Legality of "no-cd" patches?

Mods, this might be skirting on the edges of what is acceptable and not, do as you see fit.

Can anyone tell me the status of no-cd patches, legally speaking?
I have no cd in my laptop (the only computer I have capable of playing games), so I install over my network and then use no-cd patches to play the games on my laptop. As I am the owner of origional versions of all the title I play, I was wondering what the legal status of this behaviour was.

I equate it (I guess) with having winamp installed, as in “Yes, winamp plays mp3s which are often copyright protects, but the winamp player itsself is not illegal”. Would that be about right?

It seems to be pretty clearly prohibited by section 103 of the DMCA:

Yes, it is probably illegal under the DMCA, if you are in the United States.

Whether or not I think it should be illegal/matters if it is illegal is not appropriate for GQ.

The OP appears to be in Sweden.

I don’t know whether there’s a Swedish law prohibiting this, but the DMCA is pretty uniquely American (though I heard Germany was considering a DMCA knockoff), so I wouldn’t automatically assume that they have a similar law.

Well, the US likes to have it’s laws apply worldwide, a la Sklyarov, or … that other European kid who got extradited, can’t remember his name. (The DMCA does allow for extradition: see here about 1/2 way down.) That it’s hated worldwide is not surprising, it’s even been used against people making universal garage door openers.

IMHO, you’re doing nothing morally wrong. Legally though, (note IANAL), but you’re in violation of stupid laws.

Actually it is really a gray subject.
There are laws that allow for someone to make backup copies of their software or other copyrighted material as long as those backups are not sold without the original. The software that defeats cd protections really has nothing directly to do with copying a cd however. It allows you to use a program without the cd but it does not reproduce the cd.
I use these “cracks” all the time. Not to pirate anything but simply because it eliminates the need for hunting down cd’s and allows them to be put away and protected. (important when you have kids that also want to play your games).

I used to use the cracks because my CD-ROM drive liked to flake out during play - it’d just spin and spin and all the action would freeze. Since I did own the CD, and was only playing on one computer, I didn’t think it would be an issue, since I was only using it to get around a hardware issue.

IANAL, but to my knowledge, the DMCA has no exceptions for “legitimate” use and does not allow backups of your media. Cracking an executable, or circumventing a copy protection measure, is ALWAYS illegal, as are the tools used to do so.

On one hand, this part of the DMCA is not really “uniquely American”, since it was put in place to bring the US in line with the WIPO copyright treaty. The relevant section is actually titled “WIPO Treaties Implementation”.

On the other hand, it appears Sweden did not sign this. So you might be good.

I don’t know if DMCA has other relevant sections, besides the one SmackFu quoted, but that section only makes illegal trafficking, importing etc. It does not make simply having such devices illegal.

It’s a bit nebulous.

I think that in the U.S., using a workaround like that in order to be able to simply use software for which you have legally acquired the license is safely within the domain of “fair use,” being similar enough to “space-shifting” in spirit that I wouldn’t sweat about it.

If you used the same hack to install 16 copies of the same game on your network and invited 15 friends over for a fragfest, that’s a different story.

Copyright law is all about balance. In your case, I suspect that even the company lawyers would be inclined to think “no harm, no foul.” Unless it’s a Disney-branded game, in which case they’d make sure you ended your days broken and destitute. :wink:

Have you considered one of the virtual cd programs? Then you don’t have to worry about using a no cd patch

Under Linux, you could use dd to dump a disk image of that CD to a file on your hard drive, and then mount that file as /dev/cdrom. Poof, problem solved.

(I love Linux. :))

No, damn, I was wrong: Mount the file as /mnt/cdrom Sorry.

If he was running Linux there probably wouldn’t be a problem with copyright issues though. :wink: Are there games for Linux that require the CD to play? Starcraft? Tribes2?

Most games will tell you that this is not allowed to. One of the many things in the “terms and conditions” part that we all click through without reading. Something along the lines of “you shall not alter the data for this software in a way that was unintended by the publisher”, or some such.
Of course I use them for all my games that they are available for.

I don’t have a cite for this, but people on some gaming websites have said that tech support companies themselves have occaisionally encouraged people to download these patches when the copy-protection scheme crashes their computer.

Isn’t it great that the people that pay money to get the legit version of a game are often the ones screwed by poor system performance or even crashes because of asinine things like this? I have a legal copy of Unreal Tournament that I cannot install because it can’t be installed with a DVD drive or CD-RW drive (Epic Games website says so). Gee, guess what’s in my computer.

Why even bother? Have any commercial copy protection schemes ever NOT been cracked almost instantly? If people want to steal your software, they are going to, whether you like it or not. Quit harassing us folks who actually pay for your product.

From the OP I gather that he is not currently doing the acts he described. My conclusion is that he should refrain from putting those acts into effect since they may well be illegal.

