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Private Servers for Dead MMOs

starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 10,809 Arc User
Due to a certain MMO that was shut down years ago having Rogue servers (thousands of players on same server, but without permission) and private servers launched recently, it has raised the question of whether private servers for dead MMOs should become available in a limited capacity. Should private servers for dead MMOs be allowed as long as they are completely free or should none of them be allowed? Also, which dead MMO do you want to play even if there is only a few players on the server?
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  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    In this instance, theft is theft - unless someone can show a document from the owner of the IP in question to say they allowed it.
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  • angrytargangrytarg Member Posts: 9,774 Arc User
    I welcome private servers, at least it's possible to still play some of those defunct games still. For instance, I bought the Warhammer Online collector's Edition back in the day, but I never could enjoy it fully since my laptop couldn't run it too well. I still could play with my friends, but the PvP/RvR events or big raids always were a problem. And when I got a new machine it wasn't long until the game shut down. Being able to revisit those worlds is nice, even in an unofficial capacity.
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  • artan42artan42 Member Posts: 10,201 Bug Hunter
    Santa brings coals to naughty humans who pirate stuff.​​
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  • starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 10,809 Arc User
    edited May 11
    valoreah wrote: »
    In this instance, theft is theft - unless someone can show a document from the owner of the IP in question to say they allowed it.

    It is more nuanced than being pure theft. The MMO company is not losing profit from the MMO since they completely shut down the official servers so no one is stealing money from the MMO company. Intellectual Property theft in this case could be debated since if a company is no longer developing their Intellectual Property and has absolutely no plans to develop it in the future, then they have effectively abandoned their intellectual property. So if someone makes a profit off of someone else's intellectual property without permission, then it is theft, but if they are not making a profit, then it is not theft.

    Then there is the issue of it being impossible to stop every private server, only the larger private servers. Once the server information is made available to the public, then there is no way to track how many private servers exists, especially if it is a solo private server or a private server limited to just close friends.
    artan42 wrote: »
    Santa brings coals to naughty humans who pirate stuff.​​

    I have never understood why a lump of coal is supposed to be punishment. Coal provides warmth on a cold winter day so it would be extremely useful for poor children. It could be a class issue since a lump of coal is extremely useful for poor children, but useless for rich children.
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,467 Arc User
    IP theft is IP theft. And it's impossible to stop every single shoplifter, but that doesn't mean shoplifting is legal.
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  • starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 10,809 Arc User
    jonsills wrote: »
    IP theft is IP theft. And it's impossible to stop every single shoplifter, but that doesn't mean shoplifting is legal.

    It is a lot easier to stop every shoplifter than it is to stop every person that downloads a file and sets up their own private server that only they or a few of their friends can access. In 20 years, there might not even be shoplifters due to online shopping replacing physical stores. There are ways to stop shoplifting, but unless the world becomes like North Korea, there is no way to stop software from spreading.
  • alexmakepeacealexmakepeace Member Posts: 10,582 Arc User
    Under modern copyright law, it probably is copyright infringement. I really think copyright laws need to be overhauled, especially for software so that works don't become completely unavailable because the company that made a work dissolved or stopped supporting the work after 5 years. Having to reregister the work every 5 years or so to maintain copyright seems like a good place to start.

    That does have some downsides, though, because then if a Star Wars game wasn't renewed, it would pull the Star Wars IP setting into the public domain as well. Maybe copyright as a special case for software, where only the right to make, patch, and sell copies of the software itself needs to be renewed, and derivative works are still reserved for the normal duration of copyright.
  • angrytargangrytarg Member Posts: 9,774 Arc User
    As far as I understand (US-)copyright law, no, a private server is not copyright infringement. It is a grey area since there is no case specified what the hosting of a private server which doesn't generate income is supposed to be. Once access to the service is sold, then it becomes illegal. Or, as long as the official servers are still running, then it becomes illegal (because it's unlawful competition to the original servers). When a game is no longer hosted it kinda depends on the licenser's goodwill.

