GOG’s Time Machine Sale Lets You CONTROL TIME ITSELF

By John Walker on January 29th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

As someone who firmly believes in the public domain, and finds it instantly aggravating that games over 20 years old cost anything, GOG’s current Time Machine Sale pulls me in two directions. They’re going back 30 years to highlight 30 games, knocking off substantial sums from each in turn. 1995′s Crusader: No Remorse just had a turn at 75% off. Now it’s Tomb Raiders 1, 2 and 3. (Of which the first came out in 1996.)

I love that GOG has rescued so many games from obscurity, and I especially love that it releases them DRM free. I don’t love that the price for those games so often finds itself near the $10 mark. As someone who desperately pines for the PD model that drove creativity before the copyright industry malevolently took over the planet, it saddens my heart that a game two decades old isn’t released into the world. Even ignoring the chances that anyone involved in the development of a game made in 1989 is seeing a penny of it, it engenders this belief that for creative products there should be some inalienable right to keep making money on some work you did decades ago, like a plumber demanding a fee every time you use the tap he installed in 1992. Yuck, stop it.

Anyway, my grumbling aside, this is a chance to pick up a bunch of games for not much money – games that likely wouldn’t see the likes of a Steam sale. I mean, heck, when was the last time you heard someone mention Crusader: No Remorse? There’s a fun gimmick on the sale where you can add or take away a single second from the time a game has remaining on sale. Which means you’ll see the couple of hours each gets sproinging up and down as gangs chuck in or chip off time. Eventually time will win – that’s entropy.

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121 Comments »

  1. Pich says:

    that’s nice and all, but is Jack Keane on sale?

  2. benedict says:

    10USD is a bit on the high side, but thats what sales are for – for those of us who are price sensitive to replay a game we played 2-3 decades ago.

    I actually love GOG and dont mind that the games still cost money:
    1/ they work (I used to fiddle around with dosbox and now I dont have to – easily worth 10USD per game in reduction in hassle value!)
    2/ if they cost nothing, I wouldnt value them as much. they are a little like a veblen good here I guess.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      True. They’re selling a reworked copy and saving us two hours trawling through obscure websites just to get to the startup screen, and then another two hours to get the actual game working. People paid way more for the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced edition for the same reason.

      • Nick says:

        cept bg games work out of box.

        • Drake Sigar says:

          No they don’t. I have two boxed versions of Baldur’s Gate 1, the original and a collection re-release, neither work out of the box. I had to waste time researching the problem and then alter the game’s files. Baldur’s Gate 2 has the same issue but gives the player the ability to solve the problem from its startup options menu.

          The enhanced version works immediately (as does the GoG version presumably).

          • qrter says:

            Yes they do. I also have the non-enhanced D&D collection, and both Baldur’s Gates work without problem on my win7 machine.

            I believe most people buy the Enhanced editions because of the included fixes, moddery and extra content, not so much the “will it work” factor (and this is besides the question whether those fixes, that moderry and extra content is actually worth the price).

  3. Laurentius says:

    I live in gaming nineties all the time, I mean all the time, like it was two days ago i fired up and started new game of Master of Magic. Can you belive it ? 20 years old game, forget about DOOM, Master of Magic is 20 years old !!!
    Go Fang the Draconian, go !

    • Zafman says:

      “Old Man! You seek the spell of mastery!”
      Hah, good times. Better than Civilization. 8)
      I want to play it right now!

  4. boundless08 says:

    I’m in agreement with both benedict above and Mr. Walker. I don’t mind GOG charging for games as messing with DOSBOX is a nightmare and fair play for them getting it working across the board on most systems, also the price of the licenses for some games can’t be cheap. On the other hand after say that 20 year mark they should be released into the wild. Like the way copyright over music expires after a certain number of years, but games need to expire a lot quicker than that, its just the nature of them being tied to technology!

    • Guzzleguts says:

      I think that we expect that of games because until recently there was a clear progression from cutting edge to obscurity. However, the rise of indie and retro gaming and the existence of GOG itself indicates that the typical life cycle of a game is changing.
      Remember that these games are not exclusively being sold to people that played them when they first came out. If teenagers could expect to get 20 odd years backlog of games for free, then what effect is that going to have on the indie game market, for example?

      • Kitsunin says:

        Probably none…I had it pretty damn good as a teenager, with grandparents buying me like $200 of games each year, but I still didn’t even have close to the amount of money I would have needed to play as many games as I wanted to, even as someone without–too–much interest in $40+ titles. If I didn’t have the (Dubious, admittedly) option of hundreds of SNES & PSX games on emulators, I would be surprised if I still held the love of games I have now. Of course, as a culture we all want what’s new and fresh, but for those of us without the money to get all the fresh things they want, options are very important, lest we lose interest completely, which would damage the market far more in the long term.

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        Cinek says:

        Sorry, but there’s next to no teenagers on gog, unless they happen to be there for Witcher 2 and alike. Enormous majority of people who buy stuff there do it because of the sentimental value. Teenagers are too busy downloading stuff from TPB or playing on consoles to bother with GOG. Especially when most of the games out there got horrible user expirience based on modern day standards (I highly recommend playing Civ V and then Alpha Centauri – Civ V is a dream when it comes to controls and interface, Alpha Centauri is a total nightmare in comparison, you get exhausted after 10 mintues).

      • Guzzleguts says:

        Thanks for all the anecdotal evidence and prejudice, but I think I can match it with plenty of counter-anecdotes of my own.
        The missed point being that the perceived worth of a game is no longer as directly tied to it’s age or technological prowess (graphics etc). This changes the value of older games to new customers and markets. It is self-absorbed to believe that something MUST be free just because YOU do not value it.
        PS: excuse caps. No italics on tablet

        • Kitsunin says:

          Oh I don’t necessarily disagree that old games don’t have value…though I do believe it would be better for culture as a whole if they were accessible by all.

