Legal status

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Myrth
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Legal status

Post by Myrth » December 30th, 2015, 2:12 pm

So a throught stuck me a moment ago. What's the current legal status of Wasteland?

For years it was treated as abandonware and as such I've gained my copy of it, thus technically not breaking any law and the game was long gone from retail by then. Now the game is re-released and certain abandonware sites switched the game status as "in retail", meaning at least for them it's now no longer abandonware. That would make my copy a pirate one. It's not that I never pirated in my life, but this is probably the first such case in my life where I'm no longer sure if something still falls under abandonware or not and making my copy a pirate one or not.

So what's the official legal status of the game right now?

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Zombra
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Re: Legal status

Post by Zombra » December 30th, 2015, 6:48 pm

All "abandonware" means is that the owners aren't actively exercising their rights, not that no one owns it any more. Electronic Arts has always owned the rights to the original Wasteland and your abandonware copy has always been a pirate copy.
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Myrth
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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » December 31st, 2015, 3:29 am

Yeah, but what about the re-release? Because that's the part complicating matters. Nornally it would be "legal as long as EA won't start taking steps". Now, with re-release, who got the rights for it? Still EA? Or the re-release itself was a backdoor thing?

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Re: Legal status

Post by kilobug » December 31st, 2015, 3:35 am

Didn't inXile buy back all the rights from EA regarding the whole Wasteland saga ? Original game, trademark, ...

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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » December 31st, 2015, 3:48 am

Dunno. That's why we are having this thread in the first place.

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Zombra
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Re: Legal status

Post by Zombra » December 31st, 2015, 8:26 am

Myrth wrote:Yeah, but what about the re-release? Because that's the part complicating matters. Nornally it would be "legal as long as EA won't start taking steps". Now, with re-release, who got the rights for it? Still EA? Or the re-release itself was a backdoor thing?
kilobug wrote:Didn't inXile buy back all the rights from EA regarding the whole Wasteland saga ? Original game, trademark, ...
Not sure. During the Wasteland 2 development, words were said to the effect of "EA is letting us give the original game to W2 backers", implying that EA still held all the rights. But now when I look at the GOG and Steam store pages, the publisher is listed as inXile, implying transfer of ownership, but I never heard anything about such a transfer (not that I exactly care or follow such news).

In either case, I don't think you have to worry about the Office of International Intellectual Property Enforcement kicking in your door. What's your real question?
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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » December 31st, 2015, 8:37 am

Well, to know from who am I stealing, really. And if it's open piracy or still abandonware, which sounds differently than the n-th pirated game.

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Re: Legal status

Post by Zombra » December 31st, 2015, 9:15 am

At the time, you stole from EA, not inXile. That's not going to change to "now you stole it from somebody else". Seems weird to think of it as being in a state of continuing to steal it as ownership changes. What if the rights are transferred again? Will you feel obligated to buy it again from the next guy?

The game is certainly not abandonware now; it's being sold. If you pirated it today it would be straight up piracy. If you bought it today it looks like the money would go to inXile. Whether that is relevant to a different transaction you participated in in the past is up to you I guess.
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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » January 1st, 2016, 2:29 am

It's not about buying it each time when the owner changes. It's about knowing from whom am I stealing. Pretty important from the point of view of my (current) national law.

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Re: Legal status

Post by Drool » January 1st, 2016, 12:36 pm

But you aren't currently stealing. You might be using an illicit copy, but the theft only occurred when you downloaded the game. Assuming it was prior to inXile's release of "Wasteland The Original Classic", then you stole from EA. The rights moving to inXile (assuming they have) don't change that fact. inXile didn't acquire twenty years of EA property loss.
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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » January 1st, 2016, 12:39 pm

It makes a huge difference between piracy and using abandonware in my country, even if general attitude toward piracy is very, very lax. The first may end up at court. The second won't even give you a ticket.

