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Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:11 pm UTC
by Buddha
Been a while since my last post, but this merited a return from lurkerdom.

Is it ethical download games that are no longer being produced? Clearly downloading a games that haven't been produced in years is not cutting into anyone's profits. And on that subject, should the companies produce and distribute their own obsolete games for download in a manner similar to Steam? Does that happen, and I have just missed it?

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:21 pm UTC
by duckshirt
Masseffectgod wrote:Clearly downloading a games that haven't been produced in years is not cutting into anyone's profits.

Technically, it does cut into profits, albeit indirectly. If people are unable to download an old game, they are more likely to buy a game that is available to be satisfied. So you're still slightly hurting that company, or the overall gaming industry. Still, from a moral perspective, I don't know where to stand... I think if a company doesn't want me to obtain something for free, they should make it available, and game companies don't really seem to do much about the fact that old games are being distributed. I haven't ever actually downloaded 'abandonware' or anything, it's been a long time since I've been into computer gaming, but I don't know where I would stand on it.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 pm UTC
by Vaniver
No links to illegal (or questionably legal) sites, please ~~Falstaff, among other sites, have abandonware games for download. I consider it ethical to illegally procure games when there is not a legal way to procure them.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:41 pm UTC
by TheGrammarBolshevik
Masseffectgod wrote:Clearly downloading a games that haven't been produced in years is not cutting into anyone's profits.

Resellers.

That being said, I don't think it's ethically necessary to maximize other people's profits.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:15 pm UTC
by Buddha
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Masseffectgod wrote:Clearly downloading a games that haven't been produced in years is not cutting into anyone's profits.

Resellers.

That being said, I don't think it's ethically necessary to maximize other people's profits.


Well, not so much ethical as fair. Someone put thousands of dollars, hundreds of manhours, and a lot of creativity into making these games. They deserve to be paid for that.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:30 pm UTC
by Josephine
This only has comparison to the ethics of pirating games the company is actively selling. the seemingly taken for granted fact of that being a bad thing cannot be taken as fact like that.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:57 pm UTC
by Azrael
nbonaparte wrote:The seemingly taken for granted fact of that being a bad thing cannot be taken as fact like that.
I would argue that when speaking of ethics, that is an entirely settled debate. Sure, people constantly try to reopen the debate because they want to pirate, but don't want to feel badly for doing so. But it's still settled.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:23 pm UTC
by The Utilitarian
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Masseffectgod wrote:Clearly downloading a games that haven't been produced in years is not cutting into anyone's profits.

Resellers.

That being said, I don't think it's ethically necessary to maximize other people's profits.

An interesting point. Itseems a solid arguement that you are costing a company money by downloading their game instead of purchasing it from them (your intention was to use their product, after all). I don't, however, think we can extend that ethical conclusion to a situation where you would LIKE to purchase their product, but cannot due to their decision to cease production.
duckshirt wrote:Technically, it does cut into profits, albeit indirectly. If people are unable to download an old game, they are more likely to buy a game that is available to be satisfied. So you're still slightly hurting that company, or the overall gaming industry.

Yes but by your logic if I decide I want to play a game, and discover that it is not available, ANYTHING that I do instead which is not buying another game could be considered unethical, since it diminishes the profits of the game industry.

Frankly speaking, if Company X wants to continue to profit from Game Y, they have a responsibility to continue to produce Game Y for the duration that they wish to profit from it. It seems absurd to say "We understand that you want to play Game Y, but not enough people also want to play it to make it profitable for us to produce Game Y anymore. Now we make Game Z, and if you don't play it instead of Game Y, you're being unethical."

If downloading discontinued and unavailable games is unethical, it needs to be established as such for reasons other than diminishing the profits of the company in question. I don't believe that the stealing metaphor that we use for traditional software priracy functions well enough to make it cover this as well.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:52 am UTC
by stevey_frac
I believe duckshirt was using something along the idea of one game being the economic substitute of the other. You can no longer purchase game 'A', obviously the people who produce games would prefer you to purchase a similar new game 'B', and support the development of future games.