          I myself was merely arguing with your assumption that old games are really something that teenagers are going to pay for over the new stuff. Generally speaking, teenagers have a fixed limit to the amount of money they can possibly spend, period, while they still have craptons of time with which to play games. If they can’t get enough games with their limited amount of money (And no way to get more, since they usually can’t work yet) to fill the free time they have, they are going to turn to dubious methods like piracy or emulators.

    • DrManhatten says:

      Copyright on anything expires when it is produced after 1970s thank to fucking Disney 70 years or the life of the author what ever is longer!

  5. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    While part of me wishes all cultural works, in all media, were free some 10-15-20 years after their release, the GOG team works hard to bring certain games to their store, acquire licences and make contracts for DRM-free releases that many publishers are opposed to, make them compatible with newer OS, make them work with a one-click install despite dos-box etc. It’s as if a book was free, and yet it’s fair to pay one or two €/£/$ for the sheer costs of paper, translation, binding, shipping. (Unfortunately, no one does that >.<)

    Surely not 10$ a piece worth of work, but their cut after what goes to the publisher is more than fair, I think. And frankly most games cost 6.99$ when not on sale, and it feels even cheaper if you pay in € or £.

    • frightlever says:

      I’m in favour of the twenty five year rule for copyright, ie copyright extends for twenty five years after first publication, not after the death of the artist. I’d furthermore want copyright to incur a nominal on-going yearly fee after the first ten years, paid to the public (which by extension is the Government, but it should be reserved for supporting culture and the arts) in exchange for granting that copyright protection in the first place. Copyright is not an inalienable human right – it’s something which has been granted to creators to encourage them to create. That understanding has broken down and now copyright is being used to stifle creativity and is being blatantly taken for granted.

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        now copyright is being used to stifle creativity

        In what way?

        Edit: For clarity, given the responses below, I’m interested in how copyright legislation restricts creativity, not in how businesses use unscrupulous lawyers to abuse legislation. The latter is an entirely different problem which exists independently of the legislation they abuse.

        • Geebs says:

          In the manner of “I can’t do whatever I want, so it must be bad”, I suspect.

          (If there was some mechanism by which rights reverted back to the author rather than the publisher I would be happy to pay for stuff much older than 25 years. Even if that thought process condones e.g. the Hendrix family continuing to release re-hashed albums on the basis that they found another 30 second recording of Jimi farting somewhere near a microphone)

        • FleeingNevada says:

          How do you see 80+ years of copyright, which differs in every country, helping creativity in any way? Works that have been long since out of print or forgotten are still locked away from potential adaptations because of ancient methods of hanging on to copyright.

          • Ich Will says:

            Yup, my production company received a cease and desist from Disney when we announced the intention to create a cartoon version of King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone… a story which pre-dates Disney by how many centuries?

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            Llewyn says:

            I asked in what way copyright legislation is stifling creativity. Problems of access to protected works are a different matter entirely.

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            @Ich Will: Citing copyright issues or trademark issues?

          • Ich Will says:

            I don’t accurately know but given they responded to a press statement with no details beyond the concept (welsh language cartoon describing Arthurs journey to Tintagel from North Wales) and not even a working title, they would have been hard pressed to make it a trademark issue no? I’m in transit to the office now, i’ll ask the producer when i get in and let you know

          • Ich Will says:

            No-one can find the letter but I can’t possibly understand how it could be a trademark thing, it could only have been a copyright thing

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            Llewyn says:

            I have no idea how it could be either, to be honest. I suspect the lawyer writing the letter possibly didn’t either – sadly it’s far easier to send a speculative and baseless letter than it is to challenge one you’ve received. Thanks for looking though.

          • Ich Will says:

            As you said in your edit, way too many scummy companies willing to abuse their deep pockets – I wish the law was better taught in schools.

        • Ich Will says:

          Copyright can be used to stifle creativity – see Angryjoes recent video on how his original works have been given a copyright notice due to a few seconds of a music track being used on videos half an hour in length. The music industry is especially bad for this – AJ reviews video games and up until recently used the games soundtrack as part of his, exceptionally lavish, long, well produced reviews. Music companies especially have enforced claims on his videos, abusing copyright law in a way which stifles creativity, and if you are familiar with his work, you will know that he is one of the most creative guys on youtube.

          • toxic avenger says:

            That was more about the unjust and poorly coded Google system of finding infringing material and the relative ease and lack of work needed to actually send out cease and desist notices. That was the most annoying, ill thought out video I have ever seen “Angry” Joe put out.

        • Grygus says:

          I have heard two arguments:

          1. Anytime someone is set for life financially, their productivity will suffer because you know those days you just don’t want to get out of bed? If you’re set for life, maybe you simply don’t. So allowing an artist to live on one creation most likely costs us at least some of the things that artist might have created in the future if we had limited the money-making power of the initial creation.

          2. Derivative works are directly stifled as the cost of entry is beyond the means of the vast majority of people. Even a work which isn’t directly derivative but could be perceived as derivative is off-limits since the mere cost of a court defense is enough to wreck most bank accounts.

          I am not sure I buy into the first argument but the second seems strong to me.

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            Thanks for your constructive reply.

            I’m also entirely unconvinced by the first argument – I’m sure it does apply in some cases, just as I’m sure the opposite applies in others, but it doesn’t seem a good basis either for or against copyright protection.