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Re: Legal status

Post by Drool » January 1st, 2016, 12:57 pm

Well, we can't speak for the copyright laws in your country. In the US, however, abadonware doesn't exist as a legal concept. It's like speeding down an empty road. The only reason you don't get in trouble is because nobody is bothering to do anything about it, but it's still illegal. There's no "it's late and nobody's around" exemption to speed limits, just like there's no "you're not doing anything with this IP" exemption to copyright law.

Your country might have codified abandonware laws. Even if it does, I have no idea how they'd intersect with US copyright law. That said, EA had no interest in pressing their case for twenty years and Wasteland was all over many prominent and respected abandonware websites.

Assuming your nation has actual abandonware law, I would assume that your copy is legit. Essentially, it would be grandfathered in. It was legal at the moment in time you acquired it. A change of status after the fact won't retroactively taint your copy.
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Re: Legal status

Post by IHaveHugeNick » January 1st, 2016, 2:27 pm

Law doesn't work retroactively. The legal status of your copy doesn't change just because 15 years later trademark swaps hands. What matters is the status of your copy when you were acquiring it.

And I find it rather bizzare that "abandonware" actually exists as a legal term anywhere on the planet. Its rare for any law to mess with property rights. Its probably the case of it not being persecuted, rather then strictly legal.
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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » January 1st, 2016, 4:23 pm

IHaveHugeNick wrote:Law doesn't work retroactively.
It started working retroactively in Poland after last elections two months ago, welcome to second medieval. But skipping politics entirely, copyright law does not include direct abandonware law, but there are certain articles of it that were already interpreted as about covering "abandonware" in ALL media. In short, if the owner of the rights doesn't care about his laws, you are not breaking any of them. BUT if InXile acquired rights to Wasteland, that means SOMEONE used his laws and cared about them, thus I'm breaking them and the intellectual property that suddenly "regained" those laws is now protected for at least 25 years now, starting from the day where those laws were evoked.
No, this law wasn't passed by current government. That's over 20 years old copyright law, issued shortly after post-commie transformation and yes, it's very, very dated and ineffective, but hey, TIP - This is Poland.

It's purely theoreticall issue, more or less, because police won't (probably) burst into my home and arrest me for Wasteland copy. But it's still good to know what's the current status of Wasteland 1 and who owns it.

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Re: Legal status

Post by IHaveHugeNick » January 2nd, 2016, 7:03 am

Myrth wrote:
IHaveHugeNick wrote:Law doesn't work retroactively.
It started working retroactively in Poland after last elections two months ago, welcome to second medieval.
You don't have to tell me, I'm Polish. It was interesting Christmas to say the least. Instead of relaxing with my family I was checking the news every 2 hours, just to make sure if we still have democracy in here.
Myrth wrote: But skipping politics entirely, copyright law does not include direct abandonware law, but there are certain articles of it that were already interpreted as about covering "abandonware" in ALL media. In short, if the owner of the rights doesn't care about his laws, you are not breaking any of them. BUT if InXile acquired rights to Wasteland, that means SOMEONE used his laws and cared about them, thus I'm breaking them and the intellectual property that suddenly "regained" those laws is now protected for at least 25 years now, starting from the day where those laws were evoked.
No, this law wasn't passed by current government. That's over 20 years old copyright law, issued shortly after post-commie transformation and yes, it's very, very dated and ineffective, but hey, TIP - This is Poland.
Well this is first time I hear of this. I know after 70 years of not being used, things pass into public domain, but that? Anyhow, it wouldn't matter. Like we already went over, the courts are bound to the legal situation that existed when you were downloading your copy. This is locked down on constitution level.

I probably also don't need to tell you that anti-piracy law is quite soft in here, and in practice the only way to get in trouble is by sharing illegal software, profiting from it, or using it in in a business. So you really have nothing to worry about.
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Re: Legal status

Post by Drool » January 2nd, 2016, 12:05 pm

IHaveHugeNick wrote:I know after 70 years of not being used, things pass into public domain, but that?
It varies country to country, but most are roughly life of the creator+70 years thanks to Disney (sorry about that, world). And, checking Wikipedia, Poland's L+70 as well.