He was not trying to imply that if you decided to buy a soccer ball instead that you were being unethical, and that's really obvious even if he didn't state it explicitly.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:53 am UTC
by dosboot
"Ethical" is vague and subjective. If you are soliciting for personal opinions then I would say it generally isn't too unethical, but it becomes more firmly unethical if the person you've infringed upon is unhappy about it. Do you want to be the judge of the value of someone else's rights? Even when you are the one interfering with them? For purely selfish reasons, as often is the case? To me, these answers are independent of my stance in favor of copyright reform.

Just for the record:

diminishing money making != infringing upon rights
not diminishing money making != not infringing upon rights
someone having copyrights != they are entitled to get money from anyone
someone having copyrights != you are entitled the ability to legally own a copy

Buying a copy is a trade - a mutual agreement. You can't force either party to trade or it wouldn't be mutual. And the rule for when the other side doesn't offer or accept: you can't just take what you want anyway. This applies to both sides, but in particular Copyright is what codifies one half of that rule. This is very basic. I don't like how people say they are entitled to X after plainly contradicting themselves by saying the other person (or company) isn't entitled to Y.

I leave you with this: The reason people including me don't find individual infringements very unethical is because of their generally small significance. Isn't it "okay" enough to think that way instead of trying to justify why it isn't unethical at all?

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:28 am UTC
by Otaku4399
I believe that downloading games that are no longer in production would be ok. How can it be unethical to get a game for free when the company that produced it decided not to, because they didn't think they would make money from it.

In a fast digital world like ours its not hard to get your game out somewhere for sale. You see NES games on the wii, all the time.

It would be wrong for me to steal a game like Chrono trigger or a game like Sword of mana, Because these old games are still being sold and money would be lost if I decided to steal it.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:00 pm UTC
by Token
dosboot wrote:And the rule for when the other side doesn't offer or accept: you can't just take what you want anyway.

This merits challenging. Why not? (I'm going to interpret "can't" to mean "shouldn't", rather than "aren't legally permitted to", as I don't think anyone's debating legality here).

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:45 pm UTC
by Azrael
If you'd like to redefine modern ethics, I'd suggest a new thread. As it stands, that too is fully settled.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:51 pm UTC
by Token
There is a large difference between not being given the offer to trade copiable intellectual property because the seller has deemed it to no longer be commercially viable to continue making such an offer public, and, say, active refusal to trade a uniquely valuable physical item. You can't just create a broad category encompassing both and then claim that the ethics of the former are settled by the ethics of the latter.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:57 pm UTC
by Nem
Masseffectgod wrote:Is it ethical download games that are no longer being produced?


To who? In so far as it matches up with their ethics - whether those be codified into a system or simply a set of moral intuitions that they have - it's ethical to someone; but the same can be said for pretty much everything. It may be theft but at the same time just taking what you want would seem to be a large part of our economy. God knows I wouldn't pay for some fat lazy person's third burger of the day, or for banks to drag themselves along a bit further if I didn't have to. Yet just taking my money and using it for those ends seems to jibe just fine with some modern ethical intuitions. It's really a matter of what systems/intuitions you're selecting for - the perspective of the observer - whether a thing matches up with their ethics and thus is 'ethical' or not.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:10 pm UTC
by Azrael
Existing western society, and consistency to and within those norms. Which should be fairly obvious, honestly.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:52 pm UTC
by General_Norris
Ethics is the rational study of human behaviour so as to maximise human happiness.

Since it's rational, I doubt there are several conflicting ethics out there. At least all but one must be wrong.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:40 pm UTC
by Azrael
General_Norris wrote:Ethics is the rational study of human behaviour so as to maximise human happiness.

... since when?

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:06 pm UTC
by Nem
Azrael wrote:Existing western society, and consistency to and within those norms. Which should be fairly obvious, honestly.


A general set of norms to cover a whole society has to account for the different aims of individuals if it's going to remain consistent. People say it's wrong to take from others but they then turn around and support taking money from their fellows to support social programs. The professed norms say one thing - respect for property and all that sort of stuff - and then when someone's back is turned; or you're in a large enough group not to have to fear their vengeance; and really want the thing, take it as quickly as possible.

Which reading of the norms can then be plugged into a general framework - say adjusting the ethical value of things against the strength of a particular desire vs the risk of some sort of vengeance - and then used to justify anything on the strength of desire. Is it wrong to steal games that aren't being sold anymore? Well maybe not if you really want the thing and think you can get away with it.