I am not familiar with Swedish law at all; my remarks are based on general legal concepts and a few specific laws and directives. There could be specific laws or treaties that lead to different results under Swedish law. You should consult a Swedish lawyer if you want a reliable result. The following remarks do not add up to more than an educated guess.

  1. Applicable law
    The DMCA is most certainly not applicable in Sweden. Copyright laws are as a matter of course only applicable to the territory on which the alleged infringment takes place. Assuming the network does not extend to the U.S., and the OP is not using his laptop on a flight into the U.S., the U.S. courts nor U.S. law would have jurisdictions on the actions mentioned in the OP.

There is a slight snag: if you are dealing with criminal law matters may be different and countries may cooperate to extradite inhabitants who are suspected of illegal actions. Some of the cases cited by others were, AFAIK, dealing with criminal law (cryptographic technology etc.). As I am not specialized in criminal law, I cannot inform you further on this matter.

With respect to the WIPO treaties: these in themselves (AFAIK) are aimed primarily at states, not at citizens. Therefore states may be negligent in not adopting the laws necessary for implementing the treaty, but that does not make the citizens liable. Article 11, which deals with technical measures, specificall says states have to implement legislation. Other copyright treaties (Bern Convention) have no specific provisions for technical measures to circumvent protections. I couldn’t find any in TRIPS either, when perusing it just now.

  1. Copyright law
    From the above it follows that only national Swedish law is applicable. Matters are, however, further complicated by the fact that Sweden as of 1995 is a member of the European Union. The EU has issued a Copyright directive (2001/29/C of May 22nd 2001, Publ. L 167 of June 22nd 2001). All member states should have implemented it as of 22 December 2002. I do not know whether Sweden has implemented it yet. A quick Google didn’t help me.

Article 6 deales with technical measures:

The thing is, it is unclear whether the measure described by the OP can be qualified as a technical measure in the sense of the Directive. In itself the OP states he owns a valid CD. You may use technical measures if these are necessary to use the program, but only after (simply put) you have asked the copyright holder to help you. Furthermore, the measure may be used for illegal copying of the data of the CD and running the program without having the CD. Furthermore it may be used for running it with more than one person at the same time.

I cannot easily see how this would work out. It would take me more time than I can spend at the moment to give a proper reasoning on this matter. For me it is as yet unclear whether the OP is acting in violation of article 6 Copyright Directive.

Another possible infringment might be basic copyright infringment: if the OP has not acquired the right to make specific digital copies for use, he is infringing copyright by doing that. For programs the legal mechanics are that the OP is not allowed to make any copies except those that are necessary for using the CD for its lawful/intended purpose (Copyright Directive recital 28, read in conjunction with article 4.2 and 5.1(b)).* While it is allowed that the computer makes the cache copies and possible installation copies that the program requires, I doubt whether the copy on the network qualifies as a copy necessary for use. There is therefore a fair case to be made that the copy on the network is illegal.

The conclusion of this section is that the OP could indeed very well be in violation of copyright law in two respects. I therefore must strongly suggest him to refrain from acting in this manner. I can understand that this may seem unfair to most people, but the OP didn’t ask for an opinion on fairness.

  1. Contract law
    Regardless of copyright law, if the OP has entered a contract which limits his rights of use (for example stating that he is only allowed to run the program directly from CD), he would be in breach of contract. Whether he has accepted such a limitation depends on whether
  • there is a ‘shrink-wrap license’ or similar which contains such a provision, and
  • whether he has accepted this license or whether the license otherwise binds him.
    The former question is a matter of fact which can be answered by reading the license.
    The latter question is much debated. Generally speaking in Europe the opinion of lawyers divided, but courts have been adverse to finding such a license binding. I recently defended the latter position.

Judging from what the OP said, the proposed actions could indeed be in violation of copyright law. I therefore must urge him to refrain from acting in this manner. If you really think that the law does allow this (and such a possibility does exist), the legally proper way would be to inform the software company that you are planning to do this and that you believe it legal for specific reasons. Then they can tell you whether they agree or not. This course has drawbacks, since you may get involved in costly proceedings. Therefore I would suggest you do nothing and refrain from the acts described.

Standard disclaimer applies: I am not the lawyer of the OP or any of the other posters; the opinions presented herein are not based on a proper investigation of the facts; I don’t know anything about Swedish law and am not specialised in U.S. law either; if someone wants trustworthy advice I strongly advice him to consult a lawyer.

  • This matter is much more complicated; I’m only summarizing the result of an intricate argument which I’ve developed elsewhere.

I’ve been wondering about this too, because my CD of Descent 3 is starting to become scratched and unreadable because of all the times I’ve taken it out of its sleeve to insert it at the beginning of a game…

Thanks for the replies everyone! I considered using a virtual-cd application, but my entire HD on the laptop is 3 gigs, that doesn’t leave me much wiggle room :slight_smile: I think it’s a very interesting area of discussion, and I appreciate all the thought that went into the replies!