Abandonware

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Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:04 pm UTC

I have a feeling that this has already been posted, but I couldn't immediately find it. If it is, feel free to delete this thread.

Anyways: if a piece of software is no longer being sold, is it okay to pirate it? Is it still okay to pirate it if one can buy it off of previous owners via amazon or ebay?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Pineapple Sam » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:47 pm UTC

Nope.

Just because the only way to get something is by pirating doesn't mean it's okay to do so. Sure you could argue that no-one is making a loss (although that doesn't include effecting the resale value), but since you lose nothing by not acquiring the game then you have no ground to stand on.

Abandonware in an excuse, not a justification.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:51 pm UTC

If nobody is hurt, if there are no lost sales etc., then why is pirating abandonware bad?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Jplus » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:53 pm UTC

Because the owners of the intellectual property are likely to think that they are hurt by your pirating.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:59 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:Because the owners of the intellectual property are likely to think that they are hurt by your pirating.

I don't care if they think they're hurt, I care if they are: are they?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Greyarcher » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:02 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:Because the owners of the intellectual property are likely to think that they are hurt by your pirating.
But they may be mistaken. So I'm not sure that's a good point. The question, as Sourmilk raises, is "do they actually suffer a loss?" Because mistakenly thinking that one is hurt by an act doesn't obviously make the act a bad thing.

After all, one has made a mistake.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:07 pm UTC

What software are you referring to? I can't imagine a piece of software that literally no one has the rights to.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:08 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:What software are you referring to? I can't imagine a piece of software that literally no one has the rights to.

Abandonware isn't necessarily software nobody owns the rights to, it's software nobody is selling. I recently downloaded SimAnt because, having been made in '91, nobody is selling it anymore.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Brickmack » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:25 pm UTC

This is one of the big problems I see with copyright laws. I can see people not wanting people giving away stuff they are selling (I don't necessarily like it, but I can see that it's a bit more reasonable) but I think if nobody is making any money, and thus not losing money, then they shouldn't be able to tell anyone whether or not they can make copies. Unfortunately the law doesn't seem to agree...
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:05 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:What software are you referring to? I can't imagine a piece of software that literally no one has the rights to.

Abandonware isn't necessarily software nobody owns the rights to, it's software nobody is selling. I recently downloaded SimAnt because, having been made in '91, nobody is selling it anymore.

Ah, I see what you're asking, I didn't understand.
I would say it's fine. If a company isn't actively making an effort to garner the couple of bucks they'd earn selling older products, and those products are more or less ubiquitously available without any efforts to limit their trafficking, then I'd say the company has decided it's fine for you to download. If you feel guilty about it, send a check to Maxis for a couple bucks for the entertainment.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Pineapple Sam » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:20 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:If nobody is hurt, if there are no lost sales etc., then why is pirating abandonware bad?


Resale value, or the company could expect you to purchase their more recent products. If I go an download a game by company X that they've abandoned then I'm not paying to play their more recent game.

Or, rephrase it this way... if no-one is hurt by you NOT downloading the game, then how can you justify pirating it?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:23 pm UTC

Pineapple Sam wrote:Or, rephrase it this way... if no-one is hurt by you NOT downloading the game, then how can you justify pirating it?

Because nobody is hurt by me downloading it. The choice to download abandonware is morally neutral. Also, while I think it's obvious that the pirating of a not-abandonware piece of software is a lost sale (at least in some of those cases, people were likely to have bought the software legitimately if they didn't pirate it), I really don't see downloading abandonware as a lost sale. If anything, it helps the company by advertising some older products that people otherwise wouldn't have access to. The fact that I downloaded SimAnt has no bearing on whether or not I'll decide to buy Spore.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Aaeriele » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:19 am UTC

Pineapple Sam wrote:Or, rephrase it this way... if no-one is hurt by you NOT downloading the game, then how can you justify pirating it?


If no one is hurt by you not having an awesome party, then how can you justify throwing awesome parties?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby mmmcannibalism » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:31 am UTC

If you believe intellectual property should be protected, the question is why. If you believe it should be protected to keep profitable and incentivize the development of ip; then what is wrong would be things undermining that profitability. If a company isn't trying to make a profit from something, I think it is fine to pirate it as long as you are not intentionally waiting to pirate things after they are abandoned.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:31 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:I have a feeling that this has already been posted, but I couldn't immediately find it. If it is, feel free to delete this thread.

