Abandonware In A Nutshell: Why Nobody Wins
Proposed Solutions for Consumers
If you want to play a title that is no longer available, then contact the company; make your voice heard. Organize a
letter-writing campaign. (A real campaign, with surface-mail letters made out of paper, not email
letter-bombs. Email from consumers usually gets filtered into the bit bucket once it hits the suggestion departments
at most gaming companies). Try to convince the chain of marketing that a demand for older titles does indeed exist, and
provides the opportunity for practically free profit since no additional development effort is required. Point out that
older titles can also serve as effective marketing for newer ones. Sierra used this technique with the re-release of Red
Baron for Red Baron II, and Betrayal at Krondor for its later sequels; even Activision released Zork 1, 2, and 3 as
promotion for the latest Zork sequel. Do your best to convince them that the need for the availability of older gaming
titles is real, not perceived. With enough letters, they may turn around.
If you are trying to get a copy simply because your disks have gone bad, you may have another option available: The Better Business Bureau. Contact the Bureau of the state that the company resides in and find out if they're a member. If they are, file a complaint, stating simply that they violated the terms of their own warranty because they could not provide replacement materials. While it's not pretty to file a complaint, you have the legal right to do so as a consumer, and it may be the only thing that gets their attention. Just make sure that the diskette-replacement warranty included in your package doesn't have 1. a time limit on replacement of disks or materials, with or without an incurred fee, and 2. there is no passage in "the fine print" that states the software company can revoke the availability of replacement materials at any time. While they may not be able to provide replacement materials, they are obligated to take sufficient measures to rectify the situation.
Of course, the above two methods take a lot of perserverance, time, and patience. If you absolutely must play an older game, go ahead and snag a copy from someone. Yes, this is illegal; I should probably be publicly flogged for suggesting it. But a private individual lending a game to another private individual is hardly something worth spending time and money prosecuting. As long as you are discreet and don't attract attention to yourself, you will be largely ignored. People are sympathetic to your situation if you owned a game a decade ago and found out yesterday that the disks have gone bad over time. Think of it as the US military's position about homosexuals in the armed forces -- a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
If you want to help out the typical consumer described above, wait until you are asked to do so. Do not volunteer software freely. Hang out on discussion lists, Usenet newsgroups, or online chat forums until someone asks for help. What you should not do is offer commercial software for free for easy download from a web or FTP site (like Abandonware sites) or otherwise attract attention to yourself. This is a virtual "flipping of the bird" to the laws set in place decades ago to protect the authors of original works and give them their monetary due. Lawyers jump on stuff like this because you are not merely misinterpreting a law, but blatantly opposing it and refusing its authority. They will find you and get you in some degree of trouble, even if you use tons of aliases, an anonymous email address, and live outside of America (US copyright laws are enforcable in over 100 countries). Do not underestimate the determination of lawyers or their ability to wreak havoc on your personal life.
"Just because you have a good reason doesn't mean you should it. Hell, there's a good reason to push an old lady down the stairs! Just don't do it!" -- Chris Rock
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