Or the general explanation of norms might be a utility calculation - is it wrong to steal, well if you get more happiness out of it than the unhappiness you inflict no; justify taxes/computer game theft/whatever that way.

I don't think social norms are consistent enough; or well researched enough since there's a danger of invoking a silent majority that doesn't exist; to take what most people claim to be in favour of and then apply that back to the individual as a way of working out whether a particular thing is ethical or not.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:21 pm UTC
by guenther
I agree that in theory ethics are about utility. But when people ask "Is this ethical" in some vague way without describing any sort of standard or metric, I suspect it really means "Should I feel bad when I do this?. That's what Az said earlier.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:28 pm UTC
by Azrael
To play the "but ethics are entirely subjective to each individual" card is to invalidate the discussion, so I figure there's no need to be purposefully obtuse in that way. If you don't want to discuss broad-stroke ethical values that are held by populations larger than 1, you can't meaningfully participate in this sort of discussion. Which isn't to say you can't feel that way, but if you do, you can also excuse yourself from the discussion.

I also disagree that ethic is a function only of utility, mostly because morality is not a function only of utility either.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:39 pm UTC
by General_Norris
Azrael wrote:... since when?


Since it existed. What is it then? Yes, happiness is not perhaps the best word for it but "the best behaviour" fits. I don't think your think that "ethics" as part of Philosophy is not based on rationality.

And I very much doubt you think rationality is subjective. Logic can't be subjective, by definition.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:54 pm UTC
by Nem
Azrael wrote:To play the "but ethics are entirely subjective to each individual" card is to invalidate the discussion, so I figure there's no need to be purposefully obtuse in that way. If you don't want to discuss broad-stroke ethical values that are held by populations larger than 1, you can't meaningfully participate in this sort of discussion. Which isn't to say you can't feel that way, but if you do, you can also excuse yourself from the discussion.


No I take your point; I played the "let's derive a consistent rule to explain things" card. What people say isn't consistent with their actions so that doesn't work as an explanation - actions seem to be a better place to derive their ethics from. We can come up with a general rule that explains both; the positive ethics I mentioned in my last being just two possibilities.

An egoist viewpoint based on the observation that the consistent aspect of social action is that people say one thing and then do whatever helps them get what they want; that anything is ethically good to pursue if you want it enough as long as you act so as to escape the negative consequences seems to fit the situation nicely.

I don't think very many people entertain virtue based ideas of right and wrong anymore - it's always wrong to lie regardless of the consequences - that line of thinking but yeah, if this is that sort of debate I'm in the wrong place.

Azrael wrote:I also disagree that ethic is a function only of utility, mostly because morality is not a function only of utility either.


Whatever it is a function of the fitness of a given thing for that function will be its utility.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:16 pm UTC
by The Utilitarian
General_Norris wrote:Ethics is the rational study of human behaviour so as to maximise human happiness.

Since it's rational, I doubt there are several conflicting ethics out there. At least all but one must be wrong.

You've essentially equated all of ethics with utilitarianism. There are PLENTY of conflicting ethical systems, many of which have nothing to do with maximizing human happiness. Kantians would argue that ethics is about following a set of undeniable maxims in orde to prevent the degredation of the fabric of society.

ethics is an attempt to answer the question "What should a person do?", either applied to specific or general situations, in this case, "Should a person download games that are no longer available for purchase, when he desires to, and why?"

If we want to look at this from a strictly Utilitarian perspective, since there is no option to ensure your happiness (by recieving the game you wish to play) and the industry's happiness (by purchasing a product from them), as there is in the case of a commercially available game situation, it should be ethically sound to download the game in question, since it increases your happiness, and does not effect the happiness of the game company.

There is certainly room for other interpretation of the situation from other ethical systems, however.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:25 am UTC
by BlackSails
Not to mention, rational people can disagree.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:13 am UTC
by Krong
What determines if a game is "old" or "abandoned"?

I'm pretty sure that no video game copyright has expired yet in the United States, so someone owns it still. If you can't explicitly get that person/company's consent to copy their product, they still have a right to (even through inaction) restrict you from copying it. As has been pointed out, there's been a lot of re-releasing going on, so there is potential to harm the owner.

