The problem of trapped games is only going to become more common as time goes on. Microsoft and Sony will eventually shut down the online stores for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, meaning the only copies of hundreds of download-only games on those services will be stuck on aging hard drives inside specific consoles. The entire catalog of Xbox Live Indie Games may become totally unplayable if Microsoft doesn’t remove those titles’ required online authentication check before shutting down those servers.
From a technical standpoint, hackers and tinkerers will probably eventually figure out a way to transfer these games off of their hard drive prisons and onto a form that can be more easily preserved and emulated on other hardware. “Historically, when something like this comes along, there is someone somewhere that has figured out a workaround, or downloaded something themselves, or thought of this before the system was brought down, or has a private server or something like that,” Lowood said.
But the current state of the law makes this an uncertain proposition for an archivist. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition on breaking any kind of digital rights protections means that interested institutions can’t risk pursuing methods for long-term preservation of these trapped titles. There has been a limited exception to this for “obsolete” software formats since back in 2003, but that’s not much help for planning how to capture current history.
Maintaining a good historical archive going forward is a very important issue: those who do not learn from the past, and all that.
This is another downside of DRM,1 on top of all the political problems I’ve got with the whole setup.