Copyright restrictions must make sense for entire term of copyright

One of the other topics that my friendly archvillain Jason J Kee and I touched on via twitter on Friday was the term of copyright.

I remembered that when he was in front of the C-32 committee he claimed that the format shifting aspects of C-32 (Now C-11) didn't apply to video games. He started to make similar claims in our discussion, started by the claim that "by definition, software is never platform neutral", and later that there is "no reasonable consumer expectation to format shift games".

If you only consider the few months after a video game is released, when the most money is currently made by the game developer, Jason's suggestions my appear reasonable. Games tend to push the limits of the hardware they are designed for, and thus are tied to that hardware for the time when those limits still apply.

Unfortunately, the government granted monopoly of copyright last far more than a few months or a few years.

Copyright in Canada is currently a fixed 50 years when a corporation is the first holder of copyright, or 50 years after the death of an author when a human was the first holder of copyright. For complex works involving many co-authors, the copyright monopoly lasts for 50 years after the death of the last author. There are talks about extending the copyright monopoly even longer in Canada, with death+70 as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

I'm sure everyone recognizes that there are video game emulator software that runs on current generation hardware that can fully emulate a previous generation hardware. There are emulators for all the popular platforms from 1980's available for pretty much every current generation computer, including mobile phones (FrodoC64 in Android marketplace). More recent video games are also able to be run on platforms different than what the developer targeted, with the primary limitation on the availability of software to enable
wider device shifting of video games and other software being legal (copyright, etc) and not technological.

People who purchased games in the 1980's should have the same expectation that they can enjoy them today as someone who bought a book in the 1980's. While the hardware may no longer be available, it should be perfectly legal to format shift these games such that they can be played on tablets or any other modern devices. It should also be obvious that a decade from now that games which push current generation hardware (including game consoles) will technologically be able to be enjoyed using emulators just as easily.

That is, we would be able to enjoy them if we reject the policies promoted by Jason and his association. The core of his lobbying appears to be to add legal protection to the encryption added to video games which artificially tie these games to a specific brand of game console. This abuse of the law and technology to disallow video game format shifting is in addition to his lobbying for the legalization and legal protection of the dishonest way to create a closed platform for video game console hardware.

Jason appears to believe video games are throw-away, should be thrown away, and offer no longer term contribution to our culture. I believe video games should be seen as interactive content, with interactivity adding a new dimension to creativity just as video added a new dimension to audio. The cultural importance of video games must be understood as being as important as motion pictures, music, or other cultural works. We need to grow up as a culture and give video games the respect they deserve, including in laws such as copyright.

I find it frustrating that the Director of Policy and Legal Affairs for the Entertainment Software Association of Canada should continuously demonstrate so little respect for the value of entertainment software. Is he so focused on policies that in his mind (without any independent study backing him up) might benefit the short-term finances of game developers that he's willing to promote the general devaluation of video games in our culture?