Benton, AR asked in Copyright for Arkansas

Q: Am I immune from copyright infringement if I download so-called abandnware from since they're DMCA exempted? states that they've been exempted from copyright issues( under the fair use doctrine and due to its educational purpose.

They have alot of vintage stuff available, which I'm crazy about, such as having magazine copies of old software products from early issues ranging from the 1970's to early 2000's and so on.

But I also noticed they have a collection of full-version not-for sale(except ebay, maybe) vintage games, such as abandonware(not an official term), for download.

I was wondering, if I download any unauthorized games from that particular site, am I immune from liability for unauthorized copying infringement if I download any of those games or is it only that's exempted as a library in particiular?

I'll be honest, I love old games and I know actual enforcement of so-called abandonware is probably not enforced, but it's still an ethics question I'm curious about.


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1 Lawyer Answer
Will Blackton
Will Blackton
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Raleigh, NC

A: You're almost certainly *not* immune from copyright infringement liability. The best can warrant, if it is not the creator of the content you're downloading, is that it will cover the costs of a lawsuit based on downloading from their website (indemnification). To my knowledge, does not offer this guarantee.

That exemption to the anti-circumvention clause to the DMCA you mentioned means that may benefit from the exemption, not their end users.

You framed this as a question of ethics. What is illegal is not necessarily unethical and what is unethical is often not illegal. The two concepts may have some overlap, but are not the same. I have no answer for the question of whether it is ethical to enjoy abandonware.

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