Is DOS Abandonware?

I need to run a DOS application.

I can buy an OS’less PC at my local MicroCenter for $40. I can then bring it home and stick in a Boot Floppy I have lying around that I got from an old machine that ran DOS 6.2. Then, at A:, I can type FORMAT C: and let the do its thing.

Then, when C: is formatted, I can slap in the DOS 6.2 install disks and install DOS.

If I do that, have I comitted a crime?

Must I buy DOS? If so, where? It seems to me that the only way to get a “legal” copy of MS-DOS today is to buy a Windows install CD and downgrade it to DOS. Seems silly to me.

Especially when there are lots of websites around where I can simply download copies of MS-DOS. Are these copies pirated? Is it possible to “pirate” an OS as old as MS-DOS? Even if they won’t sell it to me?

If it’s illegal to use MS-DOS in this manner, what does anyone know about FreeDOS?

If you have the (OEM branded) install disks, I’m assuming you bought a license at some point. If you did, then your license is probably still good–as long as your copy of DOS isn’t installed anywhere else, you’re in the clear.

If you’re still looking for a free DOS-type OS, try DR-DOS. Basically the same as MS-DOS. It’s at .

Freedos looks similar to DR-DOS. It looks like either of those will do what you need.

IANAL but I do work in a law firm so I took a stroll down to one of our intellectual property rights attorneys and this is what he had to say.

Normally software copyright lasts perpetually. This can be influenced by a couple factors such as contract length, but the general rule of thumb is that the copyright is indefinate.

Here is the kicker that will probably have some bearing on what your are doing through. Normally a license allows for one copy of the software to be made. So if this is a copy of your original, your all set. (as long as you don’t have it installed on any other pc’s as it will only be licensed for use on a single pc).

The fact that you can’t seem to find anywhere to purchase it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the legality of using it without having a license except for the fact that the company probably wouldn’t be willing to prosecute unless you are sullying their name because of it somehow or maybe you are using it in such a way that they could get a significant amount of money from prosecuting.

I did find a couple copies on ebay if your interested in purchasing it :wink: And if you really want, I may even be able to dig up an old license that I could mail to you.

I have seen abandonware sites that have DOS 3.XX available for download. Of couse, I can’t link to a site that has it but a Google search should find one for you.

IIRC the problem is that if they discontinued the software they would have a hard time justifying damages

You could also go looking for Caldera OpenDOS, a decendant of DR-DOS and Novell DOS.

What if there’s no them there? Here’s a little scenario:

Frob Co. creates the Grokinator, sells a few million units, and folds completely. Nobody buys Frob Co., nobody from Frob Co. buys rights to anything, nobody has any right to anything Frob Co. has ever made. The Grokinator was a good piece of code (can reticulate zyzzy splines like nobody’s business :)) and still has use, despite the fact that nobody can legally buy or sell it anymore.

Or can they? Frob Co. is defunct and left no heirs. Is the Grokinator ‘True Abandonware’, de facto abandonware, or in a strange legal limbo? Can a dead corporation hold copyrights?

      • There’s still places that you can buy DOS 6.22 legally; I ran across it several places several months ago. I recall it was on several floppies and priced at about $35 (US).
  • The corporation is not dead: somebody or some company still owns the rights to all the trademarked names and products. You might have a hard time finding who does, but that’s no excuse from copyright law. It isn’t in the public domain unless expressly placed there by the owner of the copyright. - DougC

IAAAL (I am an Australian lawyer) but my answer may well be in the ballpark anyway. The scenario you outline is exceedingly unlikely, I think, because it contains an inherent contradiction. You say that Grokinator is useful which translates to having some value, but you also say no one buys it. When Frob Co. folds, someone will buy the rights to Grokinator off the liquidator of the company. It is the liquidator’s job to sell what he can of value, to get money for the creditors or shareholders. Even if all he can get is $1 for Grokinator, he will sell it. By the end of the liquidation, everything of any value whatsoever will be sold.

Still too expensive. :smiley:

I seem to remember something relating to making ‘good faith’ efforts to find the holders of a copyright before you use copyrighted works. Maybe I’m wrong.

Princhester: Maybe I am trying to spin an impossible scenario, but I don’t think my current one is completely worthless. Good software can be edged out of the market completely by inferior software if the crappy kid on the block can gain sufficient market penetration to achieve lock-in, that magical condition where a user is so entrenched with a certain program or OS or hardware architecture it would cost more to change to something better than the crappitude of the current system is costing him, with enough of the population that the rest can’t switch for fear of being incompatible with the proprietary file format of the month.

(Think of it as a snowball effect: If so many of the people you have to work with are all using xyz files, you had better be able to read them to get your job done. If xyz files use a format copyrighted by a specific company, you will end up using that company’s software, even if it’s generally shitty. The more people use xyz files, the less likely anyone will be able to avoid using xyz files.)

My point is that just being a good program isn’t enough. The history of software is littered with the corpses of good programs (CP/M, DR-DOS, ITS, and those are just OSes). Having an unsaleable but valuable (in practical terms) program isn’t impossible.

(My brain is more in tune with software than with law. This thread promises to link the two topics. I like that. :))

What your example is attempting to get at, then, is the situation where the Grokinator has some practical value to someone, but perhaps so little commercial value that the liquidator of the company would find no buyer for it, specifically.

Two things. Firstly, I think (going by my exceedingly limited experience of this area) towards the end of the liquidation after selling the obvious assets, the liquidator will sell off “all remaining property of Frob Co.” to someone. Anyone. For whatever. Even if it’s only for $1. And that would encompass all the company’s intellectual property, even without any specific reference to the Grokinator. So that purchaser would be the person who would have the rights to the Grokinator, even if they barely know it.

Secondly, at least in this jurisdiction (and again, bear in mind that I’m in Australia which not only may, but in fact is likely to, be different to the US) all property that is owned by a company at the time it is finally deregistered (i.e. ceases to exist) passes to the ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission). That is, in effect, the government.

So one way or another, *someone[i/] continues to own the IP in the Grokinator.

At a practical level, if you pirate a copy of the Grokinator after the IP rights to it have been sold to someone for $1 as part of the residue of Frob’s assets, or if the IP rights are in the hands of the ASIC, they probably will do nothing about it.

But if there was a sudden Grokinator boom, you can bet that there is someone out there somewhere who holds the IP rights and will enforce them.

IANAL ( I always read this as I am anal, but then it may be correct) in this case the L can stand for Lawyer or Liquidator. However I’ve had some experience in both.

If there are low-value assets remaining in the company after liquidation, they will be disposed of in some way - wether sold off for €1 or dumped/scrapped. Physical stuff is normally sold off or the liquidator has to pay to have it dumped or recycled so the unsaleable crap is often bundled with something valuable and sold off for a nominal sum eg, ten working PCs and a skip full of broken ones €100 the lot.

An aside - my currnet home PC came from the remainder of a liquidation (400Mhz, 256Mb ram 10Gb h/d dud videocard) It looked like the machine was worthless. And this is one of the symptoms of the problem posed in the OP - the asset may be percieved to be worthless but actually have real value.

There will normally be creditors remaining after a company is liquidated and these will remain entitled to a share of the remaining assets. If something is not specifically disposed of, it remains , I think, the property of the creditors. So if there is a sudden burst of interest in Grokinators the creditors can contact the Liquidator and request that he disposes of the now valuable asset.