If you're trying to make ethical decisions, don't make them based on assumptions about the other person's intentions. There's really no harm in going to the game's Wikipedia page, figuring out the owner, and sending them an e-mail. If you get a reply, you've got your ethical problem resolved fairly simply. If not, well, there's plenty of other games out there.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:22 am UTC
by BlackSails
Krong wrote:What determines if a game is "old" or "abandoned"?


If the company no longer sells or provides support for a game.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:34 am UTC
by The Utilitarian
Krong wrote:What determines if a game is "old" or "abandoned"?

The rest of the thread has been using the operational defintion of "abandoned" game to mean one that is no longer in production or supported. Now yes, the company in question still has a copyright on the intellectual property of the game in question, but the thread was created for he explicit purpose of discussing whether one has ethical grounds to violate that law.

No one is discussing whether downloading "abandoned" games is legal.

Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms. That a game company MAY decide to re-release a game in the future does not seem to me a sufficient reason for the conclusion against downloading the game in the meantime.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:54 am UTC
by Krong
The Utilitarian wrote:
Krong wrote:What determines if a game is "old" or "abandoned"?

The rest of the thread has been using the operational defintion of "abandoned" game to mean one that is no longer in production or supported. Now yes, the company in question still has a copyright on the intellectual property of the game in question, but the thread was created for he explicit purpose of discussing whether one has ethical grounds to violate that law.

My question wasn't meant to be restating the obvious, but more of asking why sales and support -- the operational definition going on in the thread -- is an ethical definition of "abandoned". If it's always ethical to pirate software, then it's clearly ethical in this situation, but if it's not always ethical, where does the cut-off point lie? I'm not sure there is one other than what copyright laws, or the owner's explicit permission, dictate. You can say it's less wrong, as the owner is able to make less selling the game as time goes on, but that's in your ethical framework and not necessarily in theirs.

Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms.

Say I download Monkey Island, and a year later I find an identical remake on Steam. Was my action ethically correct at the time, but then becomes ethically wrong later?

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:14 am UTC
by The Utilitarian
Krong wrote:Say I download Monkey Island, and a year later I find an identical remake on Steam. Was my action ethically correct at the time, but then becomes ethically wrong later?

Ethical actions are temporally contextual. The action is always looked at within the context that it was commited: the game was not available at the time, thus it was an ethically supported action. Once the game is re-released, the action becomes unethical if you were to commit it again, but that does not somehow retroactively make the action in the past unethical.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:48 am UTC
by SecondTalon
The Utilitarian wrote:
Krong wrote:What determines if a game is "old" or "abandoned"?

The rest of the thread has been using the operational defintion of "abandoned" game to mean one that is no longer in production or supported. Now yes, the company in question still has a copyright on the intellectual property of the game in question, but the thread was created for he explicit purpose of discussing whether one has ethical grounds to violate that law.

No one is discussing whether downloading "abandoned" games is legal.

Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms. That a game company MAY decide to re-release a game in the future does not seem to me a sufficient reason for the conclusion against downloading the game in the meantime.
What about cases where the game company went under, and assets were sold to other companies/people in order to settle debts.. and the companies who got the copyrights don't particularly care - ie a construction company that gets the royalties for Spanky Foxworth in The Mystic Realms, a game that hasn't generated a check in over 20 years and is completely off their radar to the point where no one in the company realizes they even own the copyright or a company went out of business because the owners lost interest (ie the company was essentially a couple of people in a garage somewhere who all got real jobs and don't have an interest in continuing the Video Game Company)?

I mean, legally someone owns the copyright, but then it becomes a case of the copyright only being as good as someone challenging the distribution of the material, right?

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:51 am UTC
by folkhero
The Utilitarian wrote:Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms. That a game company MAY decide to re-release a game in the future does not seem to me a sufficient reason for the conclusion against downloading the game in the meantime.

I think if we have an expectation that they will re-release the game in the not-too-distant future (for an obvious example, the company says they will re-release the game soon), then it would become immoral to pirate the games based on that expectation. Just because I can't legally watch Toy Story 3 today, doesn't mean that it's morally acceptable for me to get a bootleg, because I expect Disney to release the movie at some point and try to get some money out of it.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:25 am UTC
by Krong
SecondTalon wrote:What about cases where the game company went under, and assets were sold to other companies/people in order to settle debts.. and the companies who got the copyrights don't particularly care - ie a construction company that gets the royalties for Spanky Foxworth in The Mystic Realms, a game that hasn't generated a check in over 20 years and is completely off their radar to the point where no one in the company realizes they even own the copyright or a company went out of business because the owners lost interest (ie the company was essentially a couple of people in a garage somewhere who all got real jobs and don't have an interest in continuing the Video Game Company)?