    For instance, the aforementioned Warhammer Online has one rather large unofficial/private server running. Both EA/Mythic (the publisher/developer of the original game) as well as Games Workshop (the licenser for the IP) are aware of it's existence, but haven't stepped in to do anything for the past five years. EA/Mythic does not own a license any more and thus they can't charge anyway and GW outlines in their terms that any work including their trademarks and copyrights can be used for personal and fan work as long as nothing trademarked is changed, no money is charged for it and everything is clearly marked as unofficial fan work.

    I believe the moment a company acquires a license to make and distribute a Warhammer MMORPG again, these servers will have to shut down.​​
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    ^ Memory Alpha.org is not canon. It's a open wiki with arbitrary rules. Only what can be cited from an episode is. ^
    "No. Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects... and claw at you." -Worf, son of Mogh
    "A filthy, mangy beast, but in its bony breast beat the heart of a warrior" - "faithful" (...) "but ever-ready to follow the call of the wild." - Martok, about a Targ
    "That pig smelled horrid. A sweet-sour, extremely pungent odor. I showered and showered, and it took me a week to get rid of it!" - Robert Justman, appreciating Emmy-Lou
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,467 Arc User
    It's not copyright infringement under US law; it is, however, trademark infringement, which in some ways is worse for a business. When someone's been infringing on your copyright for a while, there are legal recourses, while trademark law requires the holder to "vigorously defend" the trademark, while not defining clearly just what "vigorously" means in this context.

    The classic example is the fact that "Aspirin" used to be a trademarked name for salycilic acid pills, held by Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Over a couple of decades, though, they let it slide when local pillmakers would market their own headache pills as "aspirin", so when they finally took it to court they lost - the ruling was that since they had failed to defend the trademark, it was considered to have been abandoned. That's also why Kimberly-Clark will come down like a ton of very soft, absorbent bricks on any other company that markets their facial tissues as "kleenex".

    Had to hash this out a lot over on the CO forums, in repeatedly explaining to people why an homage to a favorite comic-book character is okay, a parody is cool, but an outright copy is not. Superman's copyright isn't the problem, it's his trademark. (My own solution was Hypernova, who is super-strong, can fly, is invulnerable, fires lasers from his eyes, and when I level him again will gain the power to freeze things with his breath - but he's black, and while his powers are extraterrestrial in origin he was born on Earth. Also his costume is very different, which helps.) That's why Marvel sued Cryptic, back when Cryptic was still running CoH, because it was possible to make a knockoff Marvel toon with the character creator. (It was settled out of court, reportedly because Marvel's evidence consisted of toons made by Marvel employees, thus giving Cryptic a potential argument that it wasn't them who violated the copyright.)
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  • rattler2rattler2 Member Posts: 48,140 Arc User
    I'm thinking this debate is a bit academic right now. In the case of Warhammer Online, the fact that the IP owner, who owns the trademark, is not taking action seems to indicate they feel there is nothing wrong with a private server running a defunct game.

    Perhaps this is being treated more on a case by case basis depending on the owner. Some companies are more aggressive than others.

    Also it kinda feels a bit like we're dipping into similar territory as the Harmony Gold vs anything Battletech lawsuits. In some cases yes there may be a case, but in others the case is just not there yet they're pushing anyways.

    The real issue here I think is who's responsible for private servers? If someone figures out how to run an old MMO that's been dead for years... who's responsible for those servers? Does it still fall under laws regarding copyright or trademark, or is it like finding an old version of Risk or some other board game and playing it with friends? Also what about people who still have copies of games that have outright disappeared like LEGO Lord of the Rings?

    Honestly... I don't think any of US on the forums can answer the question regarding private servers. There are cases both for and against, being treated pretty much on a case by case basis.

