, 2000
 
On 'Warez' and Abandonware
2:55 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

A guide to Interactive Fiction on About.com has posted a thoughtful editorial on software piracy (also known as 'warez') and the phenomenon of abandonware -- literally games and software that have no parent company and are no longer for sale.


Along with a discussion of software piracy, its effects upon the industry and the many justifications pirates use to explain or defend their actions, there is also a discussion of abandonware. This subdivision of the warez scene is often felt to be on higher moral ground than straight piracy; those who run abandonware sites feel they are preserving the software for users to enjoy who might otherwise never get to use a program that is no longer available through legal means. Here is an excerpt:

Abandonware is a new concept, having gained currency in 1997. In late
1997 the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) and the
Software Publishers Association (which merged with the
Information Industry Association in 1999 to form the SIIA) sent
cease-and-desist letters to a number of the nascent abandonware sites,
which promptly shut down. However, in 1998 a
number of notable sites such as Home of the Underdogs, The Ring of Ages, and TUOL were established; since then,
abandonware sites have spread like wildfire.


Despite the newness of the concept, abandonware is as illegal as warez. Copyright
lasts for 75 years if not renewed; no computer game has yet reached
that magic age. As Peter Beruk pointed out, "If an organization goes
out of business, and it was in the business of developing
commercially-available software, even though that organization may not
be in formal existence, that copyright may have been transferred to a
third party. If that third party wanted to bring infringement action
against an individual, an organization, or anything in between, for
infringing the rights of the copyright owner, they'd be able to do
so."

The abandonware concept is particularly widespread among the emulation community, where many games (such as the arcade machines emulated by MAME) can no longer be played by ordinary means or on the hardware they were designed to run upon.


Read through this well-written article, and then return to share your thoughts on our forum: is abandonware a valid concept? Does preserving a game or program against loss outweigh the crime of breaking the licence agreement and copyright that bound this software to its creators? Will 'warez' and the many justifications behind it ever disappear, or the effect on the industry be minimized -- or will companies be forced into proprietary formats (such as the DVD format used in PS2 systems) to prevent theft of intellectual property?

Warez, Abandonware, and the Software Industry


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