Websites that offer formerly paid software for free do so with little to no appearance of legality. However you feel about torrents and warez sites delivering commercial software and media, it is apparent that they are illegal in most nations.
There is one style of site that manages to evade most censure. Abandonware sites, like Abandonia, provide all manner of games, free to download. Many of these sites have been up and running for years, which begs the question: is abandonware legal?
What Is Abandonware?
The phrase “abandonware” refers to software that no longer receives active maintenance or copyright enforcement. Typically, software becomes abandonware because the company that owned it went out of business or sold the rights to a new owner who has no interest in continuing development.
Consequently, some software becomes abandonware by an official statement or developer cooperation. The developers of the video game Descent, for instance, released the game’s source code in 1997. Numerous games have received a similar makeover.
Is Abandonware Legal?
So, is abandonware download legal?
The straightforward answer is no; abandonware is illegal. Even if the author abandons a protected work, it does not automatically become public domain. The copyright on the work exists until the copyright expires, which varies by country. Typically, the duration of a video game’s copyright is between 70 and 125 years.
How then do sites like Abandonia remain operational? There must be a steady flow of lawsuits arriving at their digital doorstep. As with the majority of laws, punishment only occurs if the offender is apprehended and the opposing side is willing and able to press the charge. This is why abandonware, despite being unlawful, occupies a gray enforcement area.
The majority of content on abandonware websites lacks an owner who actively enforces copyright, therefore no one can file a lawsuit. In other instances, the owner exists but does not enforce the copyright. System Shock, a legendary action-adventure video game, is available on numerous abandonware websites, although the current copyright holder, Electronic Arts, does nothing to stop it.
Is Abandonware Safe?
There are countless abandonware sites, each presenting a list of ancient games that is nearly identical. With so many websites, downloading abandonware must be risk-free, right?
The answer resides within the website from which you are downloading. The abandonware websites MyAbandonware and Abandonia are secure and serve thousands of people daily. These sites also house the vast majority of abandonware games, so you don’t have to venture into the unknown depths of the internet in search of a game on a dubious website.
Reasons For Abandonware Sites and Downloads
Abandonware is prohibited. That is comprehended. However, there are further reasons why abandonware is often favorable.
The fundamental justification is conservation. Abandonware sites preserve old games for public access, when many would otherwise vanish into the digital void.
These projects, such as the Internet Archive and the British Library, are discriminating in their protection of ancient games and their source code. Having the abandonware site option allows for the survival of even the most obscure titles.
The other factor to consider is the game developers’ desires.
“Is it piracy? Yeah, sure. However, so what? “according to Double Fine Productions’ Tim Schafer (responsible for Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and many other classics).
“The majority of game developers no longer rely on the money from previous games. The majority of the creative teams behind those games have long since departed the companies that produced them, thus it is inconceivable that the rightful owners are still receiving royalties. So, feel free to take this game! Share the joy!”