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The grey area between piracy and legit downloads...

Bworp

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2019
Messages
33
Location
Tasmania, Australia
I'm definitely in the "don't pirate software" camp, no matter how old it is and hard to find. (Wasn't always the case, but I'm trying to atone for my past sins)
But I've found myself in some borderline situations, and I wonder what everyone would think of as "OK"?

Sitch 1: As a warmup, I have an original boxed and complete copy of Ultima VI, but one (maybe both) of the disks is corrupted. I also own it 100% legit on GOG. I haven't tried the GOG version on old hardware yet (I know that some games on that site are slightly different versions to the original), but surely there could be no ethical argument against downloading it from an archive somewhere?

Sitch 2: I have a bunch of other old games on my GOG account, but never owned a physical copy of them. Again, some are a bit different to the versions originally sold on floppies etc. (Already unpacked, unzipped and configured, amongst other things). Do you think it would be OK to find an archived version closer to the original for installing on vintage hardware?

Sitch 2.5: What about newer "remastered" versions owned on GOG, but download the older original versions to play on old hardware?

Sitch 3: Should be a no-brainer, but who knows? I bought a copy of Master of Orion 2 once. A re-release boxed copy on CD. The box proclaimed it would work on DOS, but when I tried installing it it turned out to only have the version modified to work on windows 9x. Didn't work on my DOS machine. Again, OK to download the proper DOS version from somewhere?

Sitch 4: A bit more of a grey area now. I still have the original boxes, manuals, registration cards etc. of DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 that I got new with a 386 back in 1992 or 1993. Problem is, the disks all died and subsequently disappeared (probably thrown out) long ago. Would it be OK to download a copy of these, or is that getting too iffy?

Sitch 5: Pretty sure this is pushing it a bit far, but what about games and software that I once owned legitimately but have simply vanished entirely? No? Didn't think so...

That's all I can think of for now. I'd love to hear what you think, and I'd be interested in any other borderline situations you might have come across, and what you think the right course of action is?
 

SomeGuy

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Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
4,139
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Marietta, GA
A REAL collector will always want genuine media.

If you need proof of license, for example if you are using an older software product in a business, you will also require genuine media or other physical proof of license. Keep in mind that for a few products, even purchasing media will not transfer license. Most of the time "support" will not transfer with a physical media purchase, but the kind of software we are talking about probably does not have support.

The problem with such questions is you mostly are asking a legal question, and there are no lawyers here. Nobody here can answer that question with anything other than opinion.

Much commercial software has been publicly archived. So in my opinion, It is simply up to you what you want to do with it.

You can look at it from a number of perspectives. If you own damaged media, you can use it to repair or augment your disks. You can download something to try out before you buy. You can download something with the intent that you will do your best to obtain physical media when you can. Download or not, sometimes you just have to do whatever you feel is right. Or you can just download away and re-live the old warez days while realizing that is not even possible with much modern software. :p

Also, in my personal opinion, for personal use this is a fairly small thing to worry about. With how messed up things are these days, we each probably break a dozen obscure laws every time we breath.
 

Lutiana

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Staff member
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Mar 26, 2009
Messages
3,203
Location
Dublin, CA USA
My philosophy on the matter is "drink up, me hearties, yo-ho!" But that's not compliant with forum policy ;)

I tend to agree with this, and having such an opinion is perfectly OK around here, just don't post links to backup your opinion.

As for the questions from the OP. Legally speaking there really is no grey area, the answer to all your questions are pretty much "No, that violates copyright" but from a moral and practical standpoint it gets pretty hazy, especially when you talk about copyright holders that are either completely gone or care very little about their old IP.
 

VERAULT

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Joined
Jan 30, 2012
Messages
5,079
Location
Connecticut, USA
If you paid for a copy be it on steam or GOG and you can't get it to Run on a certain machine..it's my opinion that downloading the replacement floppy disk image or game to get the files it's not piracy as you have paid for a copy already.I am also in the camp that even if I buy a game used or second-hand, even if it cost me a nickel I still paid for it. I'm with you couple decades ago I was pirating floppy basedgames off of one of our local bbss'.. but I was young and broke and my parents thought computers were the devil.. I buy games now as I have means and I support the authors. on another note I was watching a video on YouTube about the postmortem of some game I don't remember what it was you might have been will write talking about raid on bungeling Baybut somebody in the audience came out and said can I please pay you for a game I stole from you 20 years ago.. he took the money and I thought it was a nice transaction.
 