    Ultimately... it kinda comes down to the fact that fans will find a way.
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  • starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 10,809 Arc User
    There is the issue of microtransactions on private servers. If someone was to create a private server of Star Trek Online right now with all the C-Store items for free and free Master Keys, then Cryptic or PWE should use their full legal might in destroying that private server since free microtransactions is theft provided that the private server is large enough for Cryptic or PWE to learn about its existence. However 5 to 10 years later after STO finally shuts down, then it is up to the whims of PWE if they want to eliminate a private server that has microtransactions from a MMO that has been dead for a few years.
  • ltminnsltminns Member Posts: 9,094 Arc User
    edited May 12
    Irrelevant trolling removed. -- WingedHussar
    Post edited by wingedhussar#7584 on
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  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 33,911 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    artan42 wrote: »
    Santa brings coals to naughty humans who pirate stuff.​​
    I have never understood why a lump of coal is supposed to be punishment. Coal provides warmth on a cold winter day so it would be extremely useful for poor children. It could be a class issue since a lump of coal is extremely useful for poor children, but useless for rich children.
    I once asked my aunt who grew up in a house heated by coal and she said that it was more about what you're NOT getting. I mean, the house always had coal to warm the furnace. Giving a single piece of that to a child was akin to telling them that their Christmas present was being allowed to eat with the rest of the family. And this is instead of an ACTUAL gift.
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  • mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,419 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    There is the issue of microtransactions on private servers. If someone was to create a private server of Star Trek Online right now with all the C-Store items for free and free Master Keys, then Cryptic or PWE should use their full legal might in destroying that private server since free microtransactions is theft provided that the private server is large enough for Cryptic or PWE to learn about its existence. However 5 to 10 years later after STO finally shuts down, then it is up to the whims of PWE if they want to eliminate a private server that has microtransactions from a MMO that has been dead for a few years.
    Well, STO isn't a dead MMO, so it's not really what this thread is about.

    ---

    I think it's one of the issues that are at best a gray area, but more likely not allowed by law. But someone would have to sue over it, and with dead MMOs, there might be no one that has a financial interest to do so. Lawyers cost still money, and suing people that don't have money is not going to recoup that money anytime soon, even if you win.
    But if you can make a case that it hurts your ongoing business in some way, it might be worth just getting it to stop.

    Another aspect might be however - should there actually be laws that specificially make it clear that such things are legal and acceptable? Our copyright, trademark and patent laws come mostly from before the digital age. When stuff couldn't be easily copied and multiplied. Even if someone stole your idea, you sitll needed to put a lot of effort to make something out of it. It would be rarely done for non-profit reasons.

    On a more abstract level:
    A reason to have all these protections is to ensure that people come up with worthy ideas and benefit from them, so that society can benefit. But if having a clever idea just means someone else will steal it and get rich with it while you have nothing, it lessens the incentives to spend time coming up with such ideas. P
    We early on decided already that some "copies" of ideass provide another worth for society, and are an acceptable form of copying an idea, things like parodies. But maybe in the digital age, there are actually far more ways to copy an idea and provide benefit - without hurting the reasons people come up with these ideas?
    Maybe preserving old digital stuff is its own value.

    But let's be clear - there is a big difference between running the server for an MMO that's technically outdated and no one profits off anymore, and trying to provide a server for a more current MMO that's still active.
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  • rattler2rattler2 Member Posts: 48,140 Arc User
    But let's be clear - there is a big difference between running the server for an MMO that's technically outdated and no one profits off anymore, and trying to provide a server for a more current MMO that's still active.

    Like running a private server of say... Star Wars Galaxies vs running a private server of World of WarCraft. Main difference between the two is one is still active, and the other was shut down and abandoned.
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    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
    The nut who actually ground out a Delta Pack, Temporal Pack, and Gamma Pack
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  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    It is more nuanced than being pure theft. The MMO company is not losing profit from the MMO since they completely shut down the official servers so no one is stealing money from the MMO company. Intellectual Property theft in this case could be debated since if a company is no longer developing their Intellectual Property and has absolutely no plans to develop it in the future, then they have effectively abandoned their intellectual property. So if someone makes a profit off of someone else's intellectual property without permission, then it is theft, but if they are not making a profit, then it is not theft.

