Multiple organizations (including individual gamers) are requesting the U.S. copyright office to update the DMCA’s (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) anti-circumvention provisions to include games that are DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected and or need a server to function during the public commenting stage taking place.
The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) wrote to the copyright office stating that to preserve games like Minecraft into the next century exemptions to the DMCA should be made to continue the preservation of video games.
During the last update to the DMCA provisions, the copyright office made it legal for museum and archivers to preserve online games that function over Local Area Network (LAN).
These exemptions, as MADE has stated, are not enough because a vast majority of online games no longer support LAN, and are required to connect to servers.
This proposal naturally extends the Current Exemption to address technological change. Preservation of networked multiplayer games was contemplated by the Current Exemption, which allows for preservation of multiplayer games that may be played through a local-area network. At the time, the Register of Copyrights noted that “continued access and use of video games, including multiplayer play, is still possible using locally connected devices.” Today, however, local multiplayer options are increasingly rare, and many games no longer support LAN- connected multiplayer capability. Instead, “[y]ou can’t really find games that offer LAN modes, since [nearly] every multiplayer game on the market … requires a constant connection to the home servers.” This means that “even if you get together in the same room to play, you need to loop in [the game’s] servers and matchmaking services…” In other words, even if game clients are connected to the same local network, they will still need to connect to external servers to function. More troubling still to archivists, many video games rely on server connectivity to function in single-player mode and become unplayable when servers shut down. “Some games require a connection to an external server—sometimes on an ongoing basis—for all types of play, including single-player play.”
Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical.
MADE was not the only organization to comment on the preservation of online games. A digital rights group public knowledge submitted a comment highlighting how many games need servers to operate, pointing to Electronic Arts’ shutdown of many game’s servers in 2013.
It is difficult to quantify the number of multiplayer servers that have been shut down in recent years. However, Electronic Arts’ ‘Online Services Shutdown’ list is one illustrative example. The list — which is littered with popular franchises such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar, and The Sims — currently stands at 319 games and servers discontinued since 2013, or just over one game per week since 2012.
You can read about the provisions and comments by heading to the Regulations website, where you can also comment and express your desire for preservation before comments close on February 12, 2018.