Abandonware and buying WC titles online...can we clarify once and for all?

Discussion in 'General Wing Commander Chat' started by -danr-, Dec 27, 2010.

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  1. -danr-

    -danr- Commodore

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    I want to talk about a taboo, and hopefully get some clarity on the lawful ownership and procurement of Wing Commander titles.

    Here's how I understand the legalities, I'm not saying these are correct, and if they're not, I hope to be corrected for the sake of the community.

    Buying used online

    Obviously from most outlets, this is legal - basically all Wing Commander games are available used on sites such as Amazon, eBay and other secondhand auction websites. This is usually the safest way to legally buy a Wing Commander title. Some other sources offer legal downloads of Wing Commander material - such as the WC4 PSP download from EA, and of course Arena for Xbox Live.

    "Abandonware" sites

    These sites tend to offer games classified as 'abandonware' based seemingly upon their age and as I've read before they do so on the (often shoddy) justification that copyright or ownership rights have expired, and the games can't be obtained through purchase elsewhere. I understand that downloading Wing Commander games from such sites is illegal due to EA's continued rights ownership of the entire series. Therefore, Wing Commander games should never be obtained in such a way.

    If you have to pay for your Abandonware, it doesn't necessarily make it legal. I note that MOSW offers Wing Commander Privateer, and KS for download, but you have to pay to use that Abandonware site - I don't want to write libelous material by accusing this of being illegal, but I would avoid downloading from this source...and if it IS an illegal copy, how outrageous that they're redistributing it at profit!

    Peer-to-Peer file sharing and Torrent downloads

    I believe are simply just illegal. Such flagrant piracy is frowned upon in the community, and I'm pleased to see that wingnuts who admit to downloading pirate copies of WC games find little or no assistance or sympathy here at the CIC.

    Making backup copies of your own legally-bought WC material for your own personal use

    Here I'm totally unfamiliar with the legalities, it possibly varies by region, but I'm of the understanding that this is in some cases legal - can anybody clarify this? I seem to recall certain circumstances (whereby you dont share the copied material with anybody else) that making backup copies for personal use is acceptable.

    Free Wing Commander releases

    If you're broke, and like me you hate piracy and abandonware - you can get hold of plenty of Wing Commander gaming experience absolutely free and legal. Below is a list of links to Wing Commander games avaialble online at no cost, most of such titles are fanmade - but hey, how how cool that the CIC hosts original Wing Commander!

    - Wing Commander 1
    - Wing Commander 1 Secret Missions
    - Wing Commander Unknown Enemy (Fan made)
    - Wing Commander Standoff (Fan made)
    - Wing Commander Secret Ops Originally released by Origin as a free download, now hosted on the Standoff site.


    EDIT: Never noticed that SO1 and SO2 for Wing Commander 2 are hosted at the CIC as well. Can't deny, we're very very lucky that our favourite game has a community and source such as this one.
  2. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation! Staff Member

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    I think you're pretty much correct all around.

    There really isn't such a thing as "abandonware", with very, very rare exceptions. 99.9999% of the sites offering "abandonware" (paid or free) are just plain pirating software. There are a couple of special cases where companies have given away classic games as free downloads, but almost never to "abandon" them. For example, Origin released the PC version of Ultima IV as a free download years ago... but it was to promote the Ultima Collection, not to acknowledge that they didn't own Ultima anymore. (EA has done the same thing with several C&C games in recent years.)

    In any case, when that happens you can find these games at legitiate sites like Gamespot rather than on popup ridden Russian warez servers. (And the copyrights on games created in the 1990s will not run out until we are very old men--and there's no 'Sierra didn't make Space Quest 7 yet, so I can have the old ones for free!' law.)

    That's right. At present EA isn't selling classic games online--so anywhere claiming to sell you Privateer is just stealing from both EA and you. Note that a lot of other companies *are* starting to sell classic games online... which sort of disproves the old software pirate claim that these games should be free because the rights holders will never profit from them again. When it happens, though, it's always through legitimate services like Steam.

    (EA is *getting there*--in fact they briefly did offer Wing Commander and others through GameTap a few years ago before their license expired... it's just a matter of getting the tech in place to run the games and licensing them to a service. I would expect to see classic EA stuff appear on Steam and through EA Direct in the coming months.)

