How the new DMCA Exemptions Affect Retrogaming/Computing

Matt Barton's picture

I just read this letter from the librarian of congress regarding some new exemptions to the DMCA. One of them specifically mentions videogames, but that seems mostly irrelevant to us (since it seems intended for folks testing for security flaws and dangerous malware). What's more interesting is item 5:

(5) Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete. A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

This is obviously a great relief to many enthusiasts of vintage consoles (as well as computers), since we all know that a great many such dongles are no longer available and must be hacked around.

There's also a part concerning ebooks:

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 either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.

This seems intended mostly for folks with disabilities, but it seems to also open up a can of worms. Remember the hooplah over Amazon's text-to-speech? If you recall, some publishers of professional audiobooks were upset because they felt it might affect sales of their products. This exemption seems to clear the way for not only Amazon's product but also rival products. The part about "specialized format" seems wonderfully vague as well. Does that mean that ebooks can no longer be proprietary to one reader?


Joined: 04/27/2010

What video games actually used a dongle for copy protection? I can't think of any. I'm familiar with mostly for protection of expensive industrial software, where a >$1000 per seat license makes the cost of a hardware dongle negligible. The fanciest "hardware" game protection device I can think of is the Starflight code wheel.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
There are plenty of code

There are plenty of code wheels, color filters, decoder rings, and what have you. It's a bit of a stretch, but it seems like a manual could be considered a "dongle" if you have to look up codes or words from it. In principle it's doing the same thing as a dongle.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.