Anyways: if a piece of software is no longer being sold, is it okay to pirate it? Is it still okay to pirate it if one can buy it off of previous owners via amazon or ebay?


I don't see that the previous ownership issue makes any difference. If you're selling something on EBay, the copyright holder isn't making any money. It's a private sale between two individuals. In the United States, at least, first sale doctrine basically kicks in for this and you're in the clear--much like how, if I buy a painting from an artist, and then turn around and sell it, the new owner isn't required to pay the artist as well (my understanding is that this may not always be the case in Europe, depending on the product and on the country...)

Personally, I don't see anything morally wrong with abandonware. To my mind, this is exactly how works getting put in the public domain ought to function--once the copyright holder is no longer making an effort to profit from the copyright, the work should be moved, relatively quickly, into the public domain. While certainly not true of all cases, there is a great deal of software out there where the company who made it has long since gone out of business, and the rights to that particular piece of software are often left in a weird limbo where the software is still copyrighted, but nobody has a clue who holds the rights to it.

You can expect copyrighted software to start hitting the public domain sometime around the year 2100, btw.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:33 am UTC

Hah, yeah. Well, if the copyright isn't held by anybody then nobody has any recourse, making it effectively legal.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Qaanol » Mon Oct 24, 2011 5:44 am UTC

Downloading abandonware is illegal in the United States. This is a bad law, and we should work to change it. The solution I recommend is to limit copyright protection terms to a short duration, such as 10 or 20 years. I will explain my reasons for this:

First of all, in the act of downloading software no human injured, and no one is deprived of property. There are, in fact, no actual moral issues with it. The ethics of software downloading fall primarily in the realm of economics and societal benefit.

Consider economic benefit. We may presume a person who wants the software will benefit in some form from using it. Therefore it is economically preferable that everyone who wants the software be able to obtain it, since . Suppose that someone is selling the software. The exchange of money to buy the software is essentially neutral. An amount of money has the same value no matter who owns it, so transferring it does not inherently create value. Therefore the total simple economic benefit of selling software is constant regardless of the price, and equals exactly the benefit derived from the use of the software by the purchaser. As a result, we see that there is no direct economic harm caused by stealing software.

So we are on to the issue of societal benefit. The relevant issue in this case is how much total benefit is extracted from software by its users. The two factors contributing to this are (i) How many people are using the software, and (ii) How much new software is being developed.

The latter is relevant because we may presume that new software provides even greater benefit to users than existing does. The former point is clearly maximized by having all software available for free, as that would enable everyone who wants a piece of software to use it. Unfortunately such a policy would impinge on new software development, as it would not be a profitable undertaking. This general argument shows the need for some term of protection, and the temporary-monopoly system serves that purpose.

However, suppose the term of exclusivity lasts a long time, for example perhaps 75 years after the death of the creator of the work in question. Now the holder of the copyright can make money by selling copies, for a long time provided people still want to use the software. This means that the creator of the software, being the initial copyright holder, has no incentive to create new and better software, since the already-existing software is still making money. Now the rate of production of new software actually diminishes, which detracts from society as a whole.

This tells us that the duration of copyright exclusivity can negatively impact the creation of works if that duration is either too short or too long. There is a sweet spot in the range where it is long enough for the creator of a work to profit from it, and short enough that the creator still wants to make more works. Those constraints arise solely from the societal benefit of incentivizing new creations.

Within the range between long-enough-to-profit and short-enough-to-incentivize, the actual term of copyright protection should be biased toward the shorter end of the scale. That is because of the additional benefit derived by consumers using the product. Since the cost deters people from buying the software, more people use it when it becomes free, and therefore more total benefit will be realized. To make that occur sooner rather than later will serve to maximize the benefit to software consumers as well as society as a whole.

Software creators themselves will still retain their monopolistic opportunity to profit for the copyright duration. Their benefit is essentially unchanged, except insofar as a slight benefit to them was causing substantial cumulative detriment to society and the public at large. My proposal is to rectify that systemic inefficiency by reducing copyright durations appropriately.

I propose the term of copyright protection should last 10 years, and if the owner files for extension, then another 10, but no more. That way software that is abandoned will enter the public domain a decade after publication, and software that is not abandoned will do so after two decades. This is fair to software authors as well as end users, and brings with it the positive externality of higher incentive to write new, better software, thereby benefitting society as a whole.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 7:12 am UTC

You're not arguing for piracy of abandonware, you think piracy is okay in general, which is an untenable position.

