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Ask Slashdot: How To Get Old Commercial Software To Be Open-Sourced?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the set-it-free dept.

Open Source 234

First time accepted submitter Optic7 writes "Many gamers have probably dreamed about the idea of an old favorite game or other no longer supported or developed commercial software being converted to an open-source license so that it could be updated to add new features, support new hardware, other operating systems, etc. However, this type of change of license seems exceedingly rare, unless the copyright holder itself decides on its own that it would be beneficial. The only examples I could think of or was able to find in a brief internet search were Blender (3D animation software that had its source code bought from creditors after a crowd-funding campaign) and Warzone 2100 (Game that had its source code released after a successful petition). With those two examples of different strategies in mind, have any of you ever participated in any efforts of this kind, and what did you learn from it that may be useful to someone else attempting the same thing? Even if you have not participated, do you have any suggestions or ideas that may be useful to such an effort?"

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234 comments

The google's way ? (3, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#40560989)

Google did open-source some of the commercial-wares - by acquiring the company
 

Re:The google's way ? (0)

Serious Sandwich (2678177) | about 2 years ago | (#40561051)

But Google itself keeps most of its source code hidden behind servers. They even take GPL'd code and don't give their improvements to others because they don't have to.

The much larger problem is how to open source code that is hidden behind servers. GPLv3 doesn't do it.

Re:The google's way ? (4, Insightful)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 years ago | (#40561147)

I don't see that as too much of a problem. Freedom to modify software running on your own computer is important, but you shouldn't need to modify code running on someone else's computer.

Re:The google's way ? (0)

Serious Sandwich (2678177) | about 2 years ago | (#40561201)

That's not the point, is it? Of course you shouldn't modify code on someone else's server, but you should still have access to the source code. If you go with open source mentality, that is, and especially if you use other people's work. That's the point of open source and Google is abusing it.

Re:The google's way ? (5, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 2 years ago | (#40561257)

They're not selling it, they're just using it. No one bitches when Random Dude modifies code on his end for his own purposes, why does it matter if it's Random Corp instead?

Re:The google's way ? (1)

Serious Sandwich (2678177) | about 2 years ago | (#40561397)

They are kind of selling it, but they just sell advertising. I don't get why selling advertising usually gets different, almost free pass on everything. And at the same time Slashdot users use AdBlock. It's the same in The Pirate Bay discussions, Google discussions and pretty much everything (not on TV and movies tho). It's still selling and making money.

Re:The google's way ? (3, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 2 years ago | (#40561409)

No, they're not selling the program. They're using the program as a means to make money. There is nothing wrong with that.

Re:The google's way ? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#40561267)

Have you even read the GPL? The key word is distributing. Running it on your own machine does not constitute distribution.

Re:The google's way ? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40561751)

and that's why it's bollocks.
how about renting use time for the said sw?

so instead of being distributed a machine that runs linux to you.. you're just rented time to use it, while in possession of the device that happens to run it.

Re:The google's way ? (4, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 years ago | (#40561277)

There's a license for that ; the Affero GPL, which has the same terms as the GPL but counts use of the software via a network to be the same as distribution. But you can expect all but the most hardened Free Software advocates to avoid that one like the plague.

Re:The google's way ? (4, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#40561885)

Most hardened Free Software advocates consider Affero to be non-free. It introduces usage restrictions, which go against Freedom 0 ("the right to use the software for any purpose"). It also prevents most code reuse: you can't take a part and put it inside your program if it interacts with users in a way that doesn't provide means of file transfers.

Sadly, RMS has brain farts sometimes. The GFDL, for example, with a literal reading prevents locking the door to a room you have your computer in: keys and door locks might be 14th century technology, but are still a technology. Or, you can attach an "Ode to Hitler" to the work and have it immutable and unremovable.

Of course, erring the other way is wrong too. Some folks says it's good that clang is BSD-licensed. Wrong: that allows Apple to take your contributions and close the whole rest of the toolchain. I can't cross-compile for Mac, can't test build without being a Mac user, etc. With Windows there are no such problems: I run daily test builds for Windows from the comfort of my Debian box, can test any version of Windows in a virtual machine, etc. But on Mac? I have to beg someone to run a Mac build, and if there's a toolchain-related problem, there is nothing that can be done. Can't build stuff for OS X 10.4 because the compiler crashes (bug long fixed upstream...), can't build for PPC-based Mac, and so on. This is why freedoms ensured by the GPL are so important.

