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Emulation and the Law

Techdirt tries to sort through the implications of the news this week that publisher Atlus shut down a fan-created project to emulate Persona 5 on PCs. They note that in spite of sounding bogus on the surface, this may be a legitimate us of the DMCA, opining that this is an example of messed up the law is. Boing Boing also chimes in with a look at the big picture, saying the being able to take down an emulator has chilling implications on the ability to preserve gaming history now and in the future. Here's part of their write-up:

Video game company Atlus just sent a sent a copyright takedown over the Patreon page for open source Playstation 3 emulator RPCS3, by invoking section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and a $500,000 fine to bypass DRM.

Atlus's theory -- which is hard to discern, thanks to a legal word-salad the company has thrown up as chaff in its wake -- is that because it's possible to use RPCS3 to play PS3 games that you have pirated rather than paid for, and since Atlus once made a PS3 game, it gets to decide whether anyone, anywhere can make or use a tool that lets them play their old games after the hardware they came with was retired.

Emulation is a critical part of software development. Open up a terminal on your modern computer and chances are it'll say "tty" at the top. That stands for "teletype," a technology whose origins date to the early 1900s, that early computers interfaced with. Over the years, as teletypes turned into screens and then into windows, the software interfaces relied on layers of emulation and abstraction to continue to talk to them.

It's impossible to overstate the importance of emulation to games development. Prior to the advent of emulators, games were the only art-form without a past: unless developers had the foresight (and care) to preserve successive generations of antiquated hardware (a process called pickling), they literally had no way to refer to the works of art that had influenced their own creations, the entirety of games that had gone before them.

The emulator gave games a history. Guaranteed: every Atlus developer learned about the history of their artform with emulation. The idea that anyone who's ever shipped a game for a platform gets to decide whether it continues to be part of the discourse, the living history of the medium, is grotesque. It's like the idea that a single sculptor would get to decide whether marbles were preserved for the ages or smashed into rubble when they were through with them.

22. Re: Emulation and the Law Oct 1, 2017, 17:53 Task
I think regardless of what occurs with this, I would think PS3 emulation will be far more common in a few years or more when support and game development for the system is fully abandoned and not made for it anymore. People are still going to spread around the emulator and update it. There's also the possibility Atlas will release it on PC, or maybe not, but Persona 5 is definitely the game I want to buy if I get a PS4.

Admittedly I also use emulation for other old systems. I just completed a Raspberry Pi 3 project for RetroPie, so I'm able to play a bunch of old games instead of paying exorbitant amounts of money to find an nes/snes/sega and rarer games for them - which I got rid of years ago (all of those systems). I still regret that mistake. This weekend I was finally able to play the fan-translated Mother 1 for the first time, so that was pretty cool. Also got PSP-emulation working on it too for the Final Fantasy 1&2 re-make and Final Fantasy Tactics re-make (War of The Lions).
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  11. Oct 1, 08:45      Re: Emulation and the Law Rigs
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  19. Oct 1, 15:50     removed Suppa7
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