Home of the Underdogs - Support Letters
Below are some of the letters our visitors wrote to ESA (formerly the IDSA) in response to their e-mail to our domain name registrar. To read more recent letters wrote in response to their direct notice to us in June, 2001, visit this page.
Browse letter #: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing to you on my own behalf as an avid computer gamer and active customer of several of your member corporations, to ask that you reconsider your request to try to have the Home of the Underdogs (www.theunderdogs.com [sic]) site shut down. The site in question has always behaved as a valuable resource for the gaming community and has further shown extensive evidence that it is not in the business of condoning actions that would result in loss of revenue for any makers or distributors of computer games.
As you are undoubtedly aware, the site in question offers free downloads of games that are classified as "abandonware". Abandonware is defined on the Underdog's site (http://www.theunderdogs.org/faq.php#e1):
The term abandonware was coined sometime in 1997 by classic game enthusiasts to refer to any game, regardless of age, that has been discontinued by its publishers. Due to the natural lack of organization in such fringe area of the law, the concept has, over time, been unfortunately misused to refer to any game that is 5 years or older (or 3, in some cases) regardless of whether or not it has in fact been discontinued. We believe that the definition of abandonware as it was first conceived is the only viable definition that draws a clear and only line between abandonware and "warez": abandonware has been discontinued by the developers, while warez have not. While both are illegal, the motives and principles behind each are miles apart.
The maintainers of Underdogs make every effort to make sure that any games currently being sold (regardless of the alternative age definition above) in retail forms, either standalone or in compendiums, are not available for download. As such, Underdogs provides a service that current publishers do not: access to popular discontinued merchandise at no cost to anybody except the maintainers of the site. Further, even games that are available from retail outlets (and thus not available at Underdogs) have entries with recommendations and links to any sites that still sell the game, giving you
free and accurate advertising.
If the gaming industry (and the ISDA members in particular) were to make these games available, for fee or free, through authorized channels there would be no need for Underdogs to provide this service. However, given a profound lack of interest from the vast majority of game vendors to provide this service, it is inevitable that this consumer need will be filled by unauthorized channels. Rather than pursue action against Underdogs, your members should be trying to legitimize them by offering free (as in freeware) content in the form of abandoned games. They are basically running a server to promote games distributed by your members at no cost to your members.
I am aware that legal matters of defending your members' rights complicate the issue, but I cannot believe that cooperative action with Underdogs would be against the interests of both the gaming community and your members. Blatant attacks of this nature to defend software your members never intend to make available is both idiotic and wasteful. Rather than acting against the interests of the very people you hope to have as customers, you would be far better served to take the time to find ways to work with the community. Underdogs provides a simple and easy way for publishers to contact them to either grant distribution rights or ask that games be removed from the online archive (see http://www.theunderdogs.org/contact.php), I highly recommend that you ask your members to use this approach rather than the more prohibitive (and frankly hostile) shutdown approach.
to whoever it may concern,
I would like to explicitly state (and I feel that I speak for the majority of all who are interested in preserving classic computer games) that your decision to attempt to disable The Home of the Underdogs (http://www.theunderdogs.org) is appalling. Your decision is a case example of how good, respectable laws are enforced by soulless companies, who do not give a cognizant thought behind their actions; except greed, of course. May I remind you that The Home of the Underdogs is dedicated to providing games that companies have ABANDONED, and do not market anymore. I think that The Home of the Underdogs website is nothing less than a priceless archive of computer history, and your actions serve no purpose but to destroy the hard work of many people, including myself, who wish to preserve the legacy of antiquated computer games for future generations. This website does NOT infringe on the computer based games industry, as all of its available games are no longer marketed or sold in stores. If you had taken the time to peruse the Home of the Underdogs website, you would realise that it often advertises commercial websites that do the justice of making old games available for purchase. What I see, in your campaign to shut down the website, is the mindless act of a large confederation of corporations, which will recklessly step on all who they fear are taking even the smallest fraction of a percentage away from their profits. And I assure you that even this fear is unjustified, as the games provided at The Home of the Underdogs are NOT commercially available, or sold at any venue by a vendor. They are copyrighted material only because, legally speaking, copyrights last for a minimum of 70 years. I assure you that the companies in your confederation are not losing any money by making their old, unmarketed games, available to the public.