Qaanol wrote:As a result, we see that there is no direct economic harm caused by stealing software.

Sure there is. The person who made the software loses a sale, and is not financially compensated for his work, despite the fact that people are using it, and that he did not give people permission to use it without paying him.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Pineapple Sam » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:01 am UTC

Aaeriele wrote:
Pineapple Sam wrote:Or, rephrase it this way... if no-one is hurt by you NOT downloading the game, then how can you justify pirating it?


If no one is hurt by you not having an awesome party, then how can you justify throwing awesome parties?


I was attempting to use that as an argument to counter "No-one is hurt by downloading the game, so it's okay to download it". That works for parties too, but then you way other things like profits made by the companies you purchase party supplies/ingredients/entertainment from and the enjoyment of your attendants against personal cost and the effect that the noise might have on your neighbours.

So far the argument appears to be:
-It's not hurting anyone, so it's right (but it's not hurting anyone to not do it either)
-There's no way to purchase it legally (which is quite close to "I can't afford this so I'll acquire it for free")

It's a bit weird. I think downloading abandonware games are wrong, but if I can't find an alternative then I'd pirate it. Which is a little hypocritical, but there you go. Pre-emptive ad hominem link just in case.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:05 am UTC

You're a total hypo-
Pre-emptive ad hominem link just in case.

dammit.

I don't see how "I can't afford this" is equivalent to "it is impossibile for anybody to buy this."
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Qaanol » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:10 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:You're not arguing for piracy of abandonware,

Correct, I am arguing for changing the law.

sourmìlk wrote:you think piracy is okay in general, which is an untenable position.

Incorrect. I think that the legal duration of exclusivity for copyrights should be much shorter than it is.

sourmìlk wrote:
Qaanol wrote:As a result, we see that there is no direct economic harm caused by stealing software.

Sure there is. The person who made the software loses a sale, and is not financially compensated for his work, despite the fact that people are using it, and that he did not give people permission to use it without paying him.

The key word there is “direct”. The person who made the software does not *lose* anything as a direct result of the sale, or lack of sale. He or she has every possession he or she already had before you downloaded the software. “A sale” is something he or she *never had*, and thus could not possibly lose. Let me make this abundantly clear: A lack of gain does not equal a loss.

Furthermore, the idea of a “lost sale” is greatly abused these days. As I understand things, almost all unauthorized software downloads are done by people who, if the free download were not available, would not have bought the paid version anyway. For example, suppose a certain piece of software is priced at $10. If it is only worth $5 to person P, then P will not buy it. If a download is available, P might download it though. That is not a lost sale, because P was not going to buy it for $10.

What does the software maker gain or lose when P decides whether to download it or not download it? Nothing. P was never going to buy it, so there’s not even a “potential future sale” on the line. What does P gain by deciding to download it? The use of the software. Now take the view of an omniscient observer. If P downloads it, the software maker gets nothing and P gets the software. If P does not download it, the software maker *still* gets nothing and now P does not get the software.

When faced with that choice, it becomes a lot harder to argue “P should not get the software”, because all other things are equal and the only question is whether P gets the software. That is to say, no one else gains or loses anything, and the choice is between having P gain something or not gain anything.

Spoiler:
Suppose I write a piece of software. Suppose that if you were able to use that software, it would be worth X dollars to you.

Case 1: You pay me $10 for it.
My gain = $10
Your gain = $X - $10
——————————
Total gain = (My gain) + (Your gain) = ($10) + ($X - $10) = $X

Case 2: You download it without paying
My gain = $0
Your gain = $X - $0
——————————
Total gain = (My gain) + (Your gain) = ($0) + ($X - $0) = $X

Case 3: You do not obtain the software
My gain = $0
Your gain = $0
——————————
Total gain = (My gain) + (Your gain) = ($0) + ($0) = $0

In every case, my gain is non-negative. I do not lose anything, regardless of whether you buy it or download it or skip it entirely.


The “thing” that the author loses, insomuch as anything, is “a monopoly”. And ceteris paribus, the loss of a monopoly is a good thing, because it allows the so-called “invisible hand of the market” to effect the free market equilibrium, thereby maximizing total utility.

Monopolies are almost always bad, and the only time a monopoly can be good is in the presence of externalities. In this case, there are externalities, namely the incentive to create new software. The reason why the author should be compensated for his or her work, is to incentivize authorship. We are all better off if people are writing software that people want, so we collectively want software authors to get paid for their work. As such, a monopoly is desirable.

