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What Is Abandonware?

Abandonware is any old software, especially PC games, which no longer receive any updates or have active support. Although copyright rules still apply to these software programs, they are not enforced actively. As many people like to play old computer games, a number of websites have come up that allow people to download these abandonware for free. Here are some key aspects of abandonware that you might like to know.

No ownership

In most cases, there is no proper ownership of abandonware. This is why they are available for free download. Either the creator or the company no longer exists or the current owner is not interested in enforcing copyright laws.

No revenue

Abandonware is usually software that can no longer produce revenue for the creator. It’s true that people like to play a game, but that may be just because it is available for free. If a fee was to be charged for these games, most people will probably not pay to play the game. With no revenue generation potential, owners are generally not interested in pursuing copyright violation cases.

How abandonware websites function?

Websites that store abandonware use various tricks to stay operational. One common technique is to host the website in a country where copyright laws are not so strict. There are also various games that have been released under public licenses such as Creative Commons and General Public License. In such cases, abandonware websites don’t have to face any legal issues.

Abandonware websites also use the provisions available under ‘cease-and-desist’ notices to stay away from legal wrangles. Anyone filing a copyright violation case against the abandonware website will first have to send a cease-and-desist notice. When this happens, these websites simply remove that software from their website. This protects them from further legal action.

There are also creators who think that abandonware websites are actually doing a good job of preserving old computer games. So, even if a creator is aware of copyright violations, they tend to ignore it for the greater good. In the absence of abandonware websites, many popular games of the past might be lost forever.

Is it legal to download abandonware?

The answer is no. But it’s unlikely that the police will come knocking on your door, just because you downloaded a piece of software from an abandonware website. Till date, there has not been even a single case where an individual was prosecuted for downloading and playing abandonware. So, you will still be violating copyright laws, but you are unlikely to face any police or legal action.

Is abandonware safe?

Abandonware websites operate on goodwill and there are no proper channels to check the safety of software available on these websites. However, if you download from popular abandonware websites, you are likely to be safe. But make sure you have anti-virus software installed, just in case something goes wrong.

About Satya Singh

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