    Backing up software you own is just fine. Now, you can't back up your software and then sell the originals to someone else... but making copies of something you own for your own use is completely normal.

    One thing that really bugs me is that you can get completely legal copies of most of the games for a few dollars through places like eBay... and folks here are always happy to help someone do that. I know we have a big case of OEM WC2 CDs that we've been giving out for years to anyone who really wants the game but can't afford it... it's just a matter of putting in a little effort instead of going for a torrent.

    So--good on you for trying to understand. I hate that we've gotten to a point where it isn't obvious that people don't have an automatic right to have video games for free... but it isn't your fault, it's society.

    And let me say--our stance on piracy is a big part of the reason we get to do so many cool things that would earn other sites cease and desist letters. Our good relationship with EA is why you get stuff like Academy episodes, mountains of old documentation and even 'abandonware' when it really matters (like when End Run was completely unavailable and we were able to post an ebook)... and why we get a say in the release when they *do* go back to rerelease Wing Commander games.
    L.I.F. likes this.
  3. Wedge009

    Wedge009 Rogue Leader

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    Thanks for the well-written, thorough posts on this topic. I've always felt that with so many of the anti-piracy measures in use in games, it's the legitimate consumer that has to suffer with the inconveniences. That applies to things other than games, too - if piracy wasn't so flagrantly offensive to the legitimate copyright holders, perhaps this wouldn't be so much of an issue? No point in dwelling on what-ifs, I suppose - we have to make do with what we have.
  4. Farbourne

    Farbourne Commodore

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    I have friends in the games industry (not to the extent that LOAF and some of the others here do, though), and according to them, software piracy is one of the biggest reasons why development of games for PC's has flagged compared to games for consoles.

    According to my friend, the average new console game is hacked and pirated on a timescale of a couple of months...so a big name release generally has that long to make big profits, and then continues to make profits after that (because piracy of console games is simply not as widespread, at present, as PC piracy).

    The average new PC game is hacked and pirated on a timescale of hours to days. Apparently, one recent PC release (my friend didn't say which one), was lauded by the industry for having very good anti-piracy protection because it lasted 2 weeks before ending up on bitTorrent. A few games (like StarCraft, and MMORPG's) are relatively immune to this, because their basic setup requires membership to hosted servers, so piracy can be cut back there, but stand alone games are going extinct on the PC, in part, because of piracy.

    So next time someone complains that games like Arena were only released for XBoxLive and not PC, and so it's not a "real" WC game, blame the pirates and bitTorrent, among others.

    The other thing I would bring up is your question about making a backup copy for your own use. This is legal in the U.S., under the "fair use" clause of the DMCA, but I"m not 100% sure it's legal in all countries. Some European countries in particular have different laws regarding "fair use", but I don't live in Europe and don't know the details (just that, in my Law classes, they warned us not to take any kind of international copyright law for granted, but to find out the regional specifics). Even Canada has very different "fair use" laws than the U.S., less strict in some respects and more in others, so you do have to be careful.
  5. Private_Maestro

    Private_Maestro Spaceman

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    Console games are pirated before they are even officially released and the protection is usually cracked within a day or two. This goes for Xbox, PS3, PC, Mac, Steam, Wii, handheld consoles and even phones. :/
  6. ChrisReid

    ChrisReid Super Soaker Collector / Administrator Staff Member

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    That's true, but the point that the barrier to entry is much higher is still true. Whereas "anybody" can download a bittorrent, extract it, run the crack and play, it's way more cumbersome to do this on a console. How do you get the data to the machine? And how do you get the machine to read the hacked content? Do you need to mod it? Will your piracy get detected and get your system blacklisted from XBL/PSN? It's so much more of a hassle, so you have thousands of people pirating Xbox games compared with millions of PC.

    And to the original post, piracy is a small part of the business decision on where to make your game. The fact is that the market is geared towards consoles. In the last 12 years, look at how the inventory at GameStop/Best Buy/etc has gone from 10% console & 90% PC to the opposite share. And this mirrors what people are buying. I haven't bought a new PC game in six or seven years. I have a fancy desktop pc with 8 gigs of ram and dual 24" monitors, but I can't imagine going into my office to play a video game. If I want to play something, I'll sit in my recliner chair in front of my 60" tv in the center of my theater surround sound system. I only use my PC for work and CIC updates anymore. I'm posting this from my iPhone.
  7. Private_Maestro

    Private_Maestro Spaceman

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    True dat, true dat. The learning curve to crack a PC game is drag an executable and replace the original. Whereas a console involves a heck of a lot more research.

    I also have to agree that the way I game nowadays has changed; I don't want to sit down on my laptop or PC and play a game, with it's cumbersome keyboard/mouse(trackpad!) setup. I prefer to sit down in front of a TV and play on the Xbox and when on the go I have my Windows Phone...

    I don't think Wing Commander, in the classic sense rather than Arena, would suit gamepads... I have the PlayStation versions of 3 & 4 but it didn't feel quite right. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a new WC game released with a Xbox/PS/Wii joystick included? I think that would be a hit... :)
  8. Dundradal

    Dundradal Frog Blast the Vent Core! Staff Member

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    I actually still do a fair amount of PC gaming, but mostly of classic games or a few strategy games, so I can agree with the shifting game platforms sentiment.

    As for piracy, it drives me insane when someone comes here and says "I LUV WC CAN U HAZ HELP ME PALY!" then you explain to them what to do only to have them download the game from some site and claim "but itz abandonwarez! me no pirate!" (See the thread from the other day....ugh) The CIC has done an amazing job of fostering a positive relationship with EA whereas I've seen other community sites for other games where they are exactly what LOAF spoke about above. (There's one in particular I'm thinking of that actually had a front page poll asking who owned the specific game...the copyright holders or the fans because they had continued to mod it....the comments attached to it were sad to read and probably one reason that fanbase is dying...)
  9. Bob McDob

    Bob McDob Better Health Through Less Flavor Staff Member

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    ...Special Operations 1 and 2, Secret Ops episodes 2 through 8, Wing Commander Kilrathi Saga.... :)
  10. Blaster

    Blaster Commodore

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    Definitely not sneaking up behind you...really
    That reminds me. In this thread http://www.crius.net/zone/showthread.php?p=355039#post355039 you said you were going to try to upload higher quality versions of the Academy episodes. Is that something you’re still planning on doing or did you have to give up on it for some reason?
  11. cff

    cff Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi

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    Personally there are three things that always bother me with console games: 1st is compatibility. Will I still be able to play my PS1 game in 5 years (when my hardware finally breaks)? For PCs with Dosbox this isn't a problem. 2nd is input device. I really really like to pick my joystick and reassign buttons as I like them, not as the game designer liked them. 3rd impossible to run your own code on the machine to mod stuff, run trainers,...
  12. Farbourne

    Farbourne Commodore

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    Terminology question: I know that the CIC has authorization to offer for free download the PC Gamer release of WC1 (so in a sense, WC1 at least can be downloaded for free right here). However, the CIC is very careful to specify that it is *NOT* freeware.

    Please clarify the definition of "freeware" and why the CIC-hosted version of WC1 is not. I'm not being argumentative or snarky...I really want to know. Is EA allowing this because they want a specific distribution point for this game so they can track interest, or do they just want to make sure that legally they don't set a precedent for giving away the WC copyright material, and that they could stop the downloads at any time, rather than letting it go viral all over the web?
  13. -danr-

    -danr- Commodore

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    Heh, never thought of that.

    Thanks. Any idea if there's word on these releases including WC titles?

    That's exactly right, I think the problem is deep-rooted due to the PC's ability to easily pirate and in the past manipulate/crack software with relative ease in comparison to the requirements to pirate console games as mentioned above. Torrents really are bad news for those wanting gaming companies to consider PC a viable platform market.

    That thread made me create this one.

    <<-- Promotion Edit: Captain is my favourite rank. WC2 has warped me.
  14. Red Baron

    Red Baron Commodore

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    On a sidenote, i'd really be interested how the amount of printed copies of Kilrathi Saga compares to the number of people requesting technical support for it.
    I know i waited ages till i got my copy on Ebay and still paid an exorbitant (from my point of view) price. Maybe i'm a little vain there, but somehow i doubt every "how doez i use compability mode ~~~z"-idiot went through that.

