Nintendo awarded $12 million in ROM piracy case

Nintendo made a show of taking out piracy sites over the summer, and this is one result of its efforts.

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The owners of ROM sites LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co have agreed to pay Nintendo $12 million after admitting to direct and indirect copyright and trademark infringement while running the ROM destinations.

After Nintendo filed a complaint via federal court in Arizona calling both LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co out on hosting ROMs, the operators took the sites offline as the news spread to other sites who did the same thing. Nintendo and the married couple have been involved in settlement discussions, and now it appears they're one step closer to bringing the legal drama to a close.

According to TorrentFreak, the couple has agreed to a judgment that's over $12 million: $12,230,000 to be exact.

The ridiculously high amount of money is likely so high in a bid to scare off other potential ROM site owners, and it's possible the couple could end up owing far less to the big N. There's also a permanent injunction in place, which means the parties agreed on action that will prevent them from infringing on copyright in the future. The couple must sign over LoveROMs.com and LoveRETRO.co to Nintendo and give up all their Nintendo games and emulators.

The judgment has yet to be signed off on by a judge, but this is more than likely how the suit will end. Stay tuned to Shacknews for additional updates. 

Senior Editor

Fueled by horror, rainbow-sugar-pixel-rushes, and video games, Brittany is a Senior Editor at Shacknews who thrives on surrealism and ultraviolence. Follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake and check out her portfolio for more. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!

From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 13, 2018 11:35 AM

    Brittany Vincent posted a new article, Nintendo awarded $12 million in ROM piracy case

    • reply
      November 13, 2018 12:14 PM

      Damn these rom sites have 12 million?

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        November 13, 2018 12:15 PM

        If a cop pulls you over and writes you a thousand dollar ticket, does that mean you have a thousand dollars?

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          November 13, 2018 12:40 PM

          noob to court speak so I didnt know you could be "awarded" 12 million and then privately settle

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        November 13, 2018 12:24 PM

        That was my thought as well.

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        November 13, 2018 12:25 PM

        not anymore

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        November 13, 2018 12:26 PM

        Defendant: How much do we have to pay?

        Judge: Ehhhh.... how much you got?

        — No Court Case, Ever

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        November 13, 2018 12:46 PM

        An article I saw yesterday pointed out that while they reported that they settled for $12M, Nintendo likely settled with something far less (likely in the 10,000s range), but they publicly wanted a large number to ward off anyone else that might open ROM sites like this. If they announced they only settled for $50k, some enterprising person could likely have covered those "fines" and keep a site operational. ( A key thing to remember is that the legality of ROM images do remain in question, no case law yet exists, and case law has favored clean-room emulation, so Nintendo may also be scared of this going to court and finding it go the wrong way).

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          November 13, 2018 1:09 PM

          I've never heard that term, what is clean-room emulation and what about it makes it favored? I'm interested to learn more!

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            November 13, 2018 1:30 PM

            Sounds like he's mixing up different issues. There's no doubt that rom sites are illegal or that emulation is legal.

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            November 13, 2018 2:30 PM

            clean-room emulation means that you created an emulation engine that uses absolutely nothing proprietary, and only what is publicly available and what you can test with a legally-acquired copy. Most console emulators do this either through known SDKs, disassembly of software, or by trial and error knowing the system architecture. ScummVM is a good example of this; the devs of that just examined the game files and determined how they were encoded to create the engine. This reverse engineering has been deemed legal (see Sega v. Accolade as the first such case )

            Non-clean-room is when you have something that you shouldn't have to help guide you, such as original source code. That taints the entire project, and this is basically a core of the issue in the case of Oracle v Google (among other factors). It's also why PS2 emulation is harder: while they can emulate chips on the PS2, you still need their BIOS which is fully protected by copyright. PS2 emulation requires you to make a personal copy of the PS2 bios (technically legal under DMCA) to use, it can't be distributed without triggering copyvios.

            (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_room_design )

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              November 13, 2018 2:32 PM

              I would add that I bring up ScummVM because at one point LucasArts thought the devs got their hands on some of LA's copyrighted code, but ScummVM was able to prove they developed it solely in a clean room, avoiding any legal issues.

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              November 13, 2018 4:43 PM

              I've also heard it more generally called "airlocked," or of course, "plausible denial."

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      November 13, 2018 12:33 PM

      How does this work considering so many of those ROMs are third party distributor/developers?

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      November 13, 2018 12:35 PM

      Right after shirif sold NTDOY lol

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        November 13, 2018 12:42 PM

        Nintendo spends twelve million on their office supplies. Not gonna move the needle.

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          November 13, 2018 1:34 PM

          https://imgur.com/gallery/BIT4TTM

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            November 13, 2018 1:40 PM

            If I recall correctly, shirif sold a bunch of NTDOY at a loss. Lamented selling it but didn't think it would regain any time soon.

            redshak is loling because this was announced now a couple days after that post. Laughing at shirif's expense. Because this is something that would make money for Nintendo.

            I contend that the funds awarded are too small to impact the balance sheets significantly for the next fiscal quarter, which is a key factor that determines the perceived shareholder value.

            At least, that is my interpretation, Captain.

