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US Copyright Office grants abandonware rights

Ross Miller

Here's something abandonware enthusiasts can be thankful for: the Library of Congress yesterday approved six exemptions to US copyright. The one most pertinent to gamers is that, for archival purposes, copy protection on software no longer being sold or supported by its copyright holder can be cracked.

What does this mean? Well, those retro games -- classic or otherwise -- that you can't seem to find anywhere can now be preserved without fear of ramifications. Although it is still unlawful to distribute the old games, free or otherwise, rarely do any abandonware cases go to court. The ruling is more symbolic than anything, but a step in the right direction.

Other rulings involved the rights of consumers to crack cell phone software locks for use on other carriers, the rights of educators to make compilations of DVD scenes, and the rights of blind people to use third-party software in order to read copy-protected electronic books. These rulings come as clarifications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All new rules take effect on Monday and last for three years.

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