Museums can now legally jailbreak game consoles, and you can crack abandoned games

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by Ryan Whitwam

When a game developer abandons a game or console, that can mean a lot of digital content is lost forever. Games are increasingly becoming an expression of art and culture, and many feel it’s wrong to allow games to simply vanish because a company shuts down their DRM server. The scourge of DRM has led to the premature demise of games in the past, but it might not be an inevitable death sentence in the future.

A new ruling from the US Copyright Office has granted DMCA exemptions in several narrow circumstances that can be used to keep abandoned games alive without running afoul of copyright law. Luckily, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has a mechanism to address the changing state of technology. Every three years the Copyright Office considers exemptions from the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. This year the EFF has won two key victories for gamers.

First, museums and other institutions that are trying to preserve games will be permitted to “jailbreak” or otherwise modify game consoles to run games without worrying about a long-dead DRM server. The Electronic Software Association objected to the request by the EFF, pointing out that jailbreaking a console can also be used to pirate games. The Copyright Office granted the exception, but it only applies to institutions, not people looking to pirate games.

The other DMCA exemption has wider appeal. You are now permitted to bypass the lame DRM protection scheme on a single player game in the event the publisher shuts down necessary DRM servers. For example, Diablo 3 has an online DRM server that you have to authenticate with even if you just want to play the single player game. Under the new rules, you could legally crack Diablo 3’s DRM when and if Blizzard shuts down that server.
These rules don’t extend to running online servers for discontinued games. So, there’s no way to archive an MMO yet. However, the EFF will get another chance to expand DMCA exemptions in three years.

Facebook Will Soon Allow You to Use Your Alias

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You Need To Explain Why You Dont Want Your Real Name On Facebook

In one of the major turnarounds, Facebook is letting go its ‘Real Name’ policy, with a few conditions. Facebook on Friday, announced that it is modifying the terms of its heavily criticised “real name” policy which demands users go by their “authentic name” when on the social network rather than a alias to protect their identity.

While there has been opposition to the real name policy since Facebook first started it, the opposition has grown more in recent years. The trans and Native American communities have repeatedly protested the policy, citing its use by trolls as a weapon of harassment. Today’s announcement comes in response to an open letter penned by advocacy groups including the EFF and ACLU.

Facebook has now bowed down to popular demand and made changes to its real name policy, with riders though. First, Facebook now allow users to provide additional context and explanation for using the name they do when confirming their accounts. “This should help our Community Operations team better understand the situation,” VP of Growth Alex Schultz wrote in the announcement. “It will also help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future.”

Second, Facebook will also require users that flag others for employing alternate names to provide additional detail and information in their complaint. Facebook said that though it is modifying real name policy, it wants to make the extra step hard enough to dissuade people from frivolously flagging profiles, which locks the targeted user out of their profile until they can confirm they are who they say they are.

Additionally, Facebook will tweak both the name confirmation process, no longer requiring government-issued IDs, as well as provide a “more robust” and transparent appeals process for users locked out of their accounts.

Schultz said that this does not imply that Facebook is backing away from its real name policy. He said that this policy will actually make Facebook a safer ground, specifically to wipe out spammers who are shielding behind anonymity.The policy changes are scheduled to activate in December.