Am I making this clear? A priori, there should not be any monopolies, and the government should bust up or heavily regulate any monopolies that spring up. The argument “there should not be a monopoly on <xyz>” doesn’t even need to be made, it’s the default assumption. It is the other side, the argument, “there should be a monopoly on <xyz>” that needs to be heavily supported and justified. If the argument in favor of monopoly is not rock solid, there should not be a monopoly.

In this particular case, the argument is not for just any old monopoly, but specifically for a monopoly that infringes the freedoms of speech and of the press. That is what a copyright means: everyone except the copyright hold, has their freedoms of speech and of the press limited, as they are no longer permitted to reproduce the work.

In order to limit someone’s freedom of speech requires yet another rock-solid, compelling reason. And here, that reason does exist, in my opinion. I am arguing in favor of copyright protections. I am saying that there should be a monopoly, and also that there should be limits on speech and the press. Yet I am strongly opposed to monopolies, and strongly in favor of free speech and free press. Something convinced me that in the realm of creative works, it is sometimes okay to not only allow, but to actively enforce an inefficient market and the restriction of constitutional rights.

That “something” is the greater good. We are all better off when the creation of quality works is rewarded, because that leads to more such works being created, but we are only better off to the extent that those quality works are disseminated among the people who want them. Therefore, to maximize the greater good, we must ensure that the artificial monopoly of copyright protection expires in a timely fashion. That way authors have incentive to keep writing, and their works get a wider audience than could afford them at monopoly prices. Limiting the term of copyrights also provides benefit in the sense of decreasing restrictions on freedoms of speech and the press.

The very existence of copyright protection requires substantial justification. I provided that justification, and simultaneously demonstrated that the very justification itself leads naturally to the conclusion that the duration of exclusivity should be limited, certainly to a length much shorter than a human lifetime.

You want to know what you should do given the laws that we have? Whether you should download a specific piece of software? That is a personal choice. You can weigh the expected benefit of the software to you, against the possibility of being punished if you are caught. The same sort of calculation one might do before breaking any rule. In this case, the likelihood of getting caught is rather low, and the potential punishment is probably not very harsh. But what I really recommend and encourage you to do, is spread the word about how badly out copyright system needs an overhaul, and work to change the laws for the better.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 10:01 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:monopoly

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Anyways, your math and arguments fail to take into considering two things. First, that the developer worked on the software and thus deserves to be compensated for his work. If somebody decides to benefit him without compensating him because that's easier, the developer has done work for no payoff. Second, if the developer owns the property, then it is and should be his right to give it to whoever he damn well please, for any reason at all.

Total gain doesn't matter. I don't know why you'd think it would. If I steal something then the net gain is $0, that doesn't mean stealing is okay. To do your math again, let me show you how the vendor's gain is negative:
Spoiler:
x = value of product
y = value of work divided by potential sales. Should be less than x assuming the vendor can price properly

Case 1: you pay me 10 for it
My gain = 10 - y
Your gain = x - 10
Total gain = (my gain) + (your gain) = (10 - y) + (x - 10) = x - y

Case 2: you pirate it
My gain = -y
Your gain: x
total gain = (my gain) + (your gain) = (-y) + (x) = x - y

Case 3: you do not purchase or download
My gain = 0 (you wouldn't have counted as a potential sale)
your gain: 0
total gain = 0

Note, though, that total gain doesn't actually matter, for reasons articulated above.


As you can see, the developer's gain is negative when you pirate it. It is not free for the developer to create software, and a potential customer has no right to deny the developer of his compensation.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Pineapple Sam » Mon Oct 24, 2011 10:14 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:I don't see how "I can't afford this" is equivalent to "it is impossibile for anybody to buy this."


"I could buy fallout 3 from an online distribution platform (such as steam) but I don't have enough spare cash to purchase it so I'll download it."

Compared to:

"I could hunt down owners of SimAnt and offer to purchase a copy from them, while checking auction sites and similar to see if it turns up. I could also contact the company that produced the game and ask if they would sell me a software license if I were too acquire the program on my own, but I don't have the free time or funds to do that, so I'll just download it."

Sure the second one takes a lot more effort to pull off, but that's where I'm drawing my parallel.

Qaanol wrote:That is not a lost sale, because P was not going to buy it for $10.