            As for the second argument, I’m probably guilty of giving derivative works less credit than they (or some of them) are due. I’m not sure to what extent copyright protection is actually hampering genuine creativity here – ie how much creative derivative works need to depend specifically on the copyright-protected work of others. I’m certainly open-minded on this one though.

            I do believe though that it’s important to separate the effects of legislation from the misuse of that legislation by specific bodies. Corporate bullying isn’t a problem with copyright per se, it’s a fundamental problem with most national legal systems.

          • aoanla says:

            For evidence regarding derivative works: consider that the vast majority of plays that Shakespeare wrote were derivative of earlier works (The Tempest is one of the few counter-examples), or were historical.
            This was also generally true of pretty much everyone in the period.

            It’s not clear that the loss of derivative works in this sense to copyright is actively harmful, but it *is* at least a big difference to the way even well-regarded creators used to work before copyright became the force that it currently is.

            (For those getting confused about limitations on copyright and using poor physical analogies, consider the situation of patents. Patents last for a fixed term to allow the inventor to make money off of their innovation. In return the inventor makes public their innovation so that the public good is enriched. After the patent expires (20 years or so), *anyone* can use the innovation in their own inventions (and society wins).
            The original idea of copyright was in the same ballpark – copyright lasts for a fixed time to allow the creator to make money off of their creative work. In return, the creator makes their work public, in some sense, so that the public good is enriched. After the copyright expires, *anyone* can use the creative work as a basis for further creative works (and society wins).
            The difference is that the duration of a patent has not been repeatedly extended over time, mainly because the industries that rely on patents also have a vested interest in their competitor’s patents expiring as well (and they can keep the really smart stuff secret). The industries that depend on copyright have no real interest in anyone else’s copyrights expiring (the only people who benefit are “society at large”), so there’s never been any back-pressure against efforts to extend durations.
            Defending the status quo with poor quality analogies with physical goods misses the point of the system, and the social and political dynamics that have lead to that status quo existing.)

          • mike2R says:

            A great example of derivative works is Disney. Many of their most famous films are reworkings of the out-of-copyright work of others. Ironically many of the early ones would have been infringing had the current copyright laws, championed by their lobbying, been in effect.

            I’m not sure where I stand anymore. I went on a bit of an anti-copyright kick when I was younger, but I can see the other side these days. A good book if you are interested in these sort of arguments (not anti-copyright, but calling for it to be shorter and less restrictive) is Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. Available for free online as an eBook.

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            @aoanla: I’m not sure to what extent Shakespeare’s works are ‘derivative’ in a copyright sense as opposed to ‘derivative’ in a common English usage sense of the word. My understanding was always that they were largely retellings of existing, well-established, stories but that their form – language and structure – were mostly original. If this is true then copyright isn’t an issue; those stories wouldn’t be protected by modern copyright law. If it isn’t true, and Shakespeare largely recycled the work of earlier authors, then are the results truly creative works that would have been stifled?

            @mike2R: That is a good example indeed. My understanding is that the creative elements of Disney’s films – animation, voice work, music etc – would themselves be protected original works but the adaptations of the source stories would probably be infringing works. Were those source stories still protected Disney would certainly have to have done things differently, but most of those stories could still have been told in animated form without very many changes; I’d argue the stifling effect would have been felt most strongly on Disney’s marketing, rather than their creativity.

          • imagine says:

            @Llewyn: to be clear, in copyright terms a derivative work is a work that includes copyrighted content and at the same time is original enough to be worthy, on its own, of copyright protection. This definition groups together works which are very different in kind, because i) the level of originality to be granted copyright protection is very, very, very low and ii) you don’t need to include – quantitatively speaking – a lot of copyrighted material to be infringing. You can also have derivative works which are not infringing because the use of copyrighted material is allowed under some legal provision (fair use in US, copyright exception in EU) or because the copyrighted content has been legitimately licensed from the copyright owner.

            As an aside, Shakespeare did not have to worry about copyright because copyright was enacted for the first time in 1710 with the Statute of Anne (which, by the way, concerned printing licenses and prescribed a copyright term of 14 years).

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            @imagine: Thanks, though I was clear on the legal side of it but unclear on the literary history aspect of aoanla’s point.

          • mike2R says:

            @imagine

            I think I’m right in saying that while the Statute of Anne created modern copyright laws, it did so by replacing the already existing English common law right of copyright – which was perpetual. There was (from my memory of the Lessig book I mentioned above) a court case about whether the limited term copyrights of the Statute of Ann actually replaced the perpetual common law copyright (despite it being the declared intent of the statute). This went all the way to the House of Lords after lower courts decided that it did not (so copyright was still perpetual) until the Law Lords finally decided that it did.

            Though to balance this, I don;t think there was any concept of a derivative work at all in common law copyright. It was literally the right to control the copies.

            Edit: the relevant part of Free Culture is here:
            http://www.authorama.com/free-culture-10.html

          • imagine says:

            @mike2R: From what I remember from history, the reason why the statute of Anne is considered the start of modern copyright is that it first put forward the notion that copyright is a mechanism to reward the author of a literary work. Before, copyright was more like a concession that could be given to anybody (the legal predecessor of the Statute of Anne, the Licensing Act was doing just about that, by concentrating the right to make copies in the hands of a limited number of authorized publishers). Hence, the creation of modern copyright occurred on the backdrop of a quite complex legal situation, which not only included common law but also positive interventions done by Parliament. The book you cite is a bit scarce on details in this respect, but it also makes the distinction that the word “copyright” around that time had a very different definition than today.

            In any case, I did not intend to illustrate accurately the legal situation with respect to printing rights in XVII-XVIII century England (nor I would feel qualified to); I was making an off-hand remark indicating that copyright has not always existed and in particular it has not always existed in its current form, so the current debate about derivative works would hardly be understood by most classical authors. I think we can both agree on that, notwithstanding my oversimplifying things.

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          You’re kind of missing the boat here. The legislation itself is the problem, not lawyers who “abuse” it.

          If a creative work has entered broad familiarity in popular culture, but yet is locked away from use by other creative works, then effectively popular culture becomes increasingly partitioned away from use by creators. This is fundamentally harmful because creators construct from what they know, which includes experience with other creative works, and this is how it has operated since humans first grew the capability to do creative things in pre-history.

          Providing a bargain timeframe for copyright, say 15 or 25 years, is harmful in this way, but provides a tradeoff where creators can profit from their works, making it a potential living as opposed to something that they do because they want to while ALSO working. However, copyright that lasts for the lifetime of the author and ADDITIONAL years as well is pretty clearly not aiding the creator anymore, and instead acting as a longlived wealth generator for the inheritors. This problem is further exacerbated by how the content industries have been built out, where modern creators typically sell ownership of their works to publishing companies who then own them for those hundred years or more.

          If you can’t see how this is all quite broken and acts to stifle creativity without even getting into strongarming lawyers then I suggest you have a think about it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            Are you arguing that the existing copyright regime is preventing creators from referencing, recycling and being inspired by protected works of popular culture?

            I assume I’m missing your point here, given your two more intelligent replies below (which I want to spend more time engaging with than I have at the moment). Perhaps you’d clarify it?

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            Yes, that happens.

            The most obvious examples that spring to mind are uses of Mickey Mouse in other creative works, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstar:_The_Karen_Carpenter_Story

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            I wouldn’t say it’s doing an especially thorough job of it.

            It’s certainly something that strongarming lawyers are doing energetically, but you tell me that they (along with the systems that enable them) aren’t the real problem…

      • Premium User Badge

        Saul says:

        It should be 18 years, the same amount of time that we get to be in charge of our babies.

  6. frightlever says:

    I find myself agreeing with one of John’s articles – I must retire to a darkened room and lie down.

    However, I look on the fee I pay to GoG as being for the convenience of having the game virus free and re-downloadable – but I wait for sales and wouldn’t pay ten bucks for a really old game. Ten bucks for a thirty year old game when you can get eg Total Annihilation complete for six bucks? Come on…

    We do tend to gloss over the fact that a lot of GoG games still have major, unaddressed technical issues for a lot of people.

    • boyspud says:

      While my experience isn’t everybody elses, I have 40+ games via GOG now and not one has had a technical issue that couldn’t be solved by changing windows compatibility. IMO they’ve done a pretty stellar job with the majority of games on there.

    • tobecooper says:

      GOG has a very nice support team. Drop them a line if something doesn’t work for you, or ask in the GOG forum.

      I don’t think there are many games with technical issues, and even fewer with major ones.
      Though, Interstate ’76 comes to mind. This one, I heard, is cursed.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        yea, GOG is like an opposite of Steam when it comes to customer support.

    • hurrakan says:

      At least Gog have the 30-day refund. And you can always check for free, old games on http://www.abandonia.com first – I just re-acquired Eye of the Beholder 2 yesterday :)

    • olemars says:

      I’m happy to pay GoG for services rendered and products delivered. They do lots of good work in digging up, packaging and sorting out the games and extras. Sometimes I’m happy to pay as a penance for previously only having “owned” the game as a set of floppies or CD’s with handwritten labels.

      I forgive them for not always being able to fix technical issues. It’s not easy to do that if the source code and/or developer no longer exist. The only games I’ve had issues with are a couple of windows 95 era titles depending on the first few bugged directdraw implementations, and those are notoriously difficult to work with. I’m less forgiving with Steam for selling me Stubbs: the Zombie and never acknowledging that the game is simply impossible to run.

      The few games on GoG I feel are overpriced are games I wouldn’t think worth spending time playing at all anyway.

      • Baines says:

        I’ve run into multiple older games on Steam with issues ranging from annoying to game breaking. Valve’s attitude appears to be to stick their fingers in their ears while continuing to sell the games.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rational explanation of why anyone believes that they should have an automatic right to creative works made by other people – to me that seems more fundamentally flawed than the idea that the creators* should continue to have rights over those works.

    That said, I would like to see an exemption for non-commercial reproduction of any works which are no longer made available by their creators after a set period of time (10 years?)

    *Or their successors, as is more commonly the case with games.

    • Myfyr says:

      Because freedom of thought is the most fundamental and important of all rights, with freedom of expression not too far behind. Creative works are, at their core, and idea. To say that someone else should not share an idea, and be free to express it, simply because someone else had it first… well, you’d want to have a pretty good reason to infringe on that right.

      Our society believes there is such a reason – giving a temporary monopoly on an idea makes it easier to earn a living from it, thus promoting the creation of new ideas. The discussion should be about what the optimal length of this monopoly is. Too long, and the incentive to create new ideas is diminished. Especially if that monopoly can be inherited. Too short and artists have to find other work and their output suffers.

      But we must never lose sight of the fact that “copyright” is an infringement, not an actual right. “Intellectual property” is a contradiction in terms. Note also that this is completely separate to the concept of plagiarism, which is more in the fraud area than the property area.

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        Copyright has nothing whatsoever to do with ideas. It doesn’t protect ideas, it doesn’t grant monopolies over ideas, it doesn’t prevent expression of ideas. If it did my views on it would be very different, depending on the extent to which it did each of those three things.

