I. What is Abandonware?

    A. The definition of Abandonware

      Abandonware is defined as any PC/Mac/Amiga/C64/Apple game that is:
      1.At least 3 years old
      2.Not being sold or supported by the company that produced it or by any other company. When a certain piece of Abandonware is later found to be sold or supported by a company, then it ceases to be Abandonware.

    B. Why Abandonware is technically software piracy

    According to U.S. Law and International Treaties, a copyright belongs to the author of a software product for 50 years beyond the life of the author or 75 years after the copyright date if the work is done by a corporation. Before that time expires, nobody (except the author) has the right to copy that piece of software.

    A corporation is defined as an independent entity (like a person) and as an independent entity, it can hold a copyright (like a person). (However, it can't vote like a person)

    Most of the software copyrights out there are held by corporations. (Microsoft, Sierra, Microprose, etc.) Therefore, nobody has the right to copy a software product held by the corporation for 75 years after the copyright date.

    If a person is caught copying a piece of software that has a copyright that he/she does not own, then he/she is found in violation of copyright law and is subject to civil and criminal penalties. The Software Publishing Association (SPA) is an organization whose goal is to find and catch people who violate software copyrights.

    C. Why Abandonware is really not (or should not be) considered piracy

    Let me (Peter Ringering) tell you the history of my computer life.

    I am on my third computer now. When I bought my first computer (an XT), I bought some software with it. Then, a year later, games came out that required a 286. I stretched a little and bought a 286 along with a few more games. However, a couple years after that, games came out on the market that said "Must have a 386 or better." I waited awhile, saved awhile, and finally got a 486 sx33 motherboard with 4 megs of RAM. I had to use my old monitor, mouse, and keyboard. I later bought a 33.6 modem so I could at least get some decent speed out of the Internet. However, now most software titles say, "Must have a Pentium 200 with MMX." I just don't have the money to upgrade to a Pentium to run these new games. In fact, I don't have the money to buy a new computer each year to run the software that is being sold.

    I'm pretty frustrated. Will I have to upgrade my computer every year just to get decent software? Game companies (and other software companies) are no longer selling any software that is compatible with my computer (much less an XT). If they did sell software that would work on my computer, I would be more than happy to pay their price. But they don't.

    I've had a variety of opinions on this subject. Some people say that I can't get copies of old games so I can get the maximum enjoyment out of my computer and so it's my tough luck. I think that is a violation of good, decent justice and could be considered antitrust.

    I mean, wouldn't it be antitrust if oil companies only sold Brand A gasoline but that brand was not compatible with your car? If your car only takes Brand B gasoline and will not run under Brand A gasoline, how are you to obtain gas for your car? The only way is to get a new car that will take Brand A gasoline. Wouldn't that be antitrust?

    The car companies would be getting together with the gas companies and saying, "If you only sell Brand A gasoline and discontinue Brand B gasoline, then we will only sell cars that take Brand A gasoline. That way, the public has to pump out lots of money to upgrade their cars in order to use them. If they try to obtain Brand B gasoline from anyone else, then we will sue because we have a "copyright" (or even a patent) on that gasoline. We will both (car and gas companies) win because the public will have to pay al lot of money to get the latest and greatest cars in order to get to where they need to go and they will also pay for the inflated prices for Brand A gasoline." I know a whole bunch of politicians that would scream "Antitrust!" on that practice.

    That's what I see the computer companies doing. The computer hardware companies only manufacture high-end computers while the software companies only produce software that run on those high-end computers and will no longer sell or support software that runs on lower-end computers. Because the software companies only sell software that runs on the "latest and greatest" computers, both the computer hardware and software companies are unjustly gaining through the increased sale of the "latest and greatest" computers and software.

    Why should a simple copyright keep me from obtaining software for my low-end computer? As long as no other software company is selling the software and the software is at least 5 years old, why shouldn't I be able to obtain it from my next-door neighbor, a local BBS, or a Web Site on the Internet?

    Would you be willing to get rid of your car every year to get one that is "compatible" with the roads? Your old car will give you good service for at least 10 years (give or take). A TV has a useful life of at least 10 years and we only pay $300 for one. However, a computer has a life of maybe 2 years and we have to fork out $1,200 for one (plus hundreds more for software). That's not fair. Computer prices should either come way down so we can afford to upgrade every two years or the software companies should start selling old software to people who have old computers.

    Abandonware is what we call "abandoned software." Abandoned property is defined as "Property that has been discarded by the true owner, who has no intention of claiming title to it. Someone who finds abandoned property, acquires title to it, and such title is good against the whole world, including the original owner." West Business Law 4th edition.

    As far as I'm concerned the software companies have abandoned their old software by not selling or supporting it. Therefore, we as owners of old computers have a moral right to copy it so we can get good use of it.

    That's what the Abandonware Ring is designed to do. It is designed to give software and support to people who have out-of-date computers. Since the software companies won't help us, then we will help ourselves.

    D. Definition of Abandonware / Oldwarez

      Abandonware is software that is either:
      1.More than 3 years old 2.Not still being sold and supported by a company.
      Oldwarez is software that is:
      1.More than 1 year old

    A lot of "Abandonware" sites carry games that are still being sold and supported by a company (Usually a site has Sierra's old games) If you are doing this please do NOT call yourself a Abandonware site. It's confusing to new users.

    E. How something ceases to be Abandonware

    When a game publisher decides to sell or support the old game again.