...at which point the other people get a little miffed about being forced to pay for something that P gets for free?

That being said I do agree with what you're saying elsewhere in your message, and copyright could certainly do with an overhaul. The idea of copyright protection is important, but its implementation has been found wanting.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 10:24 am UTC

Pineapple Sam wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:I don't see how "I can't afford this" is equivalent to "it is impossibile for anybody to buy this."


"I could buy fallout 3 from an online distribution platform (such as steam) but I don't have enough spare cash to purchase it so I'll download it."

Compared to:

"I could hunt down owners of SimAnt and offer to purchase a copy from them, while checking auction sites and similar to see if it turns up. I could also contact the company that produced the game and ask if they would sell me a software license if I were too acquire the program on my own, but I don't have the free time or funds to do that, so I'll just download it."

Sure the second one takes a lot more effort to pull off, but that's where I'm drawing my parallel.

I can very easily purchase the program from other owners, but why should I? Unlike the developer, they do not have a right to profit off the use of the program. Also, I think it's a fair assumption to make that the company no longer wishes to sell licenses: if it wanted to sell licenses without manufacturing costs, it could offer (for example) a downloadable version.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Minerva » Mon Oct 24, 2011 10:52 am UTC

When people make creative media works (eg. computer games), I can understand that after a few years it's simply not worth manufacturing new CDs and packing them up in boxes and shipping them out to the shop.

Essentially nobody is going to buy a copy of SimFarm or Doom or whatever today, therefore the publishers cannot justify doing it because there is no way they would make any significant return on their costs associated with publishing and selling copies of the game.

However, I think game publishers (the same is true for very old movies and TV shows etc.) should sell all these old games through internet-based services like Steam.

If you distribute through Steam, the cost of selling and distributing the game is negligible, so the publishers have got little to lose, and if you put all those retro games online for $5 or $10 a piece or whatever, some people will legitimately buy them. You're providing those customers a reasonable, legitimate alternative where the only option, otherwise, is piracy.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:02 am UTC

I agree that, if vendors want to sell old software they should make it available for download. The fact that they aren't selling it anywhere indicates that they don't want people to purchase it.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Aiea » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:08 am UTC

If say Game version 1 wasn't being sold anywhere, but Game version 3 is, by downloading game version 1, you could be considered to contributing to a loss of a sale on game version 3 which is avaliable for purchase even if game version 1 isn't.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:10 am UTC

Aiea wrote:If say Game version 1 wasn't being sold anywhere, but Game version 3 is, by downloading game version 1, you could be considered to contributing to a loss of a sale on game version 3 which is avaliable for purchase even if game version 1 isn't.


I don't buy that. I really don't think that purchase game version 1 makes me less likely to buy game version 3. If anything, it makes me more likely to do so.

Anyways, I don't think a sequel was ever made for SimAnt.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:12 am UTC

What am I supposed to do if the game was essentially banned in my country?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Zamfir » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:14 am UTC

Minerva wrote:If you distribute through Steam, the cost of selling and distributing the game is negligible,

I don't think this is necessarily true. Someone still has to spend a little bit of time to figure out how to make deal with Steam and how their system works, upload a working version, do a quick test. That runs easily to several hours, say a few hundred dollars worth of time to the company. Odds are, most programs will never recoup even that small cost. It has to be a hobby by someone who wants to do this, who also happens to be connected to the rights holders.

That might work out different if they do a whole catalogue in one go, but lots of rights-holders won't have a large catalogue. Many rights holders might not even be aware they hold a right at all, if the right passed though a few mergers or bankruptcy sales.

And there's a problem of "advertising". Even when there's a few hundred people out there willing to pay 5 dollar for your old program, they have to know that they can. They might not be looking on Steam, or wherever else you put it, unless you put in a bit of effort to make it findable, make it show up in Google for example.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Soralin » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:43 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Minerva wrote:If you distribute through Steam, the cost of selling and distributing the game is negligible,

I don't think this is necessarily true. Someone still has to spend a little bit of time to figure out how to make deal with Steam and how their system works, upload a working version, do a quick test. That runs easily to several hours, say a few hundred dollars worth of time to the company. Odds are, most programs will never recoup even that small cost. It has to be a hobby by someone who wants to do this, who also happens to be connected to the rights holders.

