Although fans have been sharing remakes of classic Ultima IV
since 1997, Electronic Arts -- which has owned the copyright since its purchase of Origin Systems in 1992 -- has recently begun cracking down, and major hosts have begun pulling their direct download links.
A post on fansite Ultima Aiera explains that it removed direct download links
for the game, and that both the Phi Psi Software and Master System 8 remakes have been pulled on receipt of a cease-and-desist letter from EA, noting that many other popular download destinations within the community have taken the same measures.
Origin Systems once released the game, designed by Richard Garriott, for free in the 90s, leading many fans to the misleading impression that Ultima IV
is public domain when in fact EA owns the rights.
The publisher hasn't interfered with public sharing at all since the 1992 acquisition -- so its movements now fuel persistent rumors that an unannounced project believed to be underway at Mythic is a revival of Ultima
. Mythic's Paul Barnett frequently discusses a "secret project
" on Twitter.
According to Aiera, not all freely-available Ultima IV
versions and mods have been taken down -- the move seems to target mainly the two Flash-based ones, and "straight-up remakes" and mods seem largely permissible.