Trixter

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Joined
Aug 31, 2006
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Chicagoland, Illinois, USA
I wonder what everyone would think of as "OK"?

IANAL, but I have archival/curator/museum experience, and have talked with IP and copyright lawyers.

Sitch 1: You can prove physical ownership, and are entitled to download files to repair what you physically own.

Sitch 2: Law varies from country to country; the license for selling the game on GOG is usually only for that platform ("platform" in this case being "electronic distribution with a dosbox runtime"). That said, no company will have trouble with you taking your GOG game binaries and loading them on your vintage computer, which many people do and you shouldn't need to grab them from an archive somewhere.

Sitch 2.5: Remastered versions are not the same as the original game they're based on. They have a license to reuse ideas and images, but are usually done by a completely different entity than the original work. Buying a remaster does not legally entitle you to the original work.

Sitch 3: See #1.

Sitch 4: See #1.

Sitch 5: Unless you can prove physical ownership or purchase (ie. a sales receipt), you're not entitled to grabbing a copy.

That said, I personally follow the rule of beyond economic recovery, which may answer some (more) of your questions.
 

Krille

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Aug 14, 2010
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Sweden
The problem with such questions is you mostly are asking a legal question, and there are no lawyers here. Nobody here can answer that question with anything other than opinion.

It was clear to me at least that he is asking for opinions, not legal advice.

So here's my opinion; if I have paid the original author(s) for the software, then I'll download and use/play it as I see fit. If the intellectual property is then subsequently bought by someone else and only with the intent to milk it for the money without any improvement of the software, then I won't lose any sleep if it gets pirated to death.

on another note I was watching a video on YouTube about the postmortem of some game I don't remember what it was you might have been will write talking about raid on bungeling Baybut somebody in the audience came out and said can I please pay you for a game I stole from you 20 years ago.. he took the money and I thought it was a nice transaction.

IIRC it was Diablo. And yes, it was a very nice gesture.
 

RadRacer203

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Joined
Sep 25, 2016
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Location
Burlington VT
I usually don't pirate old software unless it's not available anymore, or the official downloads such as GoG don't work on original hardware, which seems to happen quite a bit
 

Unknown_K

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Joined
Sep 11, 2003
Messages
8,507
Location
Ohio/USA
I try and get legit software as much as possible for all platforms. Even with legit software does one person need 15 copies of DOS 6 if he has 15 DOS computers in the collection (and only uses 1 at a time)?

So many old apps and games have changed ownership over the years so even if you buy a NIB copy on ebay or digital download from GOG the original publishers and programmers get nothing from it.

Quite a bit of the fun collecting the older boxed games were in the substantial manuals and trinkets found in the box which you won't get on a digital download or re release.

Pirates have allowed old copy protected programs to still be used even when the dongles are lost and cannot be replaced.
 

Bworp

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2019
Messages
33
Location
Tasmania, Australia
Thanks for the replies!

Yes, I should have been a little more clear I suppose: I'm coming from a more moral/ethical standpoint than legal one (although I'd like to take that into consideration too.)
Trixter, great insights by the way!

I'd call myself more of an "enthusiast" than a collector, and 100% authenticity isn't too important as long as the experience feels authentic. I'm happy to "repair" old media with files downloaded from the internet. I'm considering writing images onto some fresh disks and printing new labels for them to replace some floppies that are beyond repair, and I've even toyed with the idea of getting entire boxes, manuals and media printed professionally for software I only own digitally. I can already hear the gasps from the purists (and believe me, if the originals were plentiful and cheap it wouldn't even enter my mind). But 'm getting off topic now...

My question wasn't to get a "correct" answer, I'm just curious what the various viewpoints or personal opinions out there may be :)
 

Maverick1978

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Joined
Mar 29, 2010
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Location
Florida, USA
I own hundreds of boxed software, apps and games.

But my opinion on the matter? All situations?

"Ahoy me mateys!"

So long as I'm not distributing copies publicly, to me no one is being hurt. Better, IMO, for the software to be able to continue living than to be forgotten and lost. Which has happened to a great many apps and games already.
 
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