Legalities in the US

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Legalities in the US

Post by MetaFox » Sat Sep 10, 2005 10:54 pm

Abandonware - a term that is used to describe software that is no longer offered for sale from the copyright holder, or from officially recognized third parties.

Abandonware does not constitute the right to distribute the software for free. The copyright owners still maintain the copyrights, as well as any intellectual property rights, trademarks, or registered trademarks associated with the product.

US copyright law is found in Title 17 of the United States Code and is administered by the US Copyright Office. "Terms for Copyright Protection", a U.S. Government publication, summarizes the current duration of copyright protection for published works as follows:

* Works created after 1/1/1978 - life of the longest surviving author plus 70 years - earliest possible PD date is 1/1/2048
* Works registered before 1/1/1978 - 95 years from the date copyright was secured.
* Works registered before 1/1/1923 - Copyright protection for 75 years has expired and these works are in the public domain.
The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act was signed into law on October 27, 1998. Prior to the Sonny Bono 20 year copyright term extension, copyright protection for works registered before 1/1/1978 was 75 years.

Emulation - Emulation is not illegal. In the United States, court precedents have been set that allow programmers to reverse engineer hardware, and create emulators for said hardware on modern hardware.

The first precedent was set in 1982 in IBM vs. Compaq. Compaq created the first IBM PC clone by reverse engineering IBM's bios chip. The court found in favor of Compaq, making it legal to reverse engineer a computer's bios chip.

The most recent precedent was set in 1999 in Sony vs. Bleem. Judge Charles Legge of the 9th U.S. District Court threw out Sony's third and final claim for an injunction against retail sales of bleem!, citing a conclusive lack of evidence that the emulator had violated any Sony copyrights.

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act originally prohibited transferring software from one medium to another, but it was later amended to allow circumvention of copy protection (which would include the medium itself in the case of ROM images) for obsolete systems:

On October 28, 2003, the Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, announced the classes of works subject to the exemption from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. The four classes of works exempted are:

(1) Compilations consisting of lists of Internet locations blocked by commercially marketed filtering software applications that are intended to prevent access to domains, websites or portions of websites, but not including lists of Internet locations blocked by software applications that operate exclusively to protect against damage to a computer or computer network or lists of Internet locations blocked by software applications that operate exclusively to prevent receipt of email.

(2) Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.

(3) Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access. 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.

(4) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the ebook's read-aloud function and that prevent the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a specialized format.

Definitions. (1) ?Internet locations? are defined to include domains, uniform resource locators (URLs), numeric IP addresses or any combination thereof.
(2) ?Obsolete? shall mean ?no longer manufactured or reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.?
(3) ?Specialized format,? ?digital text? and ?authorized entities? shall have the same meaning as in 17 U.S.C. ?121.

ROMS - Distributing ROM images is illegal. Using ROM images for software that you own, and that you have backed up yourself, is legal however. The "obsolete system" clause in the DMCA (detailed above) allows an owner of older software to backup their own software, but copyright law (detailed above) still applies.

You can backup the software from cartridge to ROM image yourself, but you can not download a ROM image that someone else has backed up, nor can you distribute a ROM image that you have backed up yourself.

TV Shows/Animes/fansubs and dubs with video - Television shows are protected by copyright. A precedent was set in Sony Corporation vs. Universal City Studios that allowed people to videotape programs that came on television.

Distribution of the taped program however is illegal, as the program is still protected under copyright (detailed above). As such, you are not entitled by law to distribute a copy of a television program, nor are you allowed to obtain a copy of a television program that you did not create yourself.