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Thread: Odd question but is old software still copyrighted? I don't know how it works.

  1. #1

    Default Odd question but is old software still copyrighted? I don't know how it works.

    I'd be curious if REALLY old software / shareware etc., is it still copyrighted or freely available? They use to call illegal software "warez" back in the day. But are "warez" still "warez"?

    Does it stop or run out at some point? I guess I'm just having trouble finding software and was curious of the legality of downloading old games and such. Want to respect all copyrights.

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    Read the US copyright law

    Generally, for older works, 70 years after the life of the author. There are variations and exceptions.

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    That's because software falls under the rough heading of literature. As I understand it. But some software (or code snippets) are (also) awarded patents. Patents break down after 20 years, no?

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    Patents are complicated and center on "novelty". Pre-1994, the term was 17 years; currently it's 20. I remember when there was a kerfuffle when the first algorithms were patented. (e.g. LZW compression, as well as RSA encryption). Copyright violation is a criminal offense in the US; patent violation is a civil matter. There are many other differences.

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    You would have to ask a lawyer about what is illegal or not, and there are none of those here.

    One slight clarification though, "warez" typically refers to software that is still sold and/or supported. Once support runs out, it is considered "abandonware". So programs that were once warez have grown in to abandonware. But that is subjective, and neither of those terms mean anything to lawyers.

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    Does 'abandonware' have any legal status? In my thinking if it was once copyrighted it still is.
    Surely not everyone was Kung-fu fighting

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    Some government and academic software was public domain from creation and thus, if you can find a copy, can be legally copied to your heart's content. Unfortunately, in many cases, it would cost more to track down the copyright status than it would be to hire a staff to write new software inspired by the old software.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmytheman View Post
    I'd be curious if REALLY old software / shareware etc., is it still copyrighted or freely available? They use to call illegal software "warez" back in the day. But are "warez" still "warez"?
    You are mixing up a few things here. As for copyright, this has been answered. You won't see copyright running out on any modern stuff, as you are not getting old enough to see it happen. 70 years are minimun and only, if the copyright is not taken over by someone (e.g. bought by a company).

    "copyrighted" and "freely available" however have no direct connection. Software that is or was freely available is still copyrighted. Shareware and Freeware is freely available, but that doesn't mean there's no copyright on it. It's the copyright owner who defines whether or not something is freely available or must be bought.

    One exception is Public Domain, which is software the author does not claim any copyright on.
    Last edited by Timo W.; November 12th, 2020 at 12:35 AM.

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    Software catalogs. Please name some.

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    Another thing to look out for is that some authors and games publishing houses have released old software as freeware. Occasionally these are released into the public domain, but generally they retain their copyright. Wikipedia has a List of commercial video games released as freeware. However, there are many more than on this list.

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