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I know that Trilobyte, the creators of The 7th Guest, went out of business some time ago. Has their work entered the public domain in some way? If not, who owns the copyright for their works?

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6 Answers 6

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Trilobyte has re-released the 7th guest for the iPad and the iPhone at the end of 2010. The second in the series "11th hour" will be released "summer 2011".

In November 2010 Trilobyte was resurrected, so that means they still have the copyright for the games.

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In general, if nobody official has said that the game – or any of the materials associated with it – is Public Domain, it is not. Copyright simply does not work like that; someone will own it as it is an asset of either the developer or the publisher (or, these days, their creditors or people that the creditors sold it on to).

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  • Not true. Something is copyrighted unless it's rights are transferred or altered in some way by the original author, or the author has been dead for 70 deads. See the Berne convention.
    – user56
    Jul 8, 2010 at 20:59
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    The Berne convention basically means that the original author, if an individual person, holds the right in perpetuity and anyone else (including the author's heirs) holds it for 70 years starting from the point when it ceased to be held by the original author (i.e., instantly for organization-produced works). Given that virtually all games are created by companies and no game is even close to 70 years old – almost all aren't even half that – the difference is moot. Games are copyrighted unless someone authorized has explicitly said otherwise. Jul 9, 2010 at 22:03
  • -1: While this answer may answer the question (is the game in public domain) it does not give a good reason as to why, implying that the copyright will never expire.
    – indyK1ng
    Jan 17, 2011 at 15:07
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    Copyrights still expire when owned by a corporation. That is why Disney has lobbied (successfully) for extensions to the length of copyright terms in the US every time Mickey comes close to entering the public domain. It's just measured from the publication date, not the death of the copyright owner. That said, video games as a thing haven't existed long enough for copyright expiration to be relevant. Aug 3, 2011 at 17:45
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Some quick research learns that since The 7th Guest was published by Virgin Interactive, the rights to the game should still lie with them. Additionally, Amazon is still selling the game, so it's probably not in PD.

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I believe that works owned by a corporation automatically enter public domain 95 years after release or 120 years after creation, whichever is first. It used to be 28 years with a chance for one time 28 year renewal. They changed it in the 70s and added 20 years to it in the late 90s. The only way a game is in the public domain at this point is if the company releases it themselves.

Abandonware, however, is a concept which extends from the lack of enforcement of copyright by game companies which are no longer making money from the software. Since other answerers have said that it was just re-released, I somehow doubt they'll fail to go after you.

It should be noted that abandonware has no legal standing in the US right now. It is currently officially illegal to distribute games commonly considered to be abandonware.

A few years ago, the Library of Congress issued an exception for software only on media which is obsolete, but only as far as cracking DRM to archive the software with no allowance for distribution. This exception was for a period of two years with the chance for renewal, but was three years ago I believe

Note: I am not a lawyer

Source: Wikipedia

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Trilobyte Games, and specifically founder Rob Landeros, have scrupulously maintained rights to all Trilobyte properties, with the exception of Clandestiny (the subject of a side agreement with Graeme Devine), over the years. Before the company was reorganized last year, the newly constituted organization headed by original founder Landeros & new partners Charlie McHenry & John Fricker retained the intellectual property practice of Northwest legal powerhouse Lane Powell Spears & Lubersky to ensure all intellectual property was properly assigned, ownership was clear, and no obstacles existed to the re-issue of 7th Guest and other properties. With that due diligence out complete, the titles entered the queue for re-release. Any inquiries regarding these matters are properly directed to Trilobyte Games, LLC in Medford, Oregon.

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The publisher at the time was Virgin Interactive, they probably own the copyright for 7th guest. Virgin Interactive doesn't do much these days, but they are owned by the Virgin Group

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