        Copyright applies only to the way in which those ideas are implemented. Indeed, you might have noticed that most of the ‘original works’ protected by copyright law are far from original in terms of their underlying ideas.

        Your last paragraph, the “fact” we must never lose sight of, is dogma, not fact.

        • Convolvulus says:

          So copyright has nothing to do with the expression of ideas, but it does apply to the way ideas are “implemented”? When it comes to something like a book, is that an implementation of ideas or an expression?

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            In very broad terms, the story is expression and the text is implementation. What you write is protected, what you write about isn’t.

        • Myfyr says:

          The way in which an idea is implemented is, itself, an idea. The only time we step outside the realm if ideas is in an actual implementation i.e. a physical work. These are protected by theft laws.

          Copyright absolutely grants monopolies on the expression of ideas. The precise words used, and the order in which they are used, is an idea. I can hold it in my head (well, someone more intelligent than me could, anyway), which I hope you’ll agree makes it an idea. Copyright means that, should I choose to write those words down i.e. express that idea, I have broken the law (some jurisdictions require additional steps before a violation is committed, such as sharing that expression with others.) This is a limit on expression of ideas.

          What you write about and what words you use are both ideas. The the thing that is not, is the physical object you end up with when you write those words on paper. This object is not protected by copyright laws. The idea behind the creation of said object is.

          In summary, if you can hold it in your head, it’s an idea. By definition. Copyright limits the expression of many such things.

    • Grygus says:

      It is drawing a distinction between a work of art and a better mouse trap. The mouse trap is a product for sale. It serves a needed purpose, and its sales are dependent upon its usefulness. A work of art can certainly be sold, but that is a by-product; the real purpose of art is communication. If you suppress the mouse trap by charging too much for it, you make less money and people miss out on a better way to trap mice, but in the case of art what people are losing are ideas. Ideas are the most important commodity that humans have, so perhaps it’s not a good idea to put obstacles in the way of their being transmitted. Since almost all products (of either type) undergo a similar sales curve where the vast majority of money to made has been mined from any given product shortly after it is released, making art free after a time will enable ideas to flow more freely (good for society) and also allow the artist to capture that surge of commerce (rewarding the artist(s) for the contribution.)

      The argument is how long that curve is, and part of the problem is that it keeps changing. For example: in 1960, a movie’s opening weekend represented most of its money-making power. Once the theater run was over, the amount of money to be made was relatively minimal; if you made movies free after the first year, assuming that fact did not discourage people from buying tickets in the first place, the movie would have lost only a small fraction of its total take, while society would have gained a great number of ideas being presented. But a movie released now gets a significant bump when the movie is released on home media, and possibly another when it is picked up for streaming. Syndication of television shows has been a complicating factor for a long time, too. So one year, which might have worked then, is no longer remotely appropriate. Seventy-five years is obviously avarice overriding any tradeoff, but where between those extremes is the sweet spot?

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        See my reply above – copyright does not apply to ideas. Ideas are not protected by anything, and arguably they ought to be. Ideas are not restricted by anything*, and arguably they shouldn’t ever be.

        Personally I feel the points you’re making are very different when applied to works rather than ideas.

        *Other than censorship and tyranny, but I don’t think we can blame those on copyright protection.

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          This is not quite true.

          Copyright is intended to protect the specific expression of a work. However, that does not mean it is wholly unrelated to ideas. Often the text of a work becomes inextricably interwoven with our ideas in a given space.

          Consider the Te Tao Ching. Now, imagine if the text of this work were under copyright still. Can you see how that would have some restriction on ideas?

          Certainly the intent of the various instruments of “intellectual Property” are to permit control over narrow things.

          1 – Copyright, to permit control over the *reproduction* of creative works, typically the text of written works
          2 – Patent, to provide exclusive control over a specific mechanism of solving a problem — originally this applied to mostly techniques in the physical world
          3 – Trademark, to provide business to create unique branding and imaging associations with their products that cannot be reused, so as to reduce fraud or market confusion

          None of these purport to control ideas. However, all of them in fact *DO* get used to control ideas in some circumstances.

          Trademarks are a bit of an edge case, for example Xerox and Kleenex became the standard nouns for types of things, and thus there was a problem where a company operating in a space owned the generic word for a type of thing. The case law now pretty clearly says this means the trademark is lost, so companies try to shy away from this.

          Patents are pretty blatant. In the tech space where I’ve worked for 25 years, it’s very common to try to take ownership of an idea. Usually what happens is some innovator comes up with a solution to a problem that had not been found yet, or simply decides to make a product using known techniques applied in a slightly new way. In order to stifle also-rans, they get a patent on their specific method. But since this is a very poor guarantee that another company could not solve the problem differently, they hire a team of experts to try to come up with ALL POSSIBLE WAYS of solving the problem. Then they patent ALL of them. Now they own the idea of solving that problem for 18-24 years, and have a monopoly.

          Copyrights are the least frequently used mechanism to lock up ideas, but they certainly regularly lock down cultural icons and concepts. The lockdown of ideas is relatively rare, but is certainly possible (I give an example above.)

          • joa says:

            However if a company has such a large amount of money and talented people that they can come up with “all” of the ways of solving a problem and patent all of them – doesn’t that make it fair play? Should there be no reward for such efforts?

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            Trademarks are a bit of an edge case, for example Xerox and Kleenex became the standard nouns for types of things, and thus there was a problem where a company operating in a space owned the generic word for a type of thing.

            You should preface this with “In the USA”. I could say Hoover became the standard noun for a thing which you clean floors with but most Americans would still call that thing a Vacuum Cleaner even if the majority of Brits would say Hoover.

