Saturday, November 2, 2013

Should emulators be commercial (part 2)

I just read a fascinating article (see ) about why software piracy tends to unwittingly preserve digital history much more than copyright holders do.

The part that jumps out at me is that DRM (aka copy protection) seems to actively interfere with preserving software because it is designed to prevent the software from stolen (which has the side effect of the software becoming un-preservable down the road).

In my previous blog post, I mused about making parts of Daphne closed-source and partially commercial in the future because I feel like I need to be able to justify the time I spend on less interesting improvements to Daphne (ie a polished Raspberry Pi port).  It almost feels like I am somewhat forced to add some kind of DRM scheme as part of this experiment.  This puts me in a big quandary.

The crappy part about DRM is what the above article states to eloquently:
"That is why DRM feels fundamentally wrong from a humanistic standpoint: it conspires, in conjunction with time, to deprive humanity of its rightfully earned cultural artifacts."

The irony is not lost on me.  What business does an emulator have being closed-source (with DRM) when the whole mission of the emulator is to presumably preserve memories from becoming lost forever?  Could the hypocrisy be any more blatant?

I don't have all the answers right now.  But I've thought of one possible solution to this problem.

The solution is to do what John Carmack (of id Software) tends to do with his games.  He sells them commercially, lets them make their money, then he open sources them after they've lost commercial viability.  In this way, he is both getting paid for his work AND he is preserving his work for posterity.  In other words, the idea is to have a temporary DRM system that expires after a relatively short period of time.  I like this idea and I think it could work for what I am trying to do.

In case you are wondering what I think I am trying to do (and this seems to change regularly as I try to figure it out myself):

  1. I want my work to be preserved forever which means I am highly motivated to have all source code completely open.
  2. I want to be able to justify the time I spend on my less-interesting work which means I probably need to start getting paid for it, which probably means some temporary DRM system.  Hopefully the knowledge that it would only be temporary will help people tolerate it a lot better.

This seems like a good idea now, I may think it's nuts when I come back tomorrow and re-read this.

And the good news is that I won't be acting on this any time soon (maybe years) because I am still working on DEXTER.  So this plan still can do through many revisions.  If anyone has any good ideas, I'm pretty open at this point.

1 comment:

  1. The only time I see an emulator needing closed source is a communications package. Besides I thought you already created an ARM port of Daphne years ago, the work is already done, and an Android port is logical as you have the ear of the copyright holder(s).

    I am sure if Digital Leisure wanted an android port of their tired catalog, they would support your venture, as they do with with Daphne 1.0.

    Your comments on Mame is useful, but your model is different. You have Digital Leisure and DLLC on your side, Mame is a copyright holder's nightmare, which their members are complicit. In addition Daphne is a simulator and not an emulator.