    If I steal something from you but don't sell it and make money off of it, it is still stealing. I know everyone likes to dismiss that because they hate a certain publisher. That publisher may not be using the MMO in question, they may not be making money off of it nor developing it any further, but it is still their property. As far as anyone knows, they still own the IP and the copyright. Theft is theft. Not liking the person(s) you are stealing from doesn't justify it.
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  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    It is a lot easier to stop every shoplifter than it is to stop every person that downloads a file and sets up their own private server that only they or a few of their friends can access. In 20 years, there might not even be shoplifters due to online shopping replacing physical stores. There are ways to stop shoplifting, but unless the world becomes like North Korea, there is no way to stop software from spreading.

    Replacing brick-and-mortar storefronts or retail outlets doesn't eliminate shoplifting.

    Dear Devs: I enjoyed the Legacy of Romulus expansion much more than the Delta Rising expansion. .
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  • mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,419 Arc User
    valoreah wrote: »
    starkaos wrote: »
    It is more nuanced than being pure theft. The MMO company is not losing profit from the MMO since they completely shut down the official servers so no one is stealing money from the MMO company. Intellectual Property theft in this case could be debated since if a company is no longer developing their Intellectual Property and has absolutely no plans to develop it in the future, then they have effectively abandoned their intellectual property. So if someone makes a profit off of someone else's intellectual property without permission, then it is theft, but if they are not making a profit, then it is not theft.

    If I steal something from you but don't sell it and make money off of it, it is still stealing. I know everyone likes to dismiss that because they hate a certain publisher. That publisher may not be using the MMO in question, they may not be making money off of it nor developing it any further, but it is still their property. As far as anyone knows, they still own the IP and the copyright. Theft is theft. Not liking the person(s) you are stealing from doesn't justify it.

    Stealing is normally the object of removing an object from its rightful owner. But "stealing" software is not removing an object from anyone - there are two afterwards. Hence we have to carefully determine which terms and stipulation really make sense, and which just are not really applicable.
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  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    Stealing is normally the object of removing an object from its rightful owner. But "stealing" software is not removing an object from anyone - there are two afterwards. Hence we have to carefully determine which terms and stipulation really make sense, and which just are not really applicable.

    Of course software can be stolen. Software is code written into files that reside on a computer somewhere. In this case, the trademarked IP, copyright protected code written and servers it resided on were all being paid for by the rightful owner. That code was copied without permission, used and distributed elsewhere all without permission of the owner. That's theft.
    Dear Devs: I enjoyed the Legacy of Romulus expansion much more than the Delta Rising expansion. .
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  • mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,419 Arc User
    valoreah wrote: »
    Stealing is normally the object of removing an object from its rightful owner. But "stealing" software is not removing an object from anyone - there are two afterwards. Hence we have to carefully determine which terms and stipulation really make sense, and which just are not really applicable.

    Of course software can be stolen. Software is code written into files that reside on a computer somewhere. In this case, the trademarked IP, copyright protected code written and servers it resided on were all being paid for by the rightful owner. That code was copied without permission, used and distributed elsewhere all without permission of the owner. That's theft.

    It is still not stealing in the orignal sense of what "stealing" meant.
    We applied some of the laws that applied to stealing to matters of copyright and trademark, but it required an adjustment of the description of what stealing is. That's why we have stuff like "fair use" in copyright - taking your car away so you can make a parody makes no sense, but taking a video you made and dubbing it with a funny dialogue can make sense.
    And so, we always have to look for what specific laws matter for a topic.

    If a company owned a game, but the company is defunct and basically no one really knows who still has ther ights to it, and whoever that is isn't using it for anything, one could argue that there is no harm done to that rights owner, and that instead a value to society could be provided if such a game was run without the correct rights.
    And maybe some day, if enough people agree, the laws will be written in such a manner.
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  • evilmark444evilmark444 Member Posts: 4,798 Arc User
    I just wish some of these companies would sell licenses for their abandoned MMOs, that would clear the legal issue up in an instant and it's what many City of Heroes fans have wanted for years. Even with the server code recently leaking and private servers finally coming up I would still prefer a licensed option so that I could be comfortable knowing the game won't suddenly shut down again.
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  • rattler2rattler2 Member Posts: 48,140 Arc User
    ^ Good point here.

    Its being looked at from a physical object standpoint when we're dealing with software. 1s and 0s. As of right now software is in a bit of a grey area. If it was clear cut black and white, then it would esclatate to ridiculus levels, going after modders, fanfiction writers, fan artists...

    Running a private server of a currently running MMO can be a problem. I believe we've seen that with WoW a few years ago. Think there were some private servers running vanilla WoW that got shut down. But I think private servers of defunct games that are no longer active, and haven't been active for years, is probably gonna have to be approached on a case by case basis. As someone already pointed out, Warhammer Online private servers exist, yet the big IP holder, Games Workshop, is letting it go.

    As I said, this isn't something we forumites can define in concrete terms.
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    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
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  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,467 Arc User
    Apparently our ethical standard here is "what we don't actually get arrested for is okay." Good to know.
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  • rattler2rattler2 Member Posts: 48,140 Arc User
    I think its more "laws need to catch up with technology".
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    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
    The nut who actually ground out a Delta Pack, Temporal Pack, and Gamma Pack
    The resident forum voice of reason (I HAZ FORUM REP! YAY!)
  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    edited May 13
    It is still not stealing in the orignal sense of what "stealing" meant.
    steal
    /stēl/
    verb
    gerund or present participle: stealing

    1.
    take (another person's property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

    Fits the definition perfectly.
    1. The property is still owned by a company that is still in business.
    2. It is not the property of the individual(s) who are now using it and they do not have the legal right to use it.
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  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    I just wish some of these companies would sell licenses for their abandoned MMOs, that would clear the legal issue up in an instant and it's what many City of Heroes fans have wanted for years. Even with the server code recently leaking and private servers finally coming up I would still prefer a licensed option so that I could be comfortable knowing the game won't suddenly shut down again.

    ^ Agreed.
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  • shadowfang240shadowfang240 Member Posts: 31,624 Arc User
    companies are NOT persons, no matter how much they try to pretend to the contrary - so no, the definition does NOT fit​​
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  • valoreahvaloreah Member Posts: 10,098 Arc User
    edited May 13
    companies are NOT persons, no matter how much they try to pretend to the contrary - so no, the definition does NOT fit​​

    So... you can go to work tomorrow and walk out the door with all kinds of office supplies, computers, furniture etc. without permission because the company isn't a person?

    Don't suppose you've ever heard of terms like embezzlement? Or corporate personhood?

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  • rattler2rattler2 Member Posts: 48,140 Arc User
    Probably should take it easy guys. I think we all can agree that this is a grey area. Lets not devolve into a debate over the meaning of certain laws.
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    I can't take it anymore! Could everyone just chill out for two seconds before something CRAZY happens again?!
    The nut who actually ground out a Delta Pack, Temporal Pack, and Gamma Pack
    The resident forum voice of reason (I HAZ FORUM REP! YAY!)
  • thegrandnagus1thegrandnagus1 Member Posts: 3,377 Arc User
    I see this situation a bit differently than your standard software/music/video piracy where a company might not know who to actually go after.

    Since we're clearly talking about COH here, there is an obvious main group (Homecoming) managing this project. If NCSoft actually cares about this, they can easily contact that group and tell them to stop (or else!). If they don't do that...do they actually care?

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