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The Library of Congress just made game preservation a little bit easier

The Library of Congress just made game preservation a little bit easier

October 26, 2018 | By Chris Kerr

October 26, 2018 | By Chris Kerr
More: Console/PC, Programming, Design

The Library of Congress has passed a new ruling that makes preserving video games a little bit easier. 

As highlighted by Motherboard, the Library of Congress has agreed to "adopt exemptions to the provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that prohibits the circumvention of technological measures controlling access to copyrighted works."

In short, that means it's now easier for video game historians to circumvent the DMCA in the pursuit of preserving and sharing culturally relevant video games. 

"The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code," reads an excerpt from the 85-page document

"She concluded that in such circumstances, the preservation activities described by proponents are likely to be fair uses. She further found that proponents demonstrated that such uses would be adversely affected by the statutory prohibition absent an exemption.

"The record indicated that an exemption would enable future scholarship by enabling researchers to experience games as they were originally played and thereby better understand their design or construction."

The Acting Register granted the above exemptions after deciding they were unlikely to harm the video game market in any way, and while it's good news overall, there are some notable downsides. 

For starters, archivists and museums will still have to legally acquire the original game and server code, which might be a tall order depending on the title in question. The exceptions also don't apply to "affiliate archivists," so private citizens won't be able to lend a hand. 

What's more, any "eligible library, archive, or museum" that actually managed to get an online game up and running again won't be able to grant public access from outside of its physical premises. So, anyone who wants to take those games for a spin will actually have to visit the relevant institution in person. 

Finally, the DMCA exemptions also won't apply to server code that's been recreated or emulated, putting another hurdle in front of those organizations hoping to breathe life back into defunct multiplayer titles. 

For now then, it's a notable step in the right direction, but one that also highlights the variety of challenges still standing in the way of game preservationists.

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