Re:The google's way ? (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 years ago | (#40561377)

The point of open source is the freedom to modify and run software on your own computer. If you'd like to force Google to release any modifications that they make internally, then you're reducing their freedom to modify code.

I wouldn't like to have to publish every single bash script modification that I make on my own machines and I don't think you should have to publish source code unless you're also distributing it.

I agree that Google should "give back" to the community, but I also think they should be allowed to run whatever they like internally.

Time for a car analogy: If I give a hitch-hiker a lift and then the hitch-hiker starts demanding to have a look at my car's engine and wants to check the car's history, I'm going to chuck him out.

Re:The google's way ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561457)

Aaahh, a good /. thread isn't complete without some dodg(e)y car analogy ;)
Perhaps we should coin a term for this, like godwin's law, but for bad car analogies.

Re:The google's way ? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 2 years ago | (#40561489)

Google gave Android to the community, or GWT or Guice ...

Re:The google's way ? (1)

gutnor (872759) | about 2 years ago | (#40561563)

We are slowly going back in an era where program running on your machine are just empty shells for processing that happens "on the cloud". For a while, it is likely that the only piece of open source running on your machine will be the OS and the browser. The totality of your data will be processed by closed source software.

To reuse your analogy. Sure as a hitch-hicker you should not ask for the car history. Now if instead of cars, the majority of people start taking public transportations, then it becomes another issue and there is a case for the public to know about their transport history.

Re:The google's way ? (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 years ago | (#40561639)

I don't think your bus analogy is quite appropriate. Typically, people pay to travel on a bus and if you pay for a service, then you generally have the right to ask questions. Even if it's a "free" bus service provided by local government, then as a taxpayer, you'd still be paying for it and have the right to know more details about it.

Re:The google's way ? (1)

Jesus_C_of_Nazareth (2629713) | about 2 years ago | (#40561503)

Open source has many definitions, not all of which require modified code to be shared, let alone server-side code. Such a licence would be unworkable for many enterprise uses, as customization or even just configuration could be an unacceptable disclosure of internal data.

Re:The google's way ? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40561737)

If you dont distribute the program you dont have to release code. They are playing by the rules.

Hardly, I'd say the RedHat way (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 2 years ago | (#40561131)

Google releases a very small percentage of the code they buy up, compared to RedHat. Both do keep some of the code behind, but RedHat only does that for enterprise management tools, they throw everything else in open source. Google keeps their whole search engine, filesystems, Linux distro and stuff we don't even know exists in closed source.

Re:The google's way ? (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 2 years ago | (#40561453)

The submitter also missed Marathon, which Bungie open sourced years ago.

Become Rich (4, Informative)

ilikenwf (1139495) | about 2 years ago | (#40561001)

Buy the rights, and then release it... Honestly, looking back, very few instances of these things happening have been the case...I mean, there are the cool companies that sometimes do it like the rare instances mentioned, and there's other companies that roll them out after their initial profitability has died (Quake, etc).

That said, short of buying the rights to the source, I doubt you'll get very far even with a petition. Look at us Linux users asking nVidia to fix the problems or opensource the blob...

Re:Become Niggers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561023)

Yea, do it yaself ya lazy nigga!

Re:Become Rich (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#40561217)

And even "buying the rights to the source" may be easier said than done: it only works if the complete source is copyrighted by that company.

It is very well possible that they use bits and pieces of software written by others, for which they do not have the right to redistribute the source, but only the binary linked to their own software. This I have seen before as argument why a source could not be released, or if released, only incomplete and would not compile.

Re:Become Rich (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#40561333)

It was the case with a few games that were open sourced, but that doesn't always matter. I think WarZone was an example, Homeworld definitely was (although not a very successful one). In a lot of cases, the sound library is licensed form a third party and can't be released, but the game can be released with stubs for the sound code and someone else can later add it. The same often happens for cutscene playback, where they licensed a codec for use with the game (more common with older games where the host OS didn't ship anything that was good enough for large cutscenes).

Re:Become Rich (5, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#40561661)

Releasing a previously closed source project to open source is much harder then people realize.

1. You have to deal with many copyright owners. If you look at some titles you may see mutable companies connected to it. Some of these companies have been closed or acquired however there is someone who still own some copyright. You need to get all those parties to agree.

2. You might open source it. But it probably can't be GPL. Sometimes you will find that they used third party libraries. That are closed source and those companies are active in the developments libraries. Assuming these library owners allow you to release the source with there reference in them.

3. Companies will sometimes hold onto the title to make a remake/reboot/sequel later. Or they will sell a package cd of all the games. So they will not want to open the game up.

In general even if you own rights to the source you may not be as free as you thought.