    Freeware can be distributed freely, whereas you can't just take the PC Gamer/CIC version and put it on your own website. That's how i see it at least.
  15. Kyle Maverick

    Kyle Maverick Captain

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    Farbourne, Freeware is stuff like the first episodes of Wolfenstien 3D and the original Doom (those are the biggest two I can think of, Commander Keen and the first Duke Nukem were the same), you get the full game for those episodes but have to pay for the rest of the episodes, and you can share the first eps legally with anyone you like. It's not something used much these days to my knowledge.

    So Muz, Wing Commander 1 will never become freeware, as it was never released as freeware.
  16. Chaosbringer

    Chaosbringer Commodore

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    I might be wrong, but i believe that what your saying is "shareware", not "freeware".
  17. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation! Staff Member

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    If you're looking for the Muz trolling stuff, I moved it to his original thread and reopened this one because I thought I had a bit to add.

    This is still in the works, just not a priority with a limited schedule. I finished the raw digital conversions of the tapes so they're as preserved as they can be... so it's just a matter of finding the time to do the editing, encoding and uploading.

    This all seems fairly disingenuous; emulators being developed for previous generations of consoles was the norm well before DOSBox arrived to solve any of our problems. In fact, the comparative ease of emulating consoles is why we have the Wing Commander re-releases we've seen in the past few years--with Wing Commander and The Secret Missions running on an SNES emulator on the PSP and Wing Commander IV running on a PSOne emulator on the PS3/PSP.

    (And of course the PSOne is an especially bad example of such a problem, since Sony maintains compatibility on their modern hardware... I can play my Wing Commander IV discs on a Playstation, Playstation 2 or Playstation 3... or I can set up an emulator on my computer.)

    That's a fair question--none of this is legal terminology so it's likely confusing.

    The first issue is that EVERY SINGLE TIME we post anything cool on the front page I get an inbox full of obnoxious e-mails from German gaming magazine editors who want it for their cover disc... and so my disclaimer was largely because I really, really hate those e-mails. It's mostly common sense that apparently this one specific group of people absolutely do not understand--WCNews.com has no right to Wing Commander and can't give you the ability to redistribute anything. (And when I tell them this it's 'well who do I contact at EA do get permission?'--which would be great if our support from EA were to promote something instead of just folks we've worked with in the past continuing to be kind to us.)

    You should treat it like the original PC Gamer deal--just because PC Gamer is giving the game away doesn't mean it's now freeware/shareware/whateverware that can be posted anywhere on the internet. They worked out the deal with EA that let them do it and it didn't apply to anyone else. That's all, basically. (I use freeware in the early 1990s sense--it brings to mind things like Skifree that anyone could pass around as they like.)

    I'm sorry to say that there is no download tracking on EA's part--although EA and others do ask us for data points with some regularity, usually when there's a particular project being discussed/pitched. They'll want traffic numbers or overall bandwidth or number of CZ registrations or so on.

    We (well, Pete) spent a very frantic week a while back getting Wing Commander I and II working with a DOSBox launcher for EA to release... and it's been 'hurry up and wait' ever since then.
  18. -danr-

    -danr- Commodore

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    Thanks for the relaunch, I was afraid this topic would end up being locked, piracy is a touchy subject but at least the thread will kinda stand as a message to all about the community's stance on this material. Abandonware is a taboo, when a pirate comes in here and starts questioning why his bad software isn't working, well it's kinda like bringing up the subject of weed smoking to discuss with your parents.
  19. boringnickname

    boringnickname Ensign

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    Speaking of abandonware and EA:

    On the frontpage of Abandonia.com you can read this: (scroll down)

    Today we have special news for you: Crusader - No Remorse is no longer protected! New Year is coming up, but you don't feel like playing Christmas games, but some mind-blowing action games? Then this is a right choice for you. No need to take it easy against world oppressors, so hit them hard.

    No longer protected?

    What do they mean by that? One thing for sure, they don't mean copy protection. Since the download is only active after they posted that message. Before that there was a description of the game but no download link.

    Has some legal situation changed for that game? Does it apply to Wing Commander too, since both are from EA?
  20. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation! Staff Member

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    Either we all overslept and it's September 1, 2090 or--and this is really out there--a company whose entire business model is stealing things is lying to you.
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