Alas, I am afraid that you will not listen or reply to my mail. Im sure you will shrug it off and listen to the dogmatic laws and statutes that have whipped you into blind obeisance. It is a shame how slow and stupid corporations innately are. they are blinded by their lust for profit, and I'm certain that The Home of the Underdogs will not be the last casualty at the hands of their stupidity.
It is with great puzzlement and a certain modicum of sadness that I learned of your recent decision to threaten the site "The Home of The UnderDogs" with legal action. I can only assume that you never took the time to study it nor its intentions, but merely assumed that it was a site for "Warez' or "Gamez" rather than a resource archive.
Admittedly I agree that the concept of "Abandonware" is of itself technically a "grey area" in that some manufacturers/publishers of out-of-print games release them freely into the public domain while retaining their copyright & intellectual properties licensing, and others sadly do not.
Now, temporarily casting the legality aspect of the practice aside, it strikes me as rather puerile to hold the publishing rights on something which is no longer available for sale, but still vociferously treating the free distribution of such (with full documentation of intellectual property ownership) as an act of piracy. Many games which your members retain ownership of are so antiquated by todays standards that trying to sell them on todays market would prove to be an extremely "hard" sell if not a lesson in futility,..and to claim otherwise is cheerfully optimistic , if not a touch on the "Who're you trying to kid?" side.
You should look upon sites such as "The Home of The UnderDogs" as being more of an archive/resource centre pertaining to the history of the video game rather than a "software pirating organization." There's a very big difference between an honourable "Abandonware" site that provides full copyright & development information on games that are no longer available for sale and a "Warez" site that boldfacedly provides free versions of newly released games and robs their developers of actual sales. You need to look at "intent", before you begin screaming piracy too loudly. "The Home of The UnderDogs" stridently works to make sure that they do not post any game for download that is still being published or otherwise available for sale, and they even go so far as to provide direct links to places where such games may be purchased, while still providing a review of said games free of charge.
You should spend your valuable time tracking down the warez rings and real game pirates rather than attacking a site which in no way is costing your members lost revenues. Unless you yourselves decide to republish older games which are no longer available for sale, you're attitude reminds me of the Aesop's Fable about the Fox and the Grapes.
You should perhaps thank sites like "The Home of The UnderDogs" for keeping a living archive of otherwise dead and forgotten games and their creators alive rather than penalize them for their actions. I've actually BOUGHT NEW GAMES based on their reviews of older games in similar genres produced by the same publishers.
To whom it may concern,
Wonderful site was this. Every visit was like a trip down memory lane, and the guilt attached to downloading games that were no longer sold, was minimal. I can certainly understand the IDSA's stand - copyright ownership is copyright ownership, of course. However, all the games on theunderdogs.org were poor sellers, neglected masterpieces finally given their due respect. I cannot imagine any of your members wishing to 're-release' these games, as they are almost all dated beyond recognition, and only die-hard gamers with a reminiscing bent would be willing to shell out for them.
To be clear: is the IDSA *really* about intellectual property? The moment you mention anti-piracy, you start speaking in dollars-lost. If anything, I think theunderdogs.org would be *earning* money for your members, as games that are still sold (but considered underdogs) are *not* available for download; rather, they have a link to buy.
In asking for it to discontinue its services, however, you are diminishing the number of people who will pass through, see these (many) links, and click on them. Whereas when a game - that virtually no-one played when it *was* available for sale - is downloaded for free, after it's been taken off the shelves and removed from the bargain bins. . .. who is this hurting? I would be interested to see how your members felt about this site. If I were a game developer, and I saw one of my games on this site, I would be proud. Okay, so I was no longer making money from it, but given I never was, at least it's nice to know that it has a home. A place of rest, perhaps.
I urge you to reconsider your mandate with respect to this site. It is your loss, your members' loss, and our loss as a pre-Wolfenstein generation of game players, who still remembers how much fun games *used* to be.
Thank you for your time,
Sir or madam
I am writing to you to ask you to reconsider your decision to halt and prevent the users and owners of http//www.theunderdogs.org from operating, based on what I believe to be a faulty assumption: that they are pirates.
I first ask you to listen to the basic definition of the word abandonware: meaning in fact games and/or software that has been abandoned (in many cases literally) by their makers.
I also ask you to consider the fact that many of the manufacturers and makers of these games no longer exist and have not existed for many years.How this is piracy, how this damages them is, to me, beyond understanding.These materials should be free for the taking, for others to enjoy long after those who made them have either vanished, died or taken up other work in other fields.
