Librarian of Congress protects gamers with new fair use rules

Librarian of Congress protects gamers with new fair use rules

The acting U.S. Librarian of Congress, David Mao, passed new exemptions to strict digital rights management (DRM) anti-circumvention laws on Tuesday that will give more leeway for fair use in gaming.    


David Mao, the new Librarian of Congress

David Mao, the new Librarian of Congress (

DRM is used by a large portion of video game developers to prevent people from copying or modifying their games. Many gamers have been outspoken about their distaste for DRM barriers, so Mao’s fight for fair use is seen as a step in the right direction in the gaming community. After many hearings and briefs about increasing rights when it comes to fair use, it has been decided that there are a few specific instances that allow for the modification of older video games.


When a developer would abandon an old video game by shutting down its servers, gamers that still enjoyed the game were no longer able to play. Now, the new exemption allows players to modify their game so they can play online without an authentication server. However, this exemption only allows a modification to occur if the game has no offline mode. This would mean that popular older titles like “Battlefield 2” and “Midnight Club: Los Angeles” can’t be legally modified to resurrect multiplayer servers because they still have playable single player features.      


Mobile gaming was also given fair use wiggle room, as the exemption for jailbreaking smartphones was renewed. Rather than just continue with the existing rule, Mao expanded the exemption by allowing anyone to jailbreak “portable all-purpose mobile computing devices.” This means that tablets and smartwatches can also be modified to run alternative software and games that weren’t fair use protected before the ruling.


While these new fair use rules are appreciated by gamers, there is still a lot that needs to be done before the gaming community is satisfied. A lot of gamers don’t want to be limited when it comes to the games they can legally restore after developers abandon them. There are also those that would like their single player mods to be protected under fair use, since it doesn’t negatively affect multiplayer gameplay.


Mao has only been the acting librarian for about a month, and he’s already worked towards increasing fair use rights for gamers. Now that he’s shown that he’s willing to address gaming related issues, many are waiting to see how he responds to further DRM and fair use concerns in the near future.                


Should there be more exemptions that allow for fair use in video games? What are your thoughts on the current changes made by the librarian of congress? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.


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