What Is Abandonware and Is It Legal?
Websites that give away previously purchased software do so with little to no pretense of legality. Whatever your opinion of torrents and sites that offer licensed software and media, it is obvious that they are prohibited in the majority of countries.
There is one kind of website that avoids the majority of derision. Games of every kind are available for free download on abandonware websites like Abandonia. Since many of these websites have been operational for years, the issue of abandonware’s legality arises.
What Is Abandonware?
Software that no longer has active support or whose copyright is not being actively enforced is referred to as “abandonware.” If a corporation that holds the rights to a piece of software goes out of business or is sold to a new owner that isn’t interested in continuing development, the software typically becomes abandonware.
Having said that, some software is declared abandonware formally or with the developer’s consent. For instance, the creators of the video game Descent released the game’s source code in 1997. Similar technique has been given to numerous additional games.
Is Abandonware Legal?
So, is it okay to download abandonware?
No, abandonware is not legal, to put it simply. A copyrighted work does not immediately become the property of the public even if the author abandons it. The duration of the copyright on the work, which varies from nation to country, is up until it expires. A video game’s copyright typically has a lifespan of at least 70 years and as long as 125 years.
Then, how do websites like Abandonia continue to exist? There must be a steady flow of legal matters arriving on their digital doorstep, right? Like most laws, you can only be punished if you are found guilty and the accusing party is prepared to prove their case. This is the reason why abandonware, despite being illegal, straddles a fine line when it comes to enforcement.
No one can file a lawsuit because most of the content on abandonware sites no longer has a legitimate owner who can actively defend the copyright. In other instances, the owner is still alive but doesn’t enforce the copyright that already exists. For instance, the iconic action-adventure game System Shock is available on a ton of abandonware websites, but Electronic Arts, the copyright holder at the moment, does nothing to stop it.
Is It Legal to Download Abandonware?
In response to your query, downloading abandonware is not permitted. But do you anticipate the police showing up at your door? or appear before a judge for violating copyright? That is incredibly unlikely.
Despite the fact that abandonware is unlawful, there have been no judicial prosecutions involving it. At least, I couldn’t discover any cases where someone was charged with a crime for downloading and playing abandonware software. Before bringing legal action, companies enforcing existing copyright frequently send a cease-and-desist letter.
When it occurs, the abandonware website responds by removing the offending title. Court action against a publication is not very useful.
Reasons For Abandonware Sites and Downloads
Abandonware is forbidden. That is comprehended. However, abandonware is generally advantageous for other reasons as well.
The main justification is preservation. Whereas many ancient games would have just vanished into the digital ether, abandonware websites keep old games preserved for anybody to access.
The Internet Archive and the British Library both make efforts to preserve vintage games and their source code, however these initiatives are selective. Even the more obscure titles continue to exist thanks to the abandonware site option.
The goals of the game designers should also be taken into account.
“Is it theft? Sure, sure. So what, then? “says Double Fine Productions’ Tim Schafer (responsible for Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and many other classics).
“Most game developers no longer rely on the income from those older games to support themselves. There is no possibility the folks who should be receiving royalties on such games are still doing so as the majority of the creative teams behind them have long since departed the companies that published them. So feel free to steal this game! Love one another!”
Abandonware Is Illegal
However, downloading an outdated game, launching it in an emulator, and playing it endlessly is probably not going to land you in trouble. Here is a simple tutorial on how to play classic games on Windows 10 if you’re unaware of how to achieve so.
Copyright law won’t make abandonware legality any less problematic or ambiguous. For reloaded and repacked games, the same holds true. And wherever possible, try to find the old game’s premium version on a website like GOG.com.
Which classic games hold up well today? See our ranking of the top vintage PC games available right now!