The Library of Congress strengthens video game preservation laws.

In today’s digital landscape video game preservation has never been easier and at the same time it’s never been harder.

Its easier in the essence that we have multiple ways to extract and archive games of the past. There’s been many titles literally lost to the ages when their source code was misplaced by developers or publishers thorough the years. That left only the gold masters (carts and discs) for preservation losing all of the language behind the game’s creation. Today there’s multiple ways to preserve source code including cloud services so that it will never be lost. (sans an apocalypse of course)

On the other side of the coin it’s harder to preserve today’s games in respect to a couple of issues. The first issue is that some games are made to only function on an online server. MMOs for example must be hosted on a server to allow other players to log into the game world for it to function. When  the creator of the game closes those servers due to bankruptcy or losing the license the game was made with (such as a movie or comic) they can’t legally touch the game again.

These times may be changing. In an 85 page ruling the Library of Congress modified the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to allow for more types of preservation in light of legal issues that may affect the game’s source code from being preserved as any other type of media.

Via TechRaptor:

“According to the ruling, “The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code.”

This also extended the 2015 ruling by the LOC which stated that museums or archives, for fair use purposes, could legally crack the online authentication for single player games if it was a basic authentication which was just “ET phone home” and required connection with the servers.

According to the ruling, “The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code.”

This also extended the 2015 ruling by the LOC which stated that museums or archives, for fair use purposes, could legally crack the online authentication for single player games if it was a basic authentication which was just “ET phone home” and required connection with the servers.“

This is great news but there’s a couple of hitches, the biggest being that for a game to be legally preserved that requires online servers you must legally posses both the game’s local source code as well as the server source code. Server source is often the first thing to go as it’s located on said servers and when servers are retired or re-used by other clients they get wiped of all information.

The ruling also requires actual archivists to work on the preservation and prevents regular people from banding together and bringing games back themselves.

All in all it’s still a fantastic effort and hopefully the start of even more changes to allow better preservation in the future.