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Toontown Online 'homage' illustrates emulator quandary

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Disney's Toontown Online was shut down last year, but that hasn't kept fans from working on a so-called "homage" to the game.

A team of 24 or so volunteer developers have been working on making Toontown Rewritten with publicly available images and their own skills as programmers and artists. While the team isn't charging players to access the title, its status as a de facto emulator could put it in jeopardy with the Mouse House. Disney hasn't commented on it yet, but copyright attorney Scott Landsbaum noted the quandary that such projects face: "When does a fan homage that is beneficial to your brand cross the line to infringement that can no longer happen?"

Analyst Michael Pachter claimed that it was "unusual" for fans to take on such emulator projects, which was rebutted by Raph Koster, who tweeted, "Sorry Pachter, but hasn't EVERY shuttered MMO (and some open ones) been remade by fans?"

A similar project for the also-defunct Pirates of the Caribbean Online claims that Disney has given the emulator its blessing.

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