I ask you to consider that in all cases the authors were freely acknowledged, and links set uop for the purchase of later games by the same manufacturers, thus allowing these game companies access to a greater database of potential customers.This is in itself a benefit, not a detraction from their work.More customers mean more money, more money for them means better games, better software,more developement and in the long run this can only profit them...and the ever growing number of users in an exploding online community.
I also refer you to the Napster case pending at the moment, and ask that you remember that if this landmark ruling goes through, the definition of intellectual property and the very definition of copyright may be redefined.
Abandonware is not piracy...if these were CURRENTLY available games it would be.But they AREN'T, are they??I would be very interested to see if you could define for me the damage done in making a game made in 1987 available.Find me the owners of that game, have them come to you and tell THEM they have been the victims of piracy...if you CAN find them that is..because I am betting in some cases you never will.
One example of this is Dani Bunten, author of M.U.L.E..(no I know you've never heard of it..it's an abandoned game) .Dani Bunten DIED years ago, and the company that she was part of would be proud to know that someone was still playing the game and enjoying it.
You haven't stopped a pirate.All you have done is ruin a valuable resource and dealt a savage blow to those millions of fans out there who not only play current games (Starcraft, WarCraft 3, UNREAL, Quake, Falcon 3.0) burt enjoy playing games that the manufacturers, when asked about the game say "Oh that...that was YEARS AGO...we don't even support it anymore."
The games CAN'T be bought..anywhere, ever again.They will be lost forever...is that piracy?
Please...think on what I've said.And I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply.
I think that your targeting of www.theunderdogs.org is a terribly misguided venture.
Yes, they have software available for download on their site, but it is not software that is commercially available. In fact, when the games can still be bought, they have a link to an online store where it can be purchased! This site is more about old games that were really good but never really successful.
I would respectfully submit that you reexamine your cease-and-desist order with regards to www.theunderdogs.org and allow them to continue as before. There are many, many other sites that flagrantly distribute new, commercially available software that are guilty of software piracy and distribution. Please do not punish www.theunderdogs.org for sharing a collection of games that it would be impossible, literally impossible, to find. No harm is being done, morally or economically.
You recently sent an e-mail to www.theunderdogs.org about the service that they provide on their website, addressed to their domain registrar Register.com. www.theunderdogs.org provides many gaming historians, such as myself, access games that have long been out of print. The website isn't causing any damage by doing this since these these games are out-of-print. In actuality, according to your e-mail, www.theunderdogs.org doesn't even affect the companies that you supposedly protect, "companies that publish video and computer games for video game consoles (such as Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation and PlayStation 2)" they offer old games for computer PCs. Even if they did, the site has a specific page that states that if a company still has the games that they offer to inform them and they will be immediately taken down (http://www.theunderdogs.org/faq.php#a5).
Since you have sent this e-mail to www.theunderdogs.org, they have completely obeyed and taken all games off of their site except for the freeware games. I don't think that you understand how rare many of these games are and that their site is in many cases the only place to get these games.
I personally feel attacked by what I feel is a grave misunderstanding on your part as far as how important this site is to many people. If you think that I am alone in this matter, you would be committing another mistake. I am sure that there are hundreds of people affected by this.
I would like you to e-mail me personally, as well as www.theunderdogs.com (firstname.lastname@example.org), with a response to this e-mail. Ultimately, I would just like things to return the way they were, but if this is not possible, I would like justification for your actions. As you can probably tell, I am very animated about this matter and would like to receive a real response as opposed to a form letter.
I would also recommend that you familiarize yourselves with the term abandonware, which is clearly defined on the underdogs website, "The term abandonware was coined sometime in 1997 by classic game enthusiasts to refer to any game, regardless of age, that has been discontinued by its publishers. Due to the natural lack of organization in such fringe area of the law, the concept has, over time, been unfortunately misused to refer to any game that is 5 years or older (or 3, in some cases) regardless of whether or not it has in fact been discontinued. We believe that the definition of abandonware as it was first conceived is the only viable definition that draws a clear and only line between abandonware and "warez": abandonware has been discontinued by the developers, while warez have not. While both are illegal, the motives and principles behind each are miles apart."
Thank you for hearing me out, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
[address & phone number withheld]