ID (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561009)

ID Open sources most of their stuff after a few years. Further than that, John Carmack goes through to add comments, clean up code, and in the case of a feature that was settled after a patent dispute with someone else, re-implemented the offending bit of code prior to release. (Seem Doom 3 engine)

Cheers
Kactus

Re:ID (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561035)

Yes, but they develop everything in-house. Once you start contracting for the engine, art, sound, etc., it becomes more difficult.

And what company wants to release code today in our litigious environment. Patent trolls would have a field day. It is safer for most companies to keep their code locked up than to allow these patent trolls to freely search and find 6 lines of code that they think violates a patent.

Re:ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561139)

It is safer for most companies to keep their code locked up than to allow these patent trolls to freely search and find 6 lines of code that they think violates a patent.

Safer, sure. But if they're sued by a troll and tell the press sales would skyrocket.

Re:ID (3, Informative)

Eraesr (1629799) | about 2 years ago | (#40561167)

And what company wants to release code today in our litigious environment

The Doom 3 engine source code was released in November last year and John Carmack has already said that when the time is ripe, he'd do the same with id Tech 5 (the engine that powers Rage). So there's still (high profile) people that believe in it.

Re:ID (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 2 years ago | (#40561231)

Well, you could always contract an engine from a company that agrees to open source it after a time... ID for example.

Open sourcing can even extend the profitability of a game... The original quake for dos would be pretty much abandonware by now, running only in dosbox... But because it got open sourced, there are modern versions which run on modern hardware but you still need the original data files to play it. Obviously you could pirate them, but many people wouldn't because not only is it cheap at least ID aren't treating their paying customers with contempt.

And patent trolls can easily look for infringement in binaries... Going after open source code isn't worth the effort most of the time because the payout would be small.

Re:ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561421)

The payoff would be small for a company like id. For a company like EA or Microsoft, where the code of an engine is used in several blockbuster games and perfected over time, the payoff could be massive. Consider what a patent troll could make from a lawsuit against the Madden NFL series for some predictive algorithm used to manage a football play. They could sue for every Madden game that used the algorithm and even ones that perfected it further. Dropping the 10 year old source code would allow them to sue against the product being shipped today.

Re:ID (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40561753)

Not if the person contracting it has a brain.

Contract out the Graphics, the contract states you own all assets code and copyright 100%. My company does that all the time. any company making a game or application that they are going to sell is ran by fools if they dont do the same.

Re:ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561891)

bullshit. a little indie game company can't afford to buy ownership of something like the unreal engine, any more than they can afford to develop it in house.

Re:ID (1)

polymeris (902231) | about 2 years ago | (#40561651)

...John Carmack goes through to add comments, clean up code, ...

That should be part of the deal. [github.com] Or maybe it's a reason why we don't see more open sourced commercial software?

simple.... (1, Funny)

metalmaster (1005171) | about 2 years ago | (#40561017)

reverse engineer it, change a few lines of the code, call it your own and release.....it's worked before, right?

missinformation -5 muppet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561165)

reverse engineering =/= decompiling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_engineering#Reverse_engineering_of_software

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decompiler

Reverse engineered code is by definition entirely brand new code.

Re:missinformation -5 muppet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561569)

It's also a derivative work, nice try though.

The Ur-Quan Masters (4, Informative)

tonique (1176513) | about 2 years ago | (#40561019)

One further example is Star Control II whose source code was released by the developers. The result is known today as The Ur-Quan Masters [wikipedia.org] . And, of course, Wikipedia has a whole category for formerly proprietary software [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:The Ur-Quan Masters (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561073)

I seem to be missing one of the most famous examples in that wikipedia article. Famously, Netscape open sourced their formerly closed-source browser, because it made business sense: It permitted them to stay competitive in the marketplace.

Abuse (1, Informative)

Xanni (29201) | about 2 years ago | (#40561049)

Another example is "Abuse": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abuse_(video_game) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Abuse (1)

Xanni (29201) | about 2 years ago | (#40561101)

Yes, I realise that's another case where the developer decided to open the code themselves; unfortunately /. doesn't allow me to delete or moderate my own post down.

the Triplane Turmoil case (5, Interesting)

lindi (634828) | about 2 years ago | (#40561065)

I liked Triplane Turmoil, and old shareware DOS game, a lot. When I met the original developers by accident I offered to help port the game to SDL and managed to convince them to release it as open source: http://triplane.sf.net/ [sf.net]

Re:the Triplane Turmoil case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561091)

I liked Triplane Turmoil, and old shareware DOS game, a lot. When I met the original developers by accident I offered to help port the game to SDL and managed to convince them to release it as open source: http://triplane.sf.net/ [sf.net]

Hey, good job! Thanks for helping this to happen.

