A group of video game scholars and advocates is pushing to preserve the game industry’s historic titles and legacy. In the process, though, the would-be preservationists have found a number of challenges that include, ironically, legal opposition from video game companies and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a trade organization that lobbies on behalf of game publishers.
“Game history is part of general culture as well as intellectual and media history,” said Henry Lowood, curator for film and media collections as well as science and technology collections in the Stanford University Libraries. Lowood is one of the academics pushing for increased access to games for the purposes of study. “It’s not possible to include a full history of any of those topics without including games from the 1970s forward.”
However, the legal hurdle — chiefly, bringing court cases against multibillion-dollar companies and their trade organization — remains the biggest for preservationists seeking access to games for academic research.
In U.S. copyright law, exemptions exist for specific use cases, such as academic research, that would otherwise appear to violate the technical protections granted by law. Proposals for exemptions are reviewed every three years by the U.S. Copyright Office. In 2018, academics scored a legal victory that granted them an exemption to preserve games that are no longer commercially available. In 2021, a push for remote access to preserved games for academics failed.
Read more in Launcher.
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