            The case law now pretty clearly says this means the trademark is lost, so companies try to shy away from this.

            And this is why companies now aggressively defend their trademarks at every opportunity.

    • frightlever says:

      “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rational explanation of why anyone believes that they should have an automatic right to creative works made by other people”

      From your replies I doubt anything is going to convince you, but let’s give it a try. Your argument is that creative works should not become part of the public domain. The public domain, ie the free sharing of ideas, words, thoughts, songs, a pleasing series of grunts, is the natural order. Copyright, by definition, is unnatural. It is an artificial right granted to creators to keep their work out of the public domain, in order for them to make some money off it. I put it to you, that preventing creative works from entering the public domain is an unnatural state of affairs, and the longer those works are withheld from the public good, the more unnatural and the more perverse the effort involved becomes.

      Now, there’s nothing in the argument which is going to change your mind, I suspect, but the problem lies squarely with you and not with the argument.

      • Guzzleguts says:

        You haven’t explained why it is necessarily ‘natural’ for them to enter PD. Talk of ‘natural order’ does not constitute a logical argument. I’m not even saying you’re wrong, only that you haven’t presented a complete case, as you seem to believe.
        Following what you have stated, an artist would not be able to get anything back from their creation, as it would enter public domain instantly. That restricts creativity to bring the hobby of the rich.

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        @frightlever: Oh, where to begin… To start, that is not my argument – I’ve not made any argument at all, or stated or hinted at my personal position on this. For clarity, I also believe that copyright protection should be of limited duration, and should in most cases be shorter than it currently is. However I have no rational reason for holding this position beyond “it seems right”. I’ve not seen any reason from anyone else which amounts to anything more than this, which seems a strange state of affairs.

        Why is public ownership (or non-ownership) of works (note: works, not ideas) any more the natural order of things than non-ownership of property? Why is controlled sharing of works an abomination yet, presumably, writing a novel and keeping the only manuscript in the top drawer of your desk perfectly acceptable? For that matter, where do you stand on declining to write a novel one is capable of?

        My problem with the argument is that there is no argument being made. I don’t need to be convinced of the principle of it – I’m not arguing that the status quo is perfect – and I’m very much open-minded on the detail, but I’ve not yet seen anyone trying to convince.

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          The reason that ownership of ideas is much more unnatural than ownership of property is quite obvious, and I think you know this.

          If I have a bicycle, and I use it to go from my house and to work and back, and someone takes the bicycle, that’s a problem for me. I can’t go to work and back anymore. Ownership of the bicycle does not flow from laws of physics and it’s not the only way a society can function, but it represents one simple solution to the problem. (Edit: in retrospect, the concept of property is NOT simple, but you get the idea.) If someone else needs a bicycle, they can get their own.

          Owning a song doesn’t work like this. If I go out in public and sing a song, now everyone around me has a copy of the song in their head. They didn’t take my copy, and they didn’t even get a choice about it. They have it now. Despite the fact that they have a copy, we now want to create rules saying that the information they have may not be legally reproduced. They can’t, say, write the song down and mail it to a friend. Why not? Why do you get to own things that are in other people’s minds? How does this solve an important social problem?

          Now, you can sort of ask some polemic/philosophical questions about the nature of physical property, but it’s not nearly so bizarre as the idea of owning thoughts in other people’s heads.

          • Ich Will says:

            Actually, I think they can write it down and mail it to a friend, just not sell it or give it away publically if you sell written copies of your work

  8. Premium User Badge

    jrodman says:

    I support the idea of games going into the public domain after say 15 or 20 years, since they’re technology works and the pace of technology is fast.

    However, I don’t think paying 10 bucks for someone who’s done the work to make them easy to play again is that high. I’d probably pay it even if they WERE in the public domain.

    • frightlever says:

      I would have called you an idiot for that last remark a few years ago, but there’s a company on Amazon packaging up public domain short stories and novels into Kindle compilations and dammit I’ve paid for a couple. There’s something to be said for convenience when the rest of your material needs are met.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        It’s paying for work, really. I can do the work to get the game going, or I can pay someone else to do it.

        It’s not really any different from going out to eat.

    • derbefrier says:

      We practically already do. Its not like I can’t go to pirate bay and find most of those games but I spend my money at GOG instead exactly for the convience the provide.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Yep. Me too. Especially with all the issues that come up with the old titles. I would easily pay what GoG asks for a fixed, working version of a title I loved ages ago.

  9. DrollRemark says:

    Well at least Jason Rohrer doesn’t run GOG, eh?

  10. plugmonkey says:

    it engenders this belief that for creative products there should be some inalienable right to keep making money on some work you did decades ago, like a plumber demanding a fee every time you use the tap he installed in 1992. Yuck, stop it.

    Wait, what’s wrong with that exactly? I mean, I’m a fairly major beardy weirdy liberal pinko lefty myself, but I don’t get films or books or music for free just because they’re 22 years old. Why should I for games? Or is that all wrong as well? If I make taps, once I’ve sold a few taps, I’m not allowed to sell any more copies of the same tap? (To employ an equally tortured analogy.)