That might work out different if they do a whole catalogue in one go, but lots of rights-holders won't have a large catalogue. Many rights holders might not even be aware they hold a right at all, if the right passed though a few mergers or bankruptcy sales.

And there's a problem of "advertising". Even when there's a few hundred people out there willing to pay 5 dollar for your old program, they have to know that they can. They might not be looking on Steam, or wherever else you put it, unless you put in a bit of effort to make it findable, make it show up in Google for example.

Well, there is Good Old Games, http://www.gog.com/ Which has been doing a pretty good job filling that niche. They've made deals with a number of different publishers, taking old games, making sure they run on modern operating systems, through emulation or patches or such, if necessary, and selling them on their site.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Zamfir » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:01 pm UTC

Sure, if a company wants to it can be done of course, at little effort. It's just that there goes non-neglible employee time into realizing that a company actually has old games that are not for sale, that it wants to publish them on the web (for free or money), that there are places suitable for that, checking out the creds of those places, getting it to work. Not a lot of time, but for most games it still will be more time than will ever be recouped in new sales.

SimAnt is misleading in that respect. It's a game lots of people still know about, from a series that still exists and still has considerable marketing value. I am sure someone has discussed publishing it as a download, for free to get kudos or for a little profit even. And then they consciously decided not to, for whatever reason.

But for most games ever made,there's no one even thinking about that choice, and just thinking about it might cost more money than it will ever earn. The same is true for lots of things with copyright on them.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Azrael » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:12 pm UTC

Many titles that are not currently being published are a purposeful part of a company's marketing strategy, rather than truly "abandoned". They roll out the new version and eventually stop supporting the old -- typically because the new platform is going to make the company more money (high price, lower cost, larger appeal etc.).

While you (the specific individual) might not even buy the new product, you (the consumer market) certainly does. Shutting off the old tap definitely migrates people towards the new one. Given that software is a good produced by a company, it's rather difficult to suggest that you have some claim on something they don't want to sell you.

That being said, it hardly warrants a blip on my ethical meter.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:22 pm UTC

Aiea wrote:If say Game version 1 wasn't being sold anywhere, but Game version 3 is, by downloading game version 1, you could be considered to contributing to a
loss of a sale on game version 3 which is avaliable for purchase even if game version 1 isn't.


To me, this argument would be just like Warner Brothers saying "We're not going to sell copies of Casablanca anymore because we want people to go and see Horrible Bosses instead." From their perspective, it's certainly true that they'd rather people see Horrible Bosses than Casablanca, but that doesn't mean that those movies are even remotely equivalent as far as the audience is concerned. Just because something is newer does not necessarily mean that it is better.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby Danny Uncanny7 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:25 pm UTC

From the intellectual property holder's point of view, they may be jeopardizing their legal footing if they don't pursue copyright infringers. Sure Sim Ant might not be profitable to them now, but maybe next year Hollywood decides to make a 200 million dollar movie based on Sim Ant (Battleship anybody?). Now if the copyright owners had been lax and basically let go of their intellectual property, they might have a harder time proving in court that they actually should receive royalties for this movie.

Also, on the topic of the cost of piracy. The loss is not only the sale to those who "might" have purchased the product. The loss is also in perceived value. If everyone knows that something can be had by other people for 0$, the perceived value drops, and the price that someone would buy a legal copy will drop versus what it would be if there was only one source for a product. Knowing that any schlub on the street can have something for free would make me think twice about paying $100 for it, even if I was morally opposed to downloading it. This might influence more people to scoff at the HMS price of a cd and wait for a sale, or simply move into the limbo between purchasing legally because it's too expensive, but still morally set against downloading because it's wrong.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby JudeMorrigan » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:30 pm UTC

Soralin wrote:Well, there is Good Old Games, http://www.gog.com/ Which has been doing a pretty good job filling that niche. They've made deals with a number of different publishers, taking old games, making sure they run on modern operating systems, through emulation or patches or such, if necessary, and selling them on their site.

Right. If you'd asked me about abandonware five years ago, I would probably have been pretty emphatic in my opinion that it may not be technically legal to download, but that I didn't consider there to be any moral issues with the practice. These days though, between sites like GoG and even Steam, it's becoming increasingly easier to find old classics available for sale. I still wouldn't exactly describe it as a major sin, but I could understand where someone might argue that the "better" thing to do might be to let sites like GoG know that there'd be a market for a particular game and hope that it becomes available.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:09 pm UTC

Yeah.. software gets abandoned because.. among other reasons.. it was created for an Operating System that was "valid" two versions ago. Game X may have moved 1,000,000 units and have current players that warrant the company patching it to the latest OS. Game Y moved 80,000 units and does not have a way to track how popular it is other than web traffic, but seeing as it came out ten years ago...who cares anymore?

