It can be argued (pretty heavily I might add) that Atari fandom is the only thing that has kept the Atari name from falling completely into obscurity. Long before Infogrames changed their name to Atari back in 2003, it was sites like Atariage.com and AtariMuseum.com that kept the name afloat and alive in cyberspace.
However, now that the new slimmed-down and focused Atari is busy mining their past to create mobile and social games, they appear to have a new tactic to keep the Atari name alive: lawsuits.
AtariUser.com reported yesterday that Atari had sent a letter to the owner of the domain name Atari2600.org, asking them to hand over the URL immediately. The person who owns the domain has had it for almost a decade, and one wonders why Atari is taking this action now. Also, bizarrely, they have targeted an enthusiast German Atari 8-bit software developer named Starsoft Berlin, who makes demo disks based on 8-bit code for the Atari 800…which is perfectly legal and has been done for more than 30 years.
The website, which is in German, has now added the following text in English to it’s side-bar:
This website does only contain software that is under free licenses. Many of the software available to download here is done by myselves. Most (even maybe none) of the programmes where coded, when ATARI Inc. (or their successors) did´nt support the machines anymore – they are written for – actively.
One look at the site and it’s offerings and it would appear that this text shouldn’t even be necessary. They offer their own software written by themselves for the Atari 8-bit. something literally 10000’s of other people have done before. (Heck, we ourselves received 50 download credits from the DeathStar BBS back in 1984 for creating our own Atari Basic version of The Price Is Right!, as well as made and uploaded countless other programs back-in-the-day. That’s what you did with an 8-bit computer!)
One wonders though, what Atari and/or their lawyers might be up to. Suing over domain names and hobbyist software is either the start of something bigger, or a testing of the waters to see if they can litigate themselves market share. Still, it’s a disturbing trend that we would like to get some insight into.
Atari has used us as a mouthpiece for some of their retro remakes, and we have enjoyed that relationship. It would be cool if someone from Atari could clue us into what might be happening here. You can always contact us a firstname.lastname@example.org.