Re:the Triplane Turmoil case (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561183)

Looks like a clone of the classic Sopwith game from 1984,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopwith_(video_game) [wikipedia.org]

now Free with GPL-goodness!
http://sdl-sopwith.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

apt-get install sopwith (although the original .exe(.com) version run in DOSBox is still more mature)

Re:the Triplane Turmoil case (1)

lindi (634828) | about 2 years ago | (#40561471)

I have played both and I kind of like triplane physics more. Also the game has a story :)

Re:the Triplane Turmoil case (1)

guises (2423402) | about 2 years ago | (#40561295)

I remember that game (or something very much like it on the Apple II), never got to play it as much as I liked. Thanks for the port, and convincing the original devs.

Re:the Triplane Turmoil case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561309)

Awesome, I loved sopwith and this looks like the same sort of thing :)

Re:the Triplane Turmoil case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561365)

get the real thing,
      http://sdl-sopwith.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

apt-get install sopwith

id Software (1)

Sven Jacobs (1385749) | about 2 years ago | (#40561079)

id Software has open sourced many of their games, for example DOOM 3 (see GitHub [github.com] ). However you still need the game data (wad, pk3, pk4, ... files) from the original media.

Allegiance (4, Informative)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 2 years ago | (#40561121)

I can't answer the question either, but yet another game that has been open sourced that's missing from the Wikipedia list is Allegiance. http://www.freeallegiance.org/ [freeallegiance.org]
The game was originally published by none other than Microsoft. Shocking, I know, but way back in prehistory (1999), Microsoft actually released some complete open source software. A game.

I'll pause while our older members grab their portable defibrillators....

Yes, Allegiance is open source and has enjoyed ongoing software development as well as a community-contributed texture "face-lift" to improve the look of the game. It has not made its way onto Linux because it was originally implemented with Microsoft's orphaned DirectPlay, and no one has been interested in replacing the entire network implementation. Its anti-cheat system, which was community-developed, is also dependent on Microsoft libraries unavailable on Linux. (Though possibly Mono has advanced far enough that's no longer true. Regardless, it's anti-cheat geared for Windows, so it's not especially portable.)

For those interested, it's an arcade-style space combat game (think Wing Commander, or the original X-Wing and Tie Fighter games) where two teams fight to control the arena. The added wrinkle is the addition of RTS elements, including a single human commander for each side who plays in RTS mode. Yes, it's that holy grail of games, an RTS/FPS hybrid. As it turns out, RTS/FPS is a hard game to learn and a hard game to play, so it has never enjoyed great popularity (contrary to the popular opinion of a million vocal wannabe game-designers on the forums of the Internet).

As with most small, insular Internet communities, the players tend to be snobbish and stand-offish to newcomers. Goes with the territory.

Re:Allegiance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561345)

Freespace, Descent, Doom and Quake also released their source.

Freespace 2 scp - source, forums, enhancements, etc.

http://scp.indiegames.us/

Descent rebirth

http://www.dxx-rebirth.com/

D2X-XL (descent /w updated models and enhanced textures and graphics)

http://www.Descent2.de

Re:Allegiance (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40561757)

I thought donkey.bas was open source too.

Value to the company (4, Interesting)

humanrev (2606607) | about 2 years ago | (#40561123)

A software company might (and I emphasize MIGHT) be willing to open-source some old commercial software they own if it can be shown to be of benefit to them. Simply doing it for philanthropic purposes is unlikely to sway most companies, but if, say, a newer and better version of their software is coming out and the old, discontinued version people are asking for is of no threat to their profit margins, then that might be enough of a motivation as it would increase publicity, improve the image of the company (good PR is always helpful), and all the side benefits as well.

John Carmack open-sources all the engines he writes for iD software after a while, once the engine is no longer deemed commercially viable. It's unlike anyone will use the Doom 3 engine (technically id Tech 4) for example in a commercial game as it's been superseded by modern engines, and virtually no-one plays Doom 3 online so the threat from exploits is redundant. This is a great idea since it means projects such as iodoom 3 can be born to improve the engine and allow hobbyist developers to use it in their own games. I wish Valve would open source the original Goldsource engine used for their Half-Life 1 based games, but that will never happen as long as Counter-Strike is still actively played.

