A quick background to my project (it's essential to the question, as you'll see later): My project offers a multiplayer server platform for server listings for a game (Crysis Wars), allowing players to connect to these servers (note that it's not a gameserver); the online platform (called GameSpy) went bankrupt and closed down in 2014, leaving the game (and many others) without any multiplayer capability.

The project has a fair few users, and now I'm looking to expand. I am considering advertising on a well-known gaming website, and offer a copy of the game for download from the project's website to enable people who don't have the game to play.

I'm questioning the legality of this since the game can still be purchased from online retailers (but not from the publisher's own store), however it should be noted that the game is abandoned:

  • No updates in almost six years;
  • Not possible to verify whether a copy is genuine or not (no way to verify the serial keys);
  • I'm pretty certain that almost 100% of copies using my system are pirated/non-genuine (I can't verify this of course, but as 44.8% of users are Russian this is probably the case)

If I do offer a copy of the game (clean, no modifications) for download on the project's website, how legal is this? Should I obtain written permission from the game's developer first?

I acknowledge that I could potentially be sued by the game developer/publisher for 'financial loss', however this is questionable since the game is abandoned (I'll be surprised if they've made any money from it in the past two years!).

If it matters, I'm located in Guernsey with the service (and the project's website) running from Ireland.

  • 2
    We can't offer legal advice on your specific situation. You could rephrase this question to ask about the general significance of "abandonment" on a work's copyright. As far as I know, there's no effect; whether or not the copyright owner is actively selling or maintaining the product, they still own the copyright and could sue if it is violated. Jun 19 '16 at 20:51

It is possible to abandon copyright ... maybe.

However, this game has not been abandoned. When the owner of the company was liquidated, the copyright became the legal property of the liquidator in trust for the creditors. It is for him or her to decide how to deal with the property but the copyright still exists until 70 years after the author(s) death.

If you allow downloads you are breaching copyright unless you have permission (or you meet the Fair Dealing criteria - you probably don't). The person to seek permission from is the liquidator od the company.

If you get sued they do not need to demonstrate financial loss - copyright claims can either be pursued for actual or statutory damages, that is, a fixed amount per violation.

In addition, in egregious cases, copyright violation is a crime prosecutable by the state.

  • I've drafted a letter to them asking for written permission. Nothing might come of it, but I might be lucky..
    – AStopher
    Jun 16 '16 at 8:33
  • 1
    It would be great to add a link to the words "Fair Dealing" that points to a reference for the criteria. Aug 4 '16 at 12:56
  • Any updates on this, @AStopher? Did you get permission?
    – StefanS
    Oct 14 '19 at 19:05
  • @StefanS Nope, but I offered the abandonware for download anyway with the disclaimer that it is in a grey area and that "until I receive a response I assume permission has been granted". It's been that way for more than three years now and I haven't received any response (funnily enough my competitors were taken down more than two years ago but they seem to be leaving me alone...). I realise that probably isn't the best strategy but I didn't have any other option.
    – AStopher
    Oct 14 '19 at 19:50
  • @AStopher an invalid assumption. Maybe you can assume they don't care enough about your site, but you can't assume they grant permission...
    – user253751
    Jan 22 '20 at 18:00

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