This is excerpted from the Abandonware F.A.Q. located at http://ring.gamingdepot.com/faq.htm
spiregrain says: I don't see why the definition should include the names of any platforms... by this definition, no ZX Spectrum or Atari ST software can ever be abandonware
I love turning a blind eye to casual piracy as much as the next man, but I feel that I should make a counterargument. The reasoning given by the FAQ author is flawed, and misleading. There is definitely a case for an organised effort to encourage copyright holders to put truly abandoned past work into the public domain, and that could even be stretched so far as to making such software available until asked otherwise. But the FAQ's definition of abandonware is in no way congruent to these goals - it is simply trying to put a veneer of legitimacy on software piracy. Not being able to afford to upgrade your PC doesn't give you carte blanche to rip off games.

"Game companies (and other software companies) are no longer selling any software that is compatible with my computer (much less an XT). If they did sell software that would work on my computer, I would be more than happy to pay their price. But they don't."

This is simply not true. Or rather, it may have been true for a short time window during the hardware generation the author is refering to, but even that is highly doubtful. What the author is actually saying is, some newly released games titles will not run on his PC. Unless Moore's Law took a holiday at some time, there has never been a period when all games software practically commercially available has been beyond the capabilities of a PC that someone would consider broadly suitable for entertainment or work tasks.

"I think that is a violation of good, decent justice and could be considered antitrust."

In the light of the obvious falsehood of the preceding statements, this amounts to nothing more than factually baseless melodrama.

Then follows a lengthy and ill-thought-out analogy which seems to hinge on the belief that when this person bought his computer, all games software publishers signed into a legally binding agreement to supply him in perpetuity with new games software that would run on his machine. As anyone with any computer older than 10 years in their attic will tell you, the real world doesn't work like that. (As for the belief that any politician would take the oil industry to task for antitrust violations...)

"Why should a simple copyright keep me from obtaining software for my low-end computer? As long as no other software company is selling the software and the software is at least 5 years old, why shouldn't I be able to obtain it from my next-door neighbor, a local BBS, or a Web Site on the Internet?"

The answer, of course, is because this is in violation of intellectual property law. Whether one thinks the law is fair or not (or even has their own idea about the length copyright terms should be), it is still the law. These laws exist to protect (within reason) copyright holders, not to protect lazy or stingy people.

The problem with the argument the FAQ writer puts forward is two-fold: Firstly, in the overwhelming majority of cases games software is commercially available for at least five years after its initial publication. Secondly, the placement of a cut-off point where a piece of software can no longer be 'profitable' for the copyright holder is extremely difficult (see for example the porting of many 8-bit and 16-bit era games to the Game Boy Advance, mobile phones and other more recent platforms) but more to the point, irrelevant. Commercial viability has no bearing on the interests of protecting intellectual property. I can't envisage a workable (or desirable) system by which it could be made a factor.

"That's not fair."

No one said you had to buy a PC. Or play video games. Or can't look on eBay.

"Computer prices should either come way down so we can afford to upgrade every two years or the software companies should start selling old software to people who have old computers."

This has largely happened, and in the second case, was already happening at the time the FAQ was written.

"As far as I'm concerned the software companies have abandoned their old software by not selling or supporting it. Therefore, we as owners of old computers have a moral right to copy it so we can get good use of it."

Finally we get to something vaguely reasonable. Although how 'mutually overlooked casual piracy' can be transmuted into a 'moral right' I can't begin to imagine.

"It is designed to give software and support to people who have out-of-date computers. Since the software companies won't help us, then we will help ourselves."

Translation: The author wants to play old games without paying for them. Understandable, but not justified by the arguments given.

The definitions themselves are worse still:

"Abandonware is software that is either:
1.More than 3 years old
2.Not still being sold and supported by a company.

Oldwarez is software that is:
1.More than 1 year old"

Either through the document being outdated, or ignorance on the author's part, the mooted three year figure is completely ludicrous. Today it is virtually unheard of, barring bankrupcy or legal dispute, for any videogame title to be taken off of the market within three years. Indeed, two of the largest-selling PC games franchises (The Sims and Half-Life) are seeded with products going back 4 and 5 years respectively. Even those products that have faired the worst at full price (in which case there will still be plenty of copies in the retail channel...) will be picked up by a budget label. Or let's say the publishers are jealously guarding the rights in the hope of making a sequel. Not a happy situation maybe, but it's not unknown in such circumstances for the publishers to make earlier installments of a series freeware to promote the sequel. (For example: Grand Theft Auto, and Betrayal at Krondor.) Or another case, what if the developers have just stumped up enough money to buy back the rights so they can make money out of the game? If it's all over the internet thanks to 'well-meaning' pirates, they're screwed.

The 'Oldwarez' definition seems to have no justifiable purpose for inclusion short of as an incitement to piracy.

Basically, the document is a product of a bygone era, written by a hothead. Although I don't have figures to judge one way or the other, I would imagine that the net effect of abandonware is pretty harmless to the industry's bottom lines. However using a document as misleading and legally shaky as this to attempt to justify it is irresponsible. I have seen 'abandonware' sites carry more and more recent games under this two-faced protestation of moral righteousness. This is a sure-fire way to completely tar the image of the whole concept, drive a wedge between developers, publishers and the gaming community and give the industry representative organisations (IDSA, ELSPA) an even stronger position.

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