Re:Value to the company (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#40561367)

Mod up. If you want a company to, effectively, give away an asset then you need to give them a reason to do so. This typically means either offering them money (which can be counterproductive, as it may make them think that the software is worth more than it is) or persuading them that the goodwill is worth more than sitting on some copyrights for a thing that they're no longer distributing.

The iD case is a bit more interesting, because they make most of their money from selling commercial licenses. Their business model with regard to the open source engines is similar to MySQL AB (before the Sun purchase). You can create non-commercial games with the open source version, but if you want to sell it you buy a proprietary license. More importantly, you can create games for fun with the GPL'd version, and then when a company wants to hire developers to write the next FPS they have a large pool of potential candidates with experience using an iD engine, rather than one of their competitors. Using a license as restrictive as the GPL means that most potential iD customers won't consider using the open sourced version - or any derivatives - instead of the proprietary one.

Re:Value to the company (1)

Waccoon (1186667) | about 2 years ago | (#40561665)

A recent example of this is Death Rally. While the game wasn't actually open-sourced, someone did offer to make a native Windows port of the title, and Remedy Entertainment gave the port the green flag. The ported game was then released as freeware. It was very well-received.

A couple years later, an all-new Death Rally became available as an iPhone/Android game, which was also well-received.

I believe the reason the game wasn't open-sourced is because they were using a proprietary video player for the movies, and some other code was only available as binaries.

Re:Value to the company (1)

Narishma (822073) | about 2 years ago | (#40561841)

It's unlike anyone will use the Doom 3 engine (technically id Tech 4) for example in a commercial game as it's been superseded by modern engines

If somebody wants to make a commercial game with id Tech 4 (or the previous ones) they will still have to license it from id Software, unless they're happy releasing the game under the GPL.

OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#40561125)

A lot of folks wanted IBM to open source OS/2 after its sunset. One of the stated reasons why they didn't open source it, was because parts were jointly developed with Microsoft and others, who had joint copyrights. There would have been too many legal and copyright hassles necessary to get open sourcing done. Device Drivers were especially a big problem.

This could be true with a lot of other dormant software. Maybe nobody really knows what potential copyright issues are involved, and nobody wants to take on the liability by open sourcing it themselves, because it might cause litigation grief later.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561161)

More reason to limit copyright lifetimes to sane values (like say a decade or two) rather than their current ridiculous lengths.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#40561247)

This is about licensing agreements between IBM and Microsoft (other third parties), unless they made their licensing terms dependent on copyright lifetimes, it has nothing do with copyright terms. This is contract law, not copyright law.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#40561401)

Agreed, but if the copyright on something has expired, then companies should be free to open up something like that to the world. For instance, in this case, let's say IBM chose to open up OS/2 Warp. They could get an agreement w/ Microsoft and all surviving companies to be okay w/ releasing it under any agreeable license. Same for device drivers. However, if the device drivers concerned are of certain discontinued products, feel free to publish them, given that they are not otherwise actively supported.

On a different note, UnXiS ought to release Unixware and SCO ODT under GPL3 - after getting Veritas/Symantec to agree to doing that w/ an old version of VjFS. If Symantec disagrees, replace VjFS w/ something like btrfs or something like it.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#40561435)

I am not sure I see the relation with Copyright terms. As far as I understand, the copyright on the released binaries would expire earlier if copyright terms are shortened. Even then you might not be able to use the software due to Terms of Service restrictions.
 
The source code was never released (it was never published). There is no copyright on unpublished works, and hence there is no expiry of copyright.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#40561473)

Agreed, but if the copyright on something has expired, then companies should be free to open up something like that to the world.

Why? A contract may very well stipulate conditions that go beyond the copyright term. "Should be" != "is"

For instance, in this case, let's say IBM chose to open up OS/2 Warp. They could get an agreement w/ Microsoft and all surviving companies to be okay w/ releasing it under any agreeable license. Same for device drivers.

If you need an agreement they could try it today, it'd still be a helluva lot of work to track everyone down and many would either refuse or make outrageous demands.

However, if the device drivers concerned are of certain discontinued products, feel free to publish them, given that they are not otherwise actively supported.

So you're the law now, since you can tell them to "feel free"? Are you going to indemnify them when some liquidation company somewhere finds they have some IP rights lying around collecting dust that they can sue for? The risk of even one lawsuit of "up to $150,000" plus lawyer time is enough to scare away any interest in the project.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 2 years ago | (#40561913)

More reason to limit copyright lifetimes to sane values (like say a decade or two) rather than their current ridiculous lengths.

You realize that source code does not magically become available just because the copyright on it expires, right?

I mean just because a hypothetical company looses their hypothetical copyrights on their hypothetical software does not guarantee that they will release their hypothetical source code.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#40561227)

The problem with OS/2 is that it's still making money for IBM - Serenity Systems bought a source license (with royalties) and continues ecelopment of an OS/2 based operating system called eComStation, which is still actively developed. It's far from dormant software.

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#40561255)

Transfer rights in full to a separate company: a shell company set up just to hold those rights. Say all the rights IBM has in it they transfer to this "OS/2 source holding ltd" company.

Have the OS/2 source holding ltd. release the whole thing - put it on ftp and let the world back it up.

Close that company.

Now who you gonna sue?

Re:OS/2 Lesson: Legal & Copyright hassles (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#40561299)

IBM. The judge will gladly pierce the Corporate veil, if you are so blatant about it.

Lightworks, the recently open sourced NLE (1)

dan_bethe (134253) | about 2 years ago | (#40561127)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightworks [wikipedia.org]

Lightworks is an NLE (nonlinear editor, of video) which was recently open sourced due in part to its commercial decline and transfer of ownership.

Re:Lightworks, the recently open sourced NLE (1)

dan_bethe (134253) | about 2 years ago | (#40561175)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightworks [wikipedia.org]

Lightworks is an NLE (nonlinear editor, of video) which was recently open sourced due in part to its commercial decline and transfer of ownership.

Oops. I see now that its source code release date has slipped again. Oh well, for the purposes of the conversation, you can see the historical process and you can see the fact that it's probably coming.

Re:Lightworks, the recently open sourced NLE (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#40561801)

It also sucks horribly. I have been in the Video Editing Biz and have used everything professional out there and Lightworks is a toy at best. I spent 4 days messing around with it and dismissed it as less complete than the OSS Cinerella that is also a giant steaming pile of goo.

No stability, crashes a LOT, incredibly limited tool set, and the deal killer, does not support ANY modern file formats. Noboy edits in AVI.. it's AVCHD for 99% of home video and MPEG2HD for 99% of professional right now with some smatterings of AVCHD. Nobody uses tape at all anymore so capture capability is 100% useless to anyone but a church that refuses to replace that 17 year old Canon XL1. It also claims it supports 4K editing yet it will not accept files from a Red One, Or a red Scarlet X. That's epic fail right there.

Dont look at lightworks as anything other than a mess they are hoping that the OSS community can fix. Not one company out there uses Lightworks for any real work.

Re:Lightworks, the recently open sourced NLE (1)

dan_bethe (134253) | about 2 years ago | (#40561909)

Yeah I'd never heard of it outside of the announcement of the source code. I have read a lot of comments from its fans. In all of my intensive research over the history of NLEs, I find it hard to believe that there'd be a whole NLE that I'd never heard of!

The original poster is asking about abandonware, and I guess Lightworks is a sort of epically twisted abandonware.

Well thanks for your feedback. It was most LOLworthy.

AVI? Worse than Cinelerra? o m g

SimCity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561137)

Probably the most famous is SimCity, be the good will of its original author to the OLPC project.

Another oldy but goody, open sourced with the support of its author, is Sopwith.

www.vanchuyenhangdimy.com (-1, Offtopic)

lienbien (2677419) | about 2 years ago | (#40561143)

www.vanchuyenhangdimy.com la dich vu van chuyen gia re nhat tai TPHCM. Chuyen van chuyen, van tai, chuyen phat nhanh, xuat nhap khau di khap the gioi

Reach out the the owners? (2)

anilg (961244) | about 2 years ago | (#40561179)

For small to medium software, the reason it isn't sold anymore is that it was probably not successful commercially. Find a way to reach out to them and see if they would be interested in releasing the code (and if they own the entire copyright).

I recently helped revive a 5 year old screenwriting software (http://www.trelby.org), which is a niche editing field, ruled by 200+$ alternatives (Final Draft/MMS). I work on this simply because this will more than serve the need of most of the market, and it's fun to program. I could do that because the original developer had opened it when it was not successful commercially.

cross licensing problems (4, Insightful)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 2 years ago | (#40561185)

Plenty of games, even old ones are not entirely inhouse developed, why reinvent the wheel when plenty have already done it before you. Hence they buy 3rd party engines and routines that they have no rights to open source thus dooming the game to never be open sourced even if the game developer would not mind doing so.

Re:cross licensing problems (1)

cbope (130292) | about 2 years ago | (#40561317)

+5 insightful. This is the most likely reason why so many old software projects do not go open source. Hardly anyone completely writes all their own software in-house and a lot of software depends on licensed third-party libraries, drivers, etc.

Volition & Freespace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561213)

Volition open sourced the engine behind the Freespace series of games. Now hosted at Hard-Light [hard-light.net] the development has been rather interesting, with new campaigns, and if you play the original games (if you have the discs) on the newer engine, it's quite spectacular.

Not always an easy decision. (2)

flimflammer (956759) | about 2 years ago | (#40561275)

It's not always easy for a company to just up and release the source code to their games, as many aspects of it may be entrenched in proprietary licensing. Physics, sound, rendering engine, etc. Entire sections of the code that can't be released, which makes much of the game what it is. It's hard to convince a company to spend resources going through their old source code, plucking out the code that can be released, and then letting it go. It might give them public good will, but it costs them money and the return could end up being very little.

One of the more famous recent cases (4, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#40561301)

The original Prince of Persia was recently open sourced [wikipedia.org] after the developer found the once thought lost source code on a floppy hidden away somewhere.

Re:One of the more famous recent cases (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561501)

One of the authors of the original Elite (on the BBC Micro) released the source [clara.net] years ago. Sadly, it's pretty much incomprehensible. I used to program on that platform, but endless pages of uncommented assembly language with multiple instructions per line are actually harder to read than a well formatted disassembly.

Re:One of the more famous recent cases (3, Informative)

ratbag (65209) | about 2 years ago | (#40561517)

Before you visit the source code page, switch your "90's web page design mistakes" filter to maximum.

Re:One of the more famous recent cases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561819)

The original Prince of Persia was recently open sourced [wikipedia.org] after the developer found the once thought lost source code on a floppy hidden away somewhere.

sssh! don't let linus know!

terrible beauty: public domain in the modern world (2)

neurosine (549673) | about 2 years ago | (#40561381)

I think this was the reason for the existence of the Public Domain, where copyrighted works were available royalty free to the public after 50 years. I'd really like to play Redneck Rampage. For that reason I'm really just sort of spinning my wheels until I'm 74.Of course, they could open source it sooner. I'm not sure if Xatrix still exists though. Or if any of todays paridigms will apply at that time.

Re:terrible beauty: public domain in the modern wo (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about 2 years ago | (#40561413)

Just a little nitpick: Public Domain is a naturally occurring state of intellectual property (as well as Trade Secret), not something that came into existence via government granting it.

Re:terrible beauty: public domain in the modern wo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561423)

http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/redneck_rampage_collection

All sorts of reasons this is harder than it seems (2)

jonwil (467024) | about 2 years ago | (#40561415)

Reasons why getting companies to open-source stuff is hard include:
1.They may not have the code anymore (or it may be in some archive vault somewhere and difficult to find)
2.3rd parry copyrights on the code (e.g. licensed game engines, licensed middle-ware etc)
3.3rd party patents (e.g. anything that supports any flavor of MPEG or e.g. the Creative Labs patent that ID hard to work around in releasing the Doom 3 source code)
4.Licensing (e.g. movie or sports tie-ins)
5.Cheating or hacking (publishing the code may make it easier to cheat or hack the program)
6.NDAs (e.g. the NDAs for platforms like the XBOX 360, PS3, WII or the hardware NDAs for things like PowerVR GPUs or the NDAs for anti-piracy solutions that may be integrated with the code)
7.They may still be using some or all of the code (or derivative versions of it) in current software.
8.They may not want to open source something old and not-sold-anymore if the result would be competing against things they are still selling.
9.They may not want to give their competitors an edge by opening up code that their competitors might want.
and 10.Cost to review the codebase and make sure that you are free of the above items

It depends on the company, smaller companies are more likely to be willing to either release the code or to do a deal (as happened with Blender) whereas larger companies are less willing to entertain either open sourcing directly or to sell the rights (either to the software as a while or to the codebase but not the data/game/whatever).

For example, it would be almost impossible to convince a large company like Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Atari or Ubisoft to open source any of their stuff. (or in many cases to even support modding of their titles or share information/tools modders would need)

Use the myriad choice of licenses... (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#40561439)

... as an incentive to get the company to pick one that seems most compatible w/ their business interests, and publish it under that. That way, the old commercial software can be liberated, even if partly, and can either be developed further, or forked. Also, some old commercial software is fully functional, and if released, is good enough on its own w/o requiring any feature updates.