    And seriously, $10? It’s the price of a couple of pints. If that’s a big deal John, then I’m glad it’s not your round.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      The tap analogy was a bit leaky, but I can see the argument. I think that classic books should be freely available and often are, and the same should apply to ageing electronic media. Books you can read in a library or find educational pdf’s of, but there is no legal equivalent for software. Games should go PD after a set period of time

    • Scurra says:

      ” but I don’t get films or books or music for free just because they’re 22 years old. Why should I for games?”
      Isn’t the question: why don’t I get films or books or music for free because they are 22 years old? (i.e. the argument is the general rather than the particular.) As has been noted elsewhere (and very articulately), the argument for copyright is sound but the execution is hopeless. Partly this is because creative expression is not something that can be defined in the same way that e.g. a patent or a trademark can. And none of these legislative approaches can deal with the distinction between deliberate fraudulent misrepresentation or reproduction and casual infringement; fair use has a good stab at it, but it still can’t handle everything (what is “fair use” of a photograph, for instance?)
      As a content creator myself, I don’t want pirated copies of my work benefiting others financially who had no involvement in the process. But equally I have no particular concerns about someone randomly downloading it though; there seem to be net benefits in that. Somehow there ought to be some middle ground – but as creative output is uneasily balanced between individuals and corporations, there probably isn’t.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        It’s really not an issue of “why do they cost money?” but rather an issue of “why is it illegal to duplicate them?”

  11. Premium User Badge

    aleander says:

    Just FYI, GOG are tax evaders. Arguably not the worst of them, but some people around here might care about that.

    • Premium User Badge

      FunnyB says:

      Source?
      Please elaborate.

      • tobecooper says:

        Gog operates out of Cyprus.
        Otherwise, their ‘no regional pricing’ shtick wouldn’t work.

        • Premium User Badge

          FunnyB says:

          Thanks for the information! ;)

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          Wait, i understand that claiming your business is in some tax free zone gives you a lower tax burden, but I don’t understand why it is required for no-regional-pricing.

          If nothing else they could just do flat price with regional tax.

          • tobecooper says:

            This is my understanding of the situation, and correct me if I’m wrong:
            Usually, the explanation for making us Europeans pay more for games is taxes.
            They add them on top of the base price and you’ve got regional pricing, the big dogs usually add even more because VAT may differ from country to country, and it’s better to make sure.

            But if you’re a tax evader, like gog, then that isn’t an issue.
            I believe Amazon works kinda the same way? They don’t actively hunt down people who pretend to be Americans, because they don’t pay taxes anyway.

    • frightlever says:

      Tax avoiders, surely. Nothing wrong with avoiding tax. Do you pay more than you have to? Why should they? Why should I be getting charged more for my games because GoG are handing over money to Governments to make baby-killing missiles? Why do you even want to kill babies at all? And with missiles? Have you any idea how inefficient that is. No wonder you’re grubbing around trying to raise more money for your war machine.

      • Shadowcat says:

        In fairness there are way way too many babies, and missiles are quite exciting; so when you think about it, it’s pretty reasonable. Plus all the “woosh!” and “boom!” distracts everyone from all the death.

      • LazyGit says:

        Do you have a PO Box in Cyprus that you pretend to run a holding company out of in order to license yourself to yourself so that you can pretend that you make no profit in the country that you actually live in and work in?

        Funnily enough, the HMRC called it tax evasion when I tried it. Not sure why it’s tax avoidance when a business does it.

        • joa says:

          Because you evading tax only benefits you. A big company evading tax benefits many people.

          I am no economist but I am fairly sure if you made all the big companies start paying tax tomorrow, the negative effects may well outweigh the positive.

          • Ich Will says:

            But I’d get my bins collected weekly again, so there is that.

          • Premium User Badge

            aleander says:

            I am no economist

            I can see that.

            but I am fairly sure

            [mode=„obscure math joke”]I’m sure all evidence you have supports that feeling[/mode]

            if you made all the big companies start paying tax tomorrow, the negative effects may well outweigh the positive.

            It will all trickle down! Probably in the form of ground water pollution.

    • Ysellian says:

      Indeed, but if you were to make a list you would be surprised at how many companies you would have to avoid if you were to take offense at that. And at least with gog the consumer sees a direct benefit from this.

      • Premium User Badge

        aleander says:

        Oh, sure. And, at least their CEO is paying taxes in Poland, though in the same article he talked about that he said about half a million things that made me hate the dude anyway. It’s not a black-and-white thing, but it’s something some of us around here care about.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Well, Polish government might care (after all – they’re from Poland) – you? I don’t think so.

      • Premium User Badge

        aleander says:

        Well, not personally, not in the case of Poland, not since I moved to a country where the taxes go towards me not living under the North Sea, but you might be shocked to learn that quite a few people do actually find some use in that government thingie. They give funny speeches and run hospitals and things.

    • Text_Fish says:

      GOG evading tax doesn’t really bother me, because their business “footprint” is quite small by dint of dealing solely in digital products. It’s not like Amazon who pollute our air and wear down our roads with their delivery vans and gain an unfair advantage over bricks’n'mortar retail outlets who have to pay taxes in order to maintain a physical presence on the high-street and are therefore even more unable to compete on pricing. Yeah fuck you Amazon, ya fuckers! Fuck.

      Sorry, I got a bit sweary there.

  12. hurrakan says:

    Umm, what is “PD model”?

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Public Domain

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “1995′s Crusader: No Remorse just had a turn at 75% off.”
      I seem to remember it getting absolutely slated when it came out.

      Errr, not how I managed to enter that as a reply!

      Also – it seems my memory fails me, it was well received.

  13. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    *holds nose in the most pompous fashion possible*

    Yuck, stop it.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      That whole plumber bit wasn’t very helpful. It would actually be more like if you paid a plumber to fix a tap, then expected him (or her if she’s a lady John) to fix it for free twenty years later when it started dripping again. Which I think most people would agree is unreasonable.

      • Dr I am a Doctor says:

        Perhaps it is in fact the “gamer entitlement” that RPS likes to condemn?

      • TechnicalBen says:

        What part of using a 20 year old game, how ever it is delivered, requires work from the original creator of the game? A plumber fixing a tap, at any point in time, is work they would be doing, so could charge for it.
        If I copy a game disc I own, how is the original creator working?

        The reclaimed value or costs are a subsidy, a granted right or a tax I guess, but it’s on no way “work” when a buyer copies a bit of media.

        However, if a gamer asks for updates or changes to the code, yes that is work they can pay for.

        They defiantly can pay a creator for unchanged media years later, but that’s a “royalty”, not “work” their paying for.

  14. Shadowcat says:

    I went to an antiques shop the other day, and I couldn’t believe it — they were actually charging people money for the things in the shop! I explained to them that the people who made the items weren’t going to see a single cent, and so they should just give me the things, but they said that wasn’t going to happen, and asked me to leave. Unbelievable.

    • Convolvulus says:

      The right to copy data is different from the right to free antiques.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        But creating them both requires resources and hard work, so why should you treat one of them differently when it comes to obtaining them?

    • Runty McTall says:

      Ahh, so *you’re* the guy who wrote those “you wouldn’t steal a handbag” ads at the start of DVDs.

      • robc says:

        It could have been anybody really who doesn’t want to be a thief just because it is easy to get away with.

  15. Shooop says:

    Your complaint is with the wacky world of U.S. intellectual patents, not GoG.com.

  16. imagine says:

    I know that’s only tangential to the actual bit of news reported here, but because John’s “grumblings” about old games still costing anything take up most part of the article, I’d like to point out that right now there’s a consultation process ongoing in the EU about copyright reform (EU Directives are the major piece of legislation that comes into play whenever we speak about DRM, abandonware, geographical restrictions to digital content, Let’s Play videos, you name it). Anyone can make his/her voice heard and they are asking for input on a number of important issues, including copyright duration(*). To those who already scoff at the idea of these public procedures, I simply say that one has the right to complain only after he’s spoken up and he has been ignored…

    The actual consultation document is long and unwieldy (here: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2013/copyright-rules/docs/consultation-document_en.pdf) but there are public interests organisations such as Copywrongs (http://copywrongs.eu/) that provide a user friendly interface for submitting opinions. The deadline for submitting comments is February 5th.

    About the GOG sale: I think it’s a good idea; more in general, given the legislative framework they are dealing with, I think they are pretty awesome for sticking to their policies of one global price, no DRM and – most recently – refunds. Kudos to that.

    (*) to be realistic, asking anything less than the 50-odd years prescribed by the Berne Convention is akin to asking for the moon, but I hope they get enough negative feedback on the subject to at least decide not to extend the copyright term further, which is quite a real possibility.

    • Premium User Badge

      Surlywombat says:

      Interesting!

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      Would I be right to assume that technically only those living in the EU should be responding to this questionnaire?

      • imagine says:

        Not necessarily. The consultation is addressed to “stakeholders”, further divided into different categories. If you are an “end user” it’s unlikely you are a stakeholder unless you live in the EU (although I guess that someone who travels frequently within the EU without living there and is annoyed by its copyright laws could arguably be a stakeholder as well). If you are an author/game dev or a company that distributes/licenses copyrighted works in the EU market, then you are definitely a stakeholder, irrespective of your residence/principal place of business. In any case, the consultation responses can also be submitted anonymously, so it’s not like they want to absolutely check the qualifications of those who answer.

  17. Jac says:

    As far as I’m aware I’m not going to have to pay gog again in 20 years time. That plumber analogy is a load of toilet.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      It’s like someone pays a plumber to install a tap, they then sell the house and move out, you buy the house and move in and have to pay the plumber to use the tap they installed???

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    ” Even ignoring the chances that anyone involved in the development of a game made in 1989 is seeing a penny of it, it engenders this belief that for creative products there should be some inalienable right to keep making money on some work you did decades ago, like a plumber demanding a fee every time you use the tap he installed in 1992. Yuck, stop it.”

    But it’s worse than that. Since no one, NO ONE has actually had a career in the same company for that long (except Nintendo), you’re not even paying the plumber a fee: you’re paying someone completely different, possibly someone who either doesn’t care about plumbing or has this great new marketing idea for “micropipes” and is actively trying to kill the concept of taps.

  19. vegetablebread says:

    This article is extremely insulting to developers. There is no reason that games should be free after 20 years.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      What about when the developers aren’t even the ones getting any money from the sales? Or when there is literally no legal way to obtain a copy of a game because no-one’s is selling it but it’s still under copyright protection so can’t be distributed?

      • Chaomancer says:

        It’s worth noting that either of those conditions could be met five minutes after a game is finished, as well as twenty years later. If you’re going to use those conditions for moving games and other IP into public domain, okay, but I don’t see a need to tie it to the age of the product.

  20. robc says:

    I’m not sure why there should be a time limit on how long companies can charge for their product. My guess is that many people who believe that things should magically become free after a period of time don’t actually create creative works that they are able to sell.

    It’s pretty easy to want other people’s work to become free.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      But there definitely should be a limit on how long companies can charge for someone else’s work. Note that I’m not criticizing GOG here; they may not have developed the games but they do put in work to make sure they run on modern systems, much like books in the public domain may still be sold commercially but the publishers need to provide some added value (generally forewords, footnotes and analysis) in order to be allowed to do this.

  21. DrManhatten says:

    Oh yeah if you’ve got a problem with GOG selling old games for $10. How about Steam. Old games on Steam don’t get cheaper either unless they are on sale and they are usually not cheaper than on GOG and have DRM. It starts to annoy me that so many writers on RPG obviously are totally steam-biased.

  22. Mondaik says:

    God dammit, John.