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You are going to read the official FAQs written by Peter Ringering, the first to coin the Abandonware term and the first (with his Israeli friend Ben) to have the idea to create a dedicated site to games that are not on the market anymore and left by their software houses. This section aim is to flesh out the ideology and the laws regulating the Abandonware world, so pay special attention.

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THE ABANDONWARE FAQ 5 (written 1997, revised 2002 by Abandonware Ring)
  1. What abandonware is
    1. The definition of abandonware
    2. Why abandonware is technically software piracy
    3. Why abandonware is really not (or should not be) software piracy
    4. What is NOT abandonware
    5. How something ceases to be abandonware
    6. The history of abandonware
    7. Articles on abandonware

  2. The Abandonware Ring
    1. What the Abandonware Ring is
    2. Benefits of joining the Abandonware Ring
    3. How to join the Abandonware Ring

  3. Other abandonware resources
    1. Newsgroups
    2. IRC

I. What abandonware is

A. The definition of abandonware
Abandonware is defined as any PC/Mac/Amiga/C64/Apple game that is:
At least four years old; Not being sold or supported by the company that produced it or by any other company. When a certain piece of Abandonware is later found to be sold or supported by a company, then it ceases to be Abandonware.
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B. Why abandonware is technically software piracy
According to U.S. Law and International Treaties, a copyright belongs to the author of a software product for 50 years beyond the life of the author or 75 years after the copyright date if the work is done by a corporation. Before that time expires, nobody (except the author) has the right to copy that piece of software. A corporation is defined as an independent entity (like a person) and as an independent entity, it can hold a copyright (like a person). (However, it can't vote like a person). Most of the software copyrights out there are held by corporations. (Microsoft, Sierra, Microprose, etc.) Therefore, nobody has the right to copy a software product held by the corporation for 75 years after the copyright date. If a person is caught copying a piece of software that has a copyright that he/she does not own, then he/she is found in violation of copyright law and is subject to civil and criminal penalties. The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is an organization whose goal is to find and catch people who violate software copyrights.
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C. Why abandonware is really not (or should not be considered) piracy
Let me (Peter Ringering) tell you the history of my computer life. I am on my fourth computer now. When I bought my first computer a 286, I bought some software with it. Then, a year later, games came out that required a 386. I stretched a little and bought a 386 along with a few more games. However, a couple years after that, games came out on the market that said "Must have a 486 or better." I waited awhile, saved awhile, and finally got a 486. However, now most software titles say, "Must have a Pentium 200 with MMX." Now I am just lucky because I have just bought a 300MHZ with a Pentium 2, and everything is beyond normal specifications! But a majority of people and probably you too, do not have the money to buy everything you need to play the new games. But the old games that you could run are usually not in stores anymore.
Abandonware is what we call "abandoned software." Abandoned property is defined as "Property that has been discarded by the true owner, who has no intention of claiming title to it. Someone who finds abandoned property acquires title to it, and such title is good against the whole world, including the original owner" (West Business Law 4th edition). As far as I'm concerned the software companies have abandoned their old software by not selling or supporting it. Therefore, anyone who wants to play an old game which they can no longer buy should be able to download it for free.
That's what the Abandonware Ring is designed to do. They are designed to give software and support to people who like to play these old games or people who can't play the new games that are coming out.
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D. What is NOT abandonware
Software that is either:
Less than four years old
Still sold and/or supported by a company
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E. How something ceases to be abandonware
When a software company decides that they are going to start selling one of their old games again.
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F. The history of abandonware
Back in February 1997, Peter Ringering and Ben (from Israel) noticed that there was no software or support out there for people with old computers. So, he set up his Oldie Computer Site and Ben set up the Classic Gaming Archive. Other people (like Jou and Mattijs) saw it and decided to join in and so they set up their sites. Then they all decided to work together and pool our resources so that they could accomplish a lot more.
In March, Peter set up the Abandonware Ring Central (now just Abandonware Ring). It didn't take long for legal threats to come and the ring was quickly shut down. However I (Swizzle) quickly took over the ring and have done my best to guide it into what you see today.
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G. Articles on abandonware
Here is a list of articles available online that have been written about abandonware.

Byte.com "Can Abandonware Revive Forgotten Programs?"
CanadaComputes.com "Thieves or saviours? Abandonware roosts in legal battleground"
Cnet.com "Abandoware Pirates"
Elpais.es "El movimiento 'abandonware' no cree que liberar programas antiguos dañe a la industria" (Spanish)
Gamespot "Flashbacks for free: The skinny on Abandonware"
MobyGames "Abandonware in a nushell - why nobody wins"
New York Times "Out of print Computer Games"
Tech TV "Abandonware Free For All"
The Adventure Collective "Abandonwarez: The pros outweigh the cons"
Washington Post "Abandoned games kept alive illegally"
Wired "Abandonware: Dead Games Live On"
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II. The Abandonware Ring

A. What the Abandonware Ring is
The Abandonware Ring is a group of WWW sites that are devoted to distributing and supporting Abandonware. Since none of us have unlimited web space to store Abandonware titles (well maybe Underdogs) the games are usually rotated. Abandonware Ring sites are known because they have one of our Abandonware Ring buttons on them.
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B. Benefits of joining the Abandonware Ring
You will receive allot of hits to your site since we are all linked together.
You will receive access to private resources for Abandonware Ring members.
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C. How to join the Abandonware Ring
Just check out Abandonware ring site and fill in the information.
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III. Other Abandonware Resources

A. Newsgroups
Newsgroups are the best place to get abandonware from the mid 90's and up.

alt.games.abandonware

alt.binaries.old.games (best)
alt.binaries.warez.ibm-pc.old
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B. IRC
Internet relay chat is a good place to hang out and talk about abandonware. There are generally a lot of file servers and FTPs running in these rooms. All of the following are on Efnet.

#aw
#abandonware
#freeoldies
#classicgames
#oldgames
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