Just dreaming (3, Funny)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#40561441)

Even though it's a far cry, I would be excited for Minecraft to be open sourced. First of all, the performance issues could be fixed (by using a native language) and after that, the possibility for interesting modifications would be almost endless. Another gem is the first Rollercoaster Tycoon, which according to Chris Sawyer was coded in pure assembly.[1 [chrissawyergames.com] ]

With money? (1)

Aggrajag (716041) | about 2 years ago | (#40561443)

I've been toying with the idea lately. Create a Kickstarter-type website where companies could ask certain amount of money for a game/program and if the goal is reached they will release the source.

Re:With money? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561743)

What like UnGlue.it ? That's what a website like for books. http://unglue.it

The Decent Series is open source (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 2 years ago | (#40561479)

That is a space pilot multiplayer first person style shooter. A bit like a flight simulator.

Re:The Decent Series is open source (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 2 years ago | (#40561971)

That is a space pilot multiplayer first person style shooter. A bit like a flight simulator.

Also gave me so much motion sickness back in the day.

Fun game though.

TA:K (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#40561485)

I wonder who owns Total Annihilation: Kingdoms since cavedog became gravedog?

I used to love that game.

Re:TA:K (2)

Lotana (842533) | about 2 years ago | (#40561597)

Well the graphical assets and the rights are probably owned by Atari.

However, check out Spring [springrts.com] open source engine. It was developed to run Total Annihilation, but expanded to be quite an impressive RTS engine in its own right.

Perhaps if enough interest, someone will champion porting TA: Kingdoms assets to run under Spring.

What source? (3, Funny)

Tim Ward (514198) | about 2 years ago | (#40561545)

Are we expecting that the source code still exists, and that the build system still exists, and that anyone ever wrote down any instructions for how to build it (let alone document the design)? Sure *some* old games will be properly documented and archived, but the way of the world is that this won't include *your* favourite game!

how to do it (3, Funny)

ddt (14627) | about 2 years ago | (#40561551)

I'd probably set up a website where all these games can be found in a nice, attractive setting that makes them look like the museum pieces they should be- nicely lit, oak frames, black velvet, that sort of thing. Use all procedural textures for the wood grain, velvet, etc, so that they remain resolution independent and always look delish. Get the credits engraved in said wood next to every piece of framed box art, and inlay those credits with gold.

Look for the dudes who did the work, the actual developers. And then approach the authors and explain that the site is going to be organized from top to bottom by which games have well-maintained source and which don't. Instead of rating them numerically, you'll just do it by turning the knobs on the degeneration on the procedural textures, so that the wood looks all rotted out, the inlay half-flaked away and over everything there's a thick patina of dust. So still looking classy but in an increasingly forgotten way.

Then put a classy old collection cup somewhere in the frame there. If clicked on, it'll prompt for donation amount and then animate a corresponding number of coins that make a satisfying clinky sound and animation as they drop into the collection box, and then all the collections are split according to ranking. And you can donate directly to games by dropping coins directly into little miniature collection boxes right next to the lovely framed pictures with the lovely credits. And they'll be sent to the IP owners. If the IP owners are confirmed to be split the proceeds with the actual authors, you'll give that picture extra sexy lighting, finer woodwork for the frame, a richer, lusher, redder velvet.

Give it a nice, pretentious name like The Gallery Eternal.

Kickstarter? (1)

ScaledLizard (1430209) | about 2 years ago | (#40561577)

It would be possible to set up kickstarter auctions for games, after contacting the copyright owner. I would like to see MechWarrior 2 open sourced.

I collected vintage 1980s DOS software (not games) (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40561877)

As a collector and researcher (of regular software, not games)...

Forget it. Most companies are not still around. If they are around, they're not the company they once were, and probably no one there even remembers the old software. If they are still around and remember their old software, they'll ignore you if you ask about it.

This is a great tragedy. It's technically illegal to do research into 1980s software, because the only way you can get it is by violating copyright. Something has gone horribly wrong when doing history is illegal.

Borland started releasing old versions of their software (not open sourcing them, just releasing the old binaries) but the usual happened: Whoever started this effort was quashed by the company changing hands.

WordPerfect blew me off totally when I asked about 4.1, 4.2, and 5.1 - I found these at a "pirate" site.

Will historically important programs like Turbo C, WordPerfect, etc ever be open sourced? Never. A whole chapter in the history of computing is essentially being lost. Only historians who know software very well and can set up emulators can even preserve this software, and only if they can find it.

Even shareware versions are lost to history. Some "shovelware" images of old shareware BBSes have old shareware, but disk space was tight back then and historical versions are gone for good because the new version always replaced the old version. Very difficult to find 1980s shareware for any package with versions released in the 90s.

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