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Full Screen Mario: Making the Case For Shorter Copyrights

Soulskill posted 1 year,3 days | from the clouds-and-bushes-are-the-same dept.

Classic Games (Games) 361

barlevg writes "A college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute spent nine months meticulously remaking Super Mario Bros. based on the latest web standards. His project is open source and the code freely available through Github. The site recently gained widespread media attention, which unfortunately brought it to the attention of Nintendo, which has requested that the site be taken down. In a column on the Washington Post website, tech blogger Timothy Lee makes the case for how this is a prime example of copyrights hindering innovation and why copyright lengths should be shortened. Among his arguments: copyrights hinder innovation by game designers seeking to build upon such games, and shortening copyright would breathe new life into games who have long since passed into obsolescence."

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Innovation? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164915)

How is making an exactly duplication of another game "innovation"?

Re:Innovation? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164999)

In other words, they want free shit built on other people's work.

Re:Innovation? (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165125)

The original intention of copyright was so encourage people to build stuff, get benefit from the work, then release the work out into the public domain for this precise reason! It wasn't put in the Constitution so people could have cash cows for long periods of time, it was put in there so the work could could go out into the wild after a brief period of time and be built upon.

So, in being a shill on this you've somehow managed to be completely right.

Re: Innovation? (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165203)

It also used to be, "make something, disseminate thing to publisher, maybe in a year someone will finally find it and give a shit about it"

I think that copyright is important, but that it should be valid for a short period of time and the punishment shouldn't be so harsh on non profit offenders.

If you torrent a film, shouldn't be a big deal. If you mass produce copied DVDs though...

Re: Innovation? (3, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165251)

If you torrent a film, shouldn't be a big deal. If you mass produce copied DVDs though...

They're the same thing. In both case you are redistributing something to which you have no right to do so. That DVD was for your personal use. You can fold, spindle and mutilate it to your heart's delight so long as it's for your personal use. Not you and 10,000 of your "friends".

Re: Innovation? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165317)

When he said "torrent", he might have meant downloading, not uploading.

Re: Innovation? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165771)

That is the same thing as taking a free copy of that mass produced DVD. Seriously, are you that big of an idiot?

Re: Innovation? (4, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165587)

Copyright shouldn't exist for SOFTWARE in the first place. (Yes not patents either).

The entire purpose of Copyright is to benefit society by adding more creation to the public domain. By granting short term monopoly to the creator they are incentivised to create. The deal is a 2 way street, they get protection for 'a while' and then we get the content free and clear afterwards.

The problem is that the game is never actually released to the public. Because the code is never made available, except in a few rare cases. So the 'contract' with the public that gave them copyright is now violated because we don't get ever get the content into the public domain. How about games that require activation servers? How in the hell will you get to play the game in 75 years when said servers are long since dead?

This is exacerbated by the rapid pace of technology. Yes Mario Brothers is still copyrighted, but short of emulation you simply can't actually play it anymore even if it was free.

There needs to be a repository where software code gets placed so that when it's copyright is expired it gets released to the public. Or something like that so we actually get the creators to honor their end of the deal.

Re: Innovation? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165661)

Yes you're a socialist that likes free stuff. Your desires are unsustainable but it's not like you care.

Re: Innovation? (4, Informative)

AdamWill (604569) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165717)

" Yes Mario Brothers is still copyrighted, but short of emulation you simply can't actually play it anymore even if it was free. "

roflcopters - you can buy it on every Nintendo console in existence, for a start.

"Copyright shouldn't exist for SOFTWARE in the first place"

Wouldn't actually matter much in this case, as the guy has not re-used Nintendo's SMB *source code*, but its 'assets' - graphics, sound, level design etc. These are copyrighted separately (and, at this point, massively more valuable to Nintendo than the original SMB source code.)

Re: Innovation? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165623)

No, it is the same thing. In both cases you are violating the holder’s copyright which is the principle we are talking about. It is only to the degree that it is different. Here is my favorite Winston Churchill quote on the matter – and I am kind of sad to learn it is not by Churchill. []

FYI, I am for IP as a concept but I think the current rules are overly generous to the copyright holders.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165231)

Not so...look up the history of copyright in that most perfect of sources, wikipedia.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165453)

" the work could could go out into the wild after a brief period of time and be built upon."

Not necessary to be built upon, but freely used. The Enlightenment philosophers knew the value of education and free flow of ideas but, authors themselves, also realized the material difficulties authors face when trying to create immaterial works that can be duplicated freely. So they created a framework designed to guarantee freedom of ideas and guarantee society's Enlightenment.

The free use of ideas that were difficult to formulate is the very goal of copyright - the original author should be compensated against those difficulties, not for "owning an idea".

Re:Innovation? (1)

nmb3000 (741169) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165553)

The original intention of copyright was so encourage people to build stuff, get benefit from the work, then release the work out into the public domain for this precise reason! It wasn't put in the Constitution so people could have cash cows for long periods of time, it was put in there so the work could could go out into the wild after a brief period of time and be built upon.

I've always wondered why there's so little real public outcry at the perpetual extension of copyrights and their increasing overreach. But now, after reading the comments on that story, it's no wonder corporations have yet again been able to run roughshod over the public, and it's the same reason as usual -- the public is willingly bending over for them:

Also, how can the world demand Nintendo to give them freebees

I see nothing wrong with this. Yeah, it sucks the site has to be taken down, but that was the risk he ran. Its an awesome idea, of course, but it belongs to Nintendo. [...] I, personally, only think something should fall into the public domain after the company it once belonged to is no longer around.

Someone forgot why Video Games crashed in 1983. The video game industry was like the wild wild west. Anybody could create or steal what they wanted and it just over saturated the market with crappy games.

Apparently this person forgot the reasons behind the Video Game Crash as well...

So if I create a game and it becomes mega famous, everyone is buying it and playing it, and that gaming product is a source of income for me...

Here's a crux of the issue and what republicorps rely on for the public's support -- "When I am rich and famous some day, I want these laws around to protect me!"

I really think it is you who doesn't understand [copyright]. Since you think [using something owned by someone] is okay, please give me your address so I can come move into your house and use your car. Hey they benefited you enough, time for someone else to make use of them.

It shouldn't be a time limit, it should be a lifetime benefit for the creator(s). Miyamoto has every right to make as much money off his product for the rest of his life

Ignoring, I suppose, the fact that he doesn't own any copyright -- Nintendo does.

I don't get this article. Couldn't someone pay a licensing fee if they really wanted to?


Re:Innovation? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165733)

Well, person with the appropriate screen name, your comