What Is “Abandonware” and Is it Legal?
Abandonware is any software still under copyright when the copyright owner either doesn’t or can’t enforce it. Regardless, since the copyright still exists, hosting and downloading abandonware generally counts as piracy in the US, making it illegal.
There are lots of “wares” when it comes to software: freeware, shareware, donationware, and more! You may have come across “abandonware” that just needs a simple click to download, but what does it mean for software to be abandonware? Is it legal?
What Is Abandonware, Exactly?
Abandonware is any software whose copyright has not lapsed, and all of the legal restrictions that apply to typical copyright are still in effect, yet the copyright holder isn’t currently enforcing the copyright. Such holders may be in one of several situations, such as:
- The holder ceased to exist without ever transferring the copyright to another entity.
- The holder is still in business, but they’re no longer selling the software and aren’t expending any time or money to defend their copyright.
- It’s unclear who the current copyright holder is, making it impossible for anyone to buy, defend,…
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