There's still a copyright owner, even if they don't care or know about it. Write them and see if they're retaining the copyright.

I guess I am pretty much arguing that following copyright law here is the ethical thing to do. When a person publishes a game, they are putting their copyable property into the public with the understanding that they will still have control of how others access the property. The game's creator is trusting society to follow their rules, as all the creator can really do to enforce the rules is use DRM or rely on the government to assist with enforcement. I think at some level that when you say "pirating abandonware is OK", you're saying that violating that trust is fine if it's hard to be caught, or the impact is low, or it's hard to follow the rules.

The other main point here I'm making here is that there's no obvious point at which pirating old software becomes ethically OK if pirating new software is not. If availability is the only measure, do I get to start pirating XBLA games the next time XBox Live has maintenance? What makes a wait of 20 minutes objectively different from a wait of 20 years?

(By the way, I realize I'm taking a very hard line here, but the question is strictly whether it's ethical, and not whether it's a big deal or not.)

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:34 am UTC
by folkhero
Krong wrote:There's still a copyright owner, even if they don't care or know about it. Write them and see if they're retaining the copyright.

I guess I am pretty much arguing that following copyright law here is the ethical thing to do. When a person publishes a game, they are putting their copyable property into the public with the understanding that they will still have control of how others access the property. The game's creator is trusting society to follow their rules, as all the creator can really do to enforce the rules is use DRM or rely on the government to assist with enforcement. I think at some level that when you say "pirating abandonware is OK", you're saying that violating that trust is fine if it's hard to be caught, or the impact is low, or it's hard to follow the rules.

The other main point here I'm making here is that there's no obvious point at which pirating old software becomes ethically OK if pirating new software is not. If availability is the only measure, do I get to start pirating XBLA games the next time XBox Live has maintenance? What makes a wait of 20 minutes objectively different from a wait of 20 years?

(By the way, I realize I'm taking a very hard line here, but the question is strictly whether it's ethical, and not whether it's a big deal or not.)

Why do you have an expectation that abandonware will be re-released in 20 years, or indeed ever? While it's difficult to decide where the deciding line is between an ethical and unethical waiting time, that doesn't mean there isn't a categorical difference between 20 minutes and 20 years. As an example, if you are 45 seconds late for a date it's a categorically different situation from being 45 minutes late for the date, but the actual deciding line is not at all clear.

Copyright and intellectual property rights aren't anything naturally endowed by our creator, or by the fact that we are sapient beings deserving of dignity or any shit like that. They exist because of their utility to society by protecting creators and increasing the incentives to create more content. The reason that this is a positive to society is because the more content available, the better. At the point at which these rights don't promote the creation of content and actively reduces the content available to society, they become harmful instead of helpful and we have no moral duty to respect them.

Pirating a game that isn't available in store, but that the company is still paying for servers for or is otherwise doing maintenance for, isn't something I would consider abandonware and I would find it unethical to pirate a game in that situation.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:18 pm UTC
by masakatsu
U.S. courts have found that downloading abandonware is legal if the vendor does not exercise their copyright, the lack of defense being shown as an example of abandonment - a concept of trademark law. There is some confusion though and not well tested in court.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:09 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
folkhero wrote:Why do you have an expectation that abandonware will be re-released in 20 years, or indeed ever?
The Ultima Collection, released in 1997, had games on it dating back to 1979-1981 (depending on how you're calculating the release of Akalabeth) which is close to your 20 year date. Might and Magic had several anthologies, the one in 1998 releasing the first six, which run between 1986 and 1998.

Yes, I understand I'm talking about a limited phenomenon in the computer gaming world, but I've purchased several collection discs released by the publisher that have games ranging from a few to ten years ago, and sometimes more. Granted, these collections are usually cheap, in the $10-20 range. Point being, Battlefield 1942 was released in 2002, or 8 years ago. Four of the games on the Might and Magic anthology I mentioned were within that 8 year range of the release date.

The Computer Gaming Industry as a whole is older than 20 years, sure.. but not by much. When it started, it was more of a freaky niche market, not the financial powerhouse it is today. It's become a completely reasonable assumption that a gaming company, if they develop a series, would release an anthology pack in order to boost their coffers when needing a little financial injection. So... assuming the company is still around and/or purchased by EA or Vivindi or some other megahouse, I do find it reasonable that they will release anthology packs of older titles if there is enough interest.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:19 pm UTC
by Buddha
folkhero wrote:
The Utilitarian wrote:Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms. That a game company MAY decide to re-release a game in the future does not seem to me a sufficient reason for the conclusion against downloading the game in the meantime.

I think if we have an expectation that they will re-release the game in the not-too-distant future (for an obvious example, the company says they will re-release the game soon), then it would become immoral to pirate the games based on that expectation. Just because I can't legally watch Toy Story 3 today, doesn't mean that it's morally acceptable for me to get a bootleg, because I expect Disney to release the movie at some point and try to get some money out of it.


Your analogy is invalid. Disney guarantees that it will re-release all of its work, within a period of seven years.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:55 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
Masseffectgod wrote:
folkhero wrote:
The Utilitarian wrote:Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms. That a game company MAY decide to re-release a game in the future does not seem to me a sufficient reason for the conclusion against downloading the game in the meantime.

I think if we have an expectation that they will re-release the game in the not-too-distant future (for an obvious example, the company says they will re-release the game soon), then it would become immoral to pirate the games based on that expectation. Just because I can't legally watch Toy Story 3 today, doesn't mean that it's morally acceptable for me to get a bootleg, because I expect Disney to release the movie at some point and try to get some money out of it.


Your analogy is invalid. Disney guarantees that it will re-release all of its work, within a period of seven years.
Then replace it in your head with a better analogy of some movie that is no longer being produced on a viewable format with it's copyright held by a company that has no real intention of rereleasing it instead of dicking around over semantics.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:39 pm UTC
by folkhero
Masseffectgod wrote:
folkhero wrote:
The Utilitarian wrote:Furthermore, if a game company decides to re-release an old title, then we merely revert back to the previously established ethical paradigms. That a game company MAY decide to re-release a game in the future does not seem to me a sufficient reason for the conclusion against downloading the game in the meantime.

I think if we have an expectation that they will re-release the game in the not-too-distant future (for an obvious example, the company says they will re-release the game soon), then it would become immoral to pirate the games based on that expectation. Just because I can't legally watch Toy Story 3 today, doesn't mean that it's morally acceptable for me to get a bootleg, because I expect Disney to release the movie at some point and try to get some money out of it.


Your analogy is invalid. Disney guarantees that it will re-release all of its work, within a period of seven years.

I don't think that invalidates my analogy, Disney's guarantee would be part of the reason I expect Toy Story 3 to be released, along with seeing a giant poster for the movie at my local theatre. Who knows, tomorrow Disney might come under new management who decides that Toy Story 3 is a sucky movie that dilutes the entire brand, and decide not to release it in any form. Since Toy Story 3 hasn't been released for the first time yet, I don't think the guarantee actually comes into play, and even if it did, I don't know if it could actually be legally binding.

Re: Old games and ethics.

Posted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:36 am UTC
by Krong
masakatsu wrote:U.S. courts have found that downloading abandonware is legal if the vendor does not exercise their copyright, the lack of defense being shown as an example of abandonment - a concept of trademark law. There is some confusion though and not well tested in court.

That would settle it for me, then, with the caveat that if the law is unclear, one should err on the side of not copying the property. If there's formal rules that two sides of a transaction expect each other to follow, then to break the rules unilaterally would generally seem to be unethical. If the rules are not entirely formalized, the "ethically safe" thing to do is to follow the action that benefits the other rather than that benefits myself.

As an aside, I'm curious about both the ethics and the legality of pirating a game like Limbo of the Lost. I'm guessing it doesn't make a difference -- if a screenshot from Oblivion is illegally inserted into the game, it doesn't then become legal for me to access the screenshot through a pirated copy of Limbo of the Lost, even if the copyrights on LotL are in many ways invalid.