How it's being "used" is irrelevant for copyright law. Some pulp book published back in the 40s is likely still under copyright protection, even if it hasn't been in print for fifty years; somebody still owns the thing. Trademark law, on the other hand, is the one that leads to lawsuits because, for most countries, if you don't vigorously defend your trademark, it's assumed that you don't care and thus your trademark can lapse. That's why Disney will sue daycare centers that have unlicensed murals painted on their walls.

In theory. Disney can be right bastards regardless.

Anyway, again, assuming the game was acquired more than 2 years ago, it was technically a violation of EA's copyright. But, as EA clearly didn't give a shit, it's unlikely that the Polish government is going to start kicking down doors on their behalf. Especially over a 28 year old game that they don't even own any more. Furthermore, I think it's been pretty clear by inXile's actions (ie: the absolution add-on for Bard's Tale) that they aren't going to be asking any government to kick in doors.

I suppose if you're truly concerned, you could delete the copy you have and buy a copy of the rerelease off GOG for six bucks. Or... um... five and a half euros.
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Re: Legal status

Post by Myrth » January 2nd, 2016, 3:04 pm

Drool wrote:How it's being "used" is irrelevant for copyright law. Some pulp book published back in the 40s is likely still under copyright protection, even if it hasn't been in print for fifty years; somebody still owns the thing. Trademark law, on the other hand, is the one that leads to lawsuits because, for most countries, if you don't vigorously defend your trademark, it's assumed that you don't care and thus your trademark can lapse.
True... if you are not a post-commie nation. I know it's a specific case and I don't wish anyone to spend even a year under commies (or a week under those populistic idiots who rule now), BUT that means certain things work differently. As in "work created under communism is a common good of all people", which in practice means there is a LOT of issues about from where exactly start to count years if someone died under commie rule or rewoked his laws toward it OR was forced to rewoke them. This also - amazingly - covers foreign stuff. I still remember a radio program when I was a kid, where they were playing long-plays of Western albums. What made that specific program so special was how the whole thing was prepared in such way to make it most efficient to record those long-plays, with separators, cues when to start to record, pauses to prepare the tape and switch side and what not. Because that was the only way how that single album the radio DJ managed to get could be also owned by everyone interested. So a national radio was the biggest pirate provider of home-taped music (and a very professional one).
And then everyone wonders why copyright law is so lax in Poland and why Poles don't give a damn about how bad piracy is, even if they can now easily get and afford all that stuff they keep getting under the table. Hell, naming piracy stealing will give you very strange looks from almost everyone.

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Re: Legal status

Post by Drool » January 3rd, 2016, 12:24 pm

Dammit. A normal person would give up at this point, but all I'm thinking about doing is seeing if I can find English translations of the relevant laws.

So I did.

From my layperson reading of the 1994 Polish Copyright Laws, the aggrieved party would have to request government action. Which makes it look like a weird hybrid of tort and criminal law. Now, I'm not even a lawyer in my home country, let alone properly versed in all the case law and random intricacies of Polish law, but from my reading:

1) It's primarily designed to stop mass counterfeiting and distribution, not the end user who downloads the product.
2) When the "crime" took place, it was EA's responsibility to request relief from the government.
3) Currently, assuming that inXile owns Wasteland, it would be inXile's responsibility to request relief from the government.

I think you're probably safe. Also, in my digging, I pulled up some information on statutes of limitations. Seems the commercial limit in Poland is 3 years and the "General Polish Civil code" is 10 years. Depending on how long ago the game fell into your lap, it may all be moot anyway.
Alwa nasci korliri das.

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Re: Legal status

Post by Gruftlord » January 3rd, 2016, 1:12 pm

Myrth, if this is seriously that important to you, just buy the freaking thing already. Not only would you support inXile and GoG, but your own country gets a cut from gog's taxes as well. Everyone wins.

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Re: Legal status

Post by macksting » January 3rd, 2016, 6:10 pm

Great idea, Gruft! Now accepting donations.

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