Another Copyright Issue (Abandonware)


There is a term, “abandonware,” which refers to software (especially games) that are available as free downloads on the internet because the publisher has gone out of business. These are generally old games which are very difficult to get and cannot be bought in stores. Is abandonware legal? Also, supposing the publisher has gone out of business, how do I make sure someone else doesn’t have the rights to this software?

A bit of a technical question, but I would appreciate any input! Thanks :slight_smile:


It depends. Sometimes it’s considered legal, sometimes it’s not. The word was coined to denote software with abdicated copyrights, but it appears it’s not always the case. However, abandonware sites operate in daylight, as opposed to warez sites. They don’t hide anything and they are willing to remove a game in case of protest. Perhaps you might wish to write an e-mail to the company who released the game. Those guys should tell you if they care or not. Some of those companies are probably dead already.


The issues are rather dicey. currently has an appeal in the courts trying to get the rights to host abandonware (they call them “orphan works”) for download. They are rather specific–software whose parent company no longer exists in any shape or form, and whose rights were not purchased by another company, and whose copyright is still active. Personally, I’m checking on their site every so often to see how the case is going, and if I can start downloading from there yet. I love–I know I can morally download from there without a problem.

I have downloaded abandonware from several sites, but only of games that I had once owned and since lost the disks (or the disks died). I’ll do emulators as well, but only under the same conditions.


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