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              November 13, 2018 1:46 PM

              Ntdoy is down from what I sold it as, I'd have lost even more money today.
              Conversely, I made money with the funds I reallocated.
              But hey, I realize the meme is born. Keep it going I guess.

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      November 13, 2018 1:07 PM

      Probably a landmark case. Has there been precedent like this in the past? I had always heard you could download a ROM as long as you owned the original; this case seems to indicate that is not the case, or at least the hoster of the ROMs are liable to for ensuring that the downloader does in fact own the game?

      Hopefully someone dives into the details of the judgement.

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        November 13, 2018 1:30 PM

        Owning the game was just something people told themselves to justify piracy.

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          November 13, 2018 1:37 PM

          Huh? I don't get that. I own an original copy of Final Fantasy Tactics but my Playstation gave up the ghost over a decade ago. I have played it twice since on a PSX emulator. That shouldn't deem me a pirate.

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            November 13, 2018 2:49 PM

            Are you playing the original disc of FFT on a PSX emulator? That's not piracy (although, I'm not sure if there's a PSX emu that can operate without a BIOS from Sony)

            If you're saying your disc got scratched so you feel justified in downloading an ISO image of the original game, while that may be ethically on the good end of the spectrum and most of us would have no real problem with it, the legal truth of the matter is that it's still considered piracy. If, before your FFT disc went bad, you made an ISO image out of it and then fell back to that, you'd probably be OK but if you downloaded it from The Pirate Bay it's still piracy.

            The statement you made above (that it's OK if you own the original) is a very common myth that has persisted for decades.

            Now that all being said, the case in this story is not Nintendo going after people who downloaded ROM images it's about people who hosted a website so that everyone could download ROM images from them. I think we can all agree that this isn't legal.

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              November 13, 2018 2:59 PM

              I didn't want to risk damaging the disc so I did download an ISO of the game. It was more convenient to do that than rip it myself; also as noted, I thought simply owning the original was sufficient.

              It's true I used a pirated bios to run epsxe but again, I don't think that should deem me a pirate.

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            November 13, 2018 2:51 PM

            Or how about iv bought super Mario world at least 3 times .. am I a pirate for hacking my switch and loading the ROM/emulator??

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            November 13, 2018 3:06 PM

            You don't own a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics. You own a license to use Final Fantasy Tactics in a manner the publisher deems acceptable.

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          November 13, 2018 4:39 PM

          What about the guys who owned the game and dumped it? What did they tell themselves?

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        November 13, 2018 1:33 PM

        That's never been the case, and this isn't the first site to get shut down.

        You're entitled to dump your own stuff, but downloading an image is legally different. And even then there's issues depending on the presence of DRM, but suffice to say no one is coming after you for private stuff anyway.

        Note I'm just talking legality; I hardly have an issue personally with people downloading games they own.

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        November 13, 2018 3:31 PM

        Case law says that you are legally allowed to copy software you have legitimately purchased for "backup" use. The problem is now that the DMCA comes into play that says you cannot break the digital copyright protections to make that copy,

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          November 13, 2018 3:33 PM

          and as Conan points out, this is for copies that you actually make from software you own. dl'ing a rom that you own but lack the ability to copy is technically illegal.

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            November 13, 2018 5:13 PM

            I feel like that was just the lazy/easy way to make sure people who didn't own the game didn't have a digital copy or copied disc, rather than a good policy trying to ensure owners were also buying what's necessary/learning how to create their own for any practical reason.

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            November 13, 2018 5:56 PM

            I feel like proving this out with someone who didn't rip their own stuff would be virtually impossible. How would they even be able to tell?

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            November 13, 2018 10:16 PM

            I thought uploading/providing was the illegal part. Not downloading.

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              November 14, 2018 6:39 AM

              I want to say that back in the Napster days, when RIAA went after downloaders, it was found to be far too hard to actually affirm who they were or that they instigated the act of downloading, so nearly all such cases since have focused on uploaders who CAN be tracked with more reliability, as well as easier to assign a damage value atop of (max fine X # of songs offered). In other words, if you purposely download a ROM image of a Nintendo game, you're still technically at fault but the effort to track you down is likely not worth any company's time or effort.

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      November 13, 2018 1:42 PM

      So sell me the games on Switch you fuckers.

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        November 13, 2018 10:00 PM

        The media will never be allowed to fall into public domain as copyright law will continue to be altered to meet the desires of corporate gods who will instead retain the right to maybe, one day, if they feel the profit margins make sense, make it, or a variation of it (because fuck preserving history), available for purchase.

        But uh, yeah, thousands of games will never be available for purchase again and will be utterly lost to time save for those engaging in illegal, but possibly moral, preservation.

        Though the Library of Congress did just extend and expand DMCA exemptions* for small numbers of those in legal possession of either physical copies or even server code who are engaging in explicit acts of preservation, such as museums.
        https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/zm9az5/copyright-law-just-got-better-for-video-game-history

        *Exemptions which shouldn't even be needed, fuck the anti-public domain DMCA and fuck the ESA. And while in general I quite like Nintendo, kinda fuck them, though I do appreciate how they seem to often wait for fan projects to get out into the wild before they squash them, that's a curious behavior.