By Matt Welwood / November 5th, 2014
How many of you have a game in your library that can’t be played? I’m willing to bet that most of us have at least one like that. Either through a lack of players or a lack of funds (or some other reason), the servers for most multiplayer games will inevitably be shut down at some point. That’s what the Electronic Frontier Foundation is attempting to do something about. They’ve submitted an official exemption request with the Library of Congress asking that, once a game is no longer supported by its developer, users be allowed to modify it for use on third party servers.
Game servers get shut down all the time. We’ve had a few high profile examples this year with GameSpy shutting its servers in May, affecting dozens of games from multiple publishers including Nintendo and EA. Some fans have worked to get their favourite games back online by setting up their own servers for them but, as the law currently stands, that’s not exactly legal. That’s what the EFF is trying to change with this. Basically, they want to make it legal for people to set up homebrew servers and to alter game code (if necessary) to make defunct titles playable on them.
It’s not just multiplayer games that this will help, though. In the last few years we’ve seen a drastic increase in the number of single player games that require an internet connection to play. Whether it’s through DRM services like Steam, Origin or Uplay, or games like SimCity that, at launch, had always online DRM built in (with disastrous results). Authentication servers cost money, and one day a publisher will decide that it’s not worth it — that the game is past its best before date — and pull the plug. The EFF wants to make sure that when that day comes, we have the legal right to circumvent the coding that made our game obsolete and set up our own servers, or remove the authentication entirely.
If this gets approved, it has the potential to greatly improve the entire gaming scene. It will protect the consumer by giving them back access to the games they legally purchased but have been denied access to. It’ll help keep gaming heritage alive, rather than non-supported games eventually falling into obscurity. Let’s hope the Library of Congress agrees.
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