It's not sold because modern machines can't run it. Modern machines can't run it because they did not patch it for compatibility (assuming that's even possible). They didn't patch it because it was relevant ten years ago. Because they didn't patch it, they aren't selling it currently.

Now, will they?

Let's use the case of SimAnt. It's a Sim-game, obviously, released in 1991. I'm not 100% sure on the date of the Sim 3-in-1 pack release (SimFarm, SimAnt, SimCity) but I'm going to assume it was more or less around the time of SimCity 2000. There was also the SimMania pack that did not include SimAnt... but I bring that up to point out a thing.

Currently, Maxis is owned by EA. EA has, in the past, been prone to taking a lot of their old IP, slapping it all on a CD and selling it for $20 or so. They did it with a lot of the Sim games, they did it with the entire Ultima series, and so on.

It's entirely possible that if they decide to re-try the Sim-line .. that is, make more than just The Sims and maybe SimCity 7 or whatever number they're up to... they might release a $20 DVD of the SimClassics like.. SimFarm, SimAnt and so on, all ready for Win7, OS X or.. fuck, I dunno.. Windows Tuba and OS-i2 or whatever they call the contemporary primary operating systems. Maybe they'll even include *nix versions (ha!).

Under current laws, seeing as it's been about 20 years.. they're still well within their legal ownership of it and still have the capacity to use it to their advantage.

So.. is it right to download a game that they might sell at some point in the future, but are not selling currently and to get a copy you have to buy it from Amazon or something and hope to crap it's a working copy? No, it's not right.

Is anyone going to think less of you if you do it anyway? Nope.



Of course, that's a case where the chain of ownership can be clearly drawn. By the late 80s even, Video Game manufacturing had become a business like any other, and clear ownership was legally stated and then transferred via mergers and suchlike. Far more interesting are the garage games from the late 70s and early 80s that do not have clear legal owners, with either multiple people claiming ownership or.. more likely.. the actual legal owner having no idea they even own it. Just to make shit up to illustrate what I mean -
Spoiler:
Let's say Dan's Software was founded by Dan and his wife Sherry in 1975, and they made database utilities to sell to local small businesses and made goofy little games on the side which included the Demonslayer series. The Hibiscus bakery really liked their database software and what Dan and Sherry did with it, giving them so much business that Dan hired Carl and Steve as employees to work the Hibiscus account full time. In 1982, at age 45, Dan suffered a stroke and was no longer able to program. Sherry did not have much interest in continuing Dan's Software without him, and sold the company and it's assets to Hibiscus software, Carl and Steve transfering to Hibiscus's new Software Development Department.

Hibiscus Bakery now owns the Demonslayer series.

Hibiscus Bakery hasn't the foggiest notion that they own it. Or maybe they do.. in 1982, when they bought Dan's Software. In 1992, they have no idea.


Those, with no clear legal owner and no one claiming they own it? They're.. actually okay to download, due to the way copyright law works. No one fights it, so the owner must not care, apparently.

So there's actually a peculiar window there at the beginning of computer gaming, where even though copyright laws say all this stuff should be protected, it's not because there's no one defending their claim on it.

And yeah, this entire discussion is why I don't want to see any Abandonware in High Culture. Too damn murky.
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Re: Abandonware

Postby sourmìlk » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:09 pm UTC

I agree that it's sort of fuzzy, legally, but whatever the reasons for the company discontinuing sales, if the company isn't selling it then it should be morally okay if I pirate it
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Re: Abandonware

Postby aoeu » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:24 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:I agree that it's sort of fuzzy, legally, but whatever the reasons for the company discontinuing sales, if the company isn't selling it then it should be morally okay if I pirate it

So would you say it's immoral to create software people can be blocked from using?
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Re: Abandonware

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:40 pm UTC

aoeu wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:I agree that it's sort of fuzzy, legally, but whatever the reasons for the company discontinuing sales, if the company isn't selling it then it should be morally okay if I pirate it

So would you say it's immoral to create software people can be blocked from using?
If pirating software is morally neutral, it does not necessarily follow that it is therefore immoral to stop you from pirating software.
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