[Coco] Hot CoCo Rights (was: Duplicating Copy-Protected Games)

Frank Swygert farna at att.net
Sun Jan 20 11:39:55 EST 2008

I have to agree with Erik in principal, but with a caveat. All of us like to think we are good law abiding citizens, and for the most part we are. But don't tell me you never INTENTIONALLY drive over the speed limit, don't use turn signals every time you turn/change lanes, drive in the left lane on the interstate (by law it's a PASSING LANE, NOT A "FAST" LANE!), run the occasional red/yellow light when you should have stopped, or do "California stops" at low risk stop signs. Traffic violations are the most common, that's why I mention them. I'm sure you've removed tags/labels that say "don't remove by law" from various items too. 

On that note, I have no problem copying something that is otherwise unavailable and unsupported by the copyright owner. The "Hot CoCo" case is a prime example. If the publisher said "we'll make back issues available", they would have good reason for not making them public. The only reason for not doing it LEGALLY (from the publisher's perspective) is to not set a precedent. They have a need to protect their assets that do bring in income, and releasing something might interfere with protecting products they currently have on the market. In a case like "Hot CoCo" it's not likley, but they don't have the time to go through every issue and make sure. So they make a blanket policy instead. 

Note that on the "abandonware" site there are even a few copies of MS-DOS (3.x versions). Microsoft is real protective of their software, but hasn't said a thing. I'm reasonably sure they monitor such items -- they have aggressively done so in the past. If it were a newer version, say 5.x or 6.x, they probably would raise a stink about it, as I believe small portions of that code is still in Windows (though maybe not with Vista). DrDOS 6.0 is on there, but Digital Research went out a long time ago. I thought Windows 3.1 was on there, but if it was it's been removed (may have been another site -- I saw it somewhere on a site shortly after XP came out). I know, this is no justification, and MS could send these guys a "cease and desist" letter, but it does indicate that just maybe someone over there is turning a blind eye to it because there's no reason to be too aggressive with copy protection. The fact that they aren't officially releasing the software still give them the right to send that C&D letter at any time, even if it could be proven they knew it was there for an extended period. Well, it might not hold up in court if it could be proven they knew it was there, but they have deep lawyer pockets, the site owners don't! 

I have gone over this issue (abandoned software and magazine articles as well as photos) with a copyright lawyer before. While technically it's illegal, the probability of getting sued over it is almost zero. First, the company has to PROVE loss of revenue in order to get a settlement. Even to get the infringer fined they have to spend a good deal of money to take the issue to court, and they can't sue for court costs and don't get any of the fine. The process has to start with a "cease and desist" letter. After that, if the infringer continues, they can go to more drastic means. Now it's possible that some company might be aggressive enough to file charges right after the letter (they don't have to wait and see what you'll do -- could send the letter right along with a court summons!), but that's a lot of expense just to prove a point. His professional opinion was something that's obviously been abandoned was virtually free from risk, especially if it was distributed in a not-for-profit situation (just charging for printing/copying and handling costs) to a small, relatively closed group (such as the CoCo community, or in my particular case a small segment of the auto hobby). 

There is a risk, and it's illegal -- just like exceeding the speed limit. 

Do note that this is my personal opinion. I would never violate the rights of someone active in the community (like Steve Bjork) even if they didn't make the software available for purchase legally. Viewing it as a "grey area" of the law (which is basically what I'm doing) is one thing, but when someone with a legal right steps forth and complains it's "less grey". It doesn't reflect on them very well if they complain and then won't make legal copies available, but that's their business. 

As far as "Hot CoCo" and "Rainbow" -- archive your collections on CD. I see nothing wrong with sharing your own collection with others since there's no way to get them.  So a group got together and archived their collective collection for their own purposes -- that fits right in with the latest copyright exception. The "grey area" is say I only contributed two issues to the total archive, or just did the scanning work and had no issues to contribute, but got a full collection for my efforts. I still think that's within the intent of the exception, even if it isn't spelled out.  

Some will still think it's a morality issue. I agree. "Two wrong's don't make a right", but the publishers are in some cases being overly greedy/protective of something that is of no commercial use to them at all, and is never likely to be. In other words, they don't care about any past consumers. Is that moral? They overlook the "good will" such a small gesture as allowing a group to copy the issues, even if for a token sum as Lonnie did, does for them. It's not much -- I doubt anyone here buys more than the occasional magazine published by IDG -- I don't know what titles they put out, but I'm sure I don't subscribe to any, though I may have bought one on rare occasion. 

Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 07:03:29 -0800 (PST)
From: Jim Hickle <jlhickle at yahoo.com>
The existence of those websites isn't proof that what they do is legal or ethical. In the FAQ at the-underdogs.info it states that distributing "abandonware" is illegal.  The law is the law, and you don't have a right to break it just because it makes you sad.

Erik Ames <eternyl_bliss at yahoo.com> wrote:
There is a thing called 'Abandoned Warez' and for a classic example: http://www.the-underdogs.info/ This place has been around for many years and provide old pc games that have a copywrite and some have been cracked. For more information on their input about copywrite laws please view the following link: http://www.the-underdogs.info/faq.php#a5.

Frank Swygert
Publisher, "American Motors Cars" 
Magazine (AMC)
For all AMC enthusiasts
(free download available!)

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