Abandonware Now Legal In The US?

The Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, last week announced the creation of six new copyright exemptions. Two of which directly involve personal computers. Judging from what has been announced. It means that people will be allowed to collect and use cracks on software programs created for hardware that is now obsolete in that it is no longer manufactured or commercially sold.
So essentially any software designed on an obsolete computer, console or even arcade hardware should now be legal for you to possess as long as it isn’t used for commercial purposes. Even games released for the PC on 3.5 or 5.25 inch floppies could be covered under this announcement. Though it seems titles released on PC-CDROM are not, even those DOS ancient games from the early 1990s.

What will be interesting though is where a title has been re-released onto a current platform. Especially with Nintendo’s Wii, selling exact replicas of old classic titles from earlier now obsolete consoles.

Exemption 2: Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

Exemption 3: Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete. A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

U.S. Copyright Office, http://www.copyright.gov/1201/

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