News And The Internet

By Dave E

Originally published in EUG #51

Superior's Response

Sketchy background information regarding copyright and Superior's relationship with Electron software supplier ProAction has been given to EUG's editor by Dr Steve Hanson, Managing Director of Superior.

Spelling out all of the recent internet developments and squarely asking those questions all emulation fans want answered, some points of our letter were rebutted with a contractual 'confidentiality clause' governing copyright agreements. These prohibit Hanson from disclosing the details of time-limits and authors' rights under them. However, note copyright on "very few titles have been transferred to ProAction".

Certain anomalies have been thankfully cleared up. Acornsoft game Elite and those in the same league as Mutant Spiders (circa 1982) are now freely distributable as the agreements covering them are 'time-expired'; so these software titles are freely available to download. Other games retain their original copyright to Superior Microcomputing.

According to Hanson, Superior and ProAction are not related companies and merely offer a similar but independent (!) service to BBC/Electron owners. (Therefore, ProAction's EUG service record was not for Superior to comment on.)

In EUG #50, ProAction accussed the Retro BBC web pages of breaching copyright clauses. But as they are now acknowledged to be merely a supplier of Superior's products, the copyright breaches they referred to were not their own but those of Superior.

What this establishes is that ProAction have only a right to enforce these 'confidential' agreements to which they are a party; "very few". They can alert web pages that they are breaking the copyright law on other products (to which they are not a party!) but it is for Superior to order the removal of those games.

ProAction's interest in doing so is this: They and Superior both supply Superior's games. The "proliferation of unauthorised copies of games on internet sites obviously puts this service in jeopardy." So, in 'looking out for' Superior's games in cyberspace, ProAction can narrow down the market and both companies think they can sell more games.

This is an attitude that meets with contempt from emulation fans and collectors alike. Collectors, with their incomplete stack of Play It Again Sams in the bottom drawer, want the rest in their original 'as bought on cassette' condition and order from Superior anyway. Emulation fans merely want to play around with nostalgia for a few seconds and wouldn't seriously consider buying another BBC/Electron - and the game again - just to do so!

Superior were silent when asked to comment on this perspective. However, Retro BBC's web page, ignoring ProAction's request, has relocated to and requested this not be discussed "in the newsgroups" in a move possibly not unrelated.

That Superior responded to EUG's enquiry does show they are not blase about the problems caused by emulation and, even if some consider their position to be weak, considering their games were undoubtedly the best produced (and still available!) for the BBC/Electron, it should be treated with respect. On the other hand, ProAction appear to have done practically nothing for 8 bit besides throw their weight around and complicate what turned out to be a simple copyright issue. This makes them the scourge of the BBC world at the moment...

The news imparted here was provided to EUG's editor as "background" and Hanson expressed his "unwilling[ness] for it to be quoted in any article". It therefore appears in a long news section with the justification that a) it is not an article but an informative coverage of Superior's stance, b) it clears up a lot of confusion regarding why certain of Superior's games (Mutant Spiders, Stranded, Alien Dropout, etc) are available to download while others aren't (or shouldn't be!) and c) it raises several further questions which EUG may report upon at a later date.

A Different Stairway To Hell

Electron Emulation fans may be interested to know there have been considerable upgrades to Dave M's web pages recently and they now house many internet-exclusive BBC and Electron front cover images. There is also a section dedicated to the Electron where you can download around forty of the Micro Power titles and play them using a BBC emulator.

The huge entensions were possible due to a new internet service provider granting the site unlimited web space. Inevitably though, this has meant the address has changed. The new place to go is:

It's A Long Way To Tipelkary

This issue of EUG contains Melvyn Wright's excellent Tipperary arrangement, contained in the BBC version of the game Birdstrike (Firebird Software, 1984). Unusually for a BBC music demo, it performs very adequately on an Electron too. Certainly up to those P.A. Morgan high standards our reviewer hoped the Electron Music Disk might meet.

You will know that the original Electron version of Birdstrike is nigh on impossible to transfer to disk but also noted during the cutting of this piece was that the BBC disk version is playable on an Elk; yes, even a standard 32k one. But the title screens are in Mode 7 and the action/sound plays a tiny bit differently so don't expect perfection!

If you love Birdstrike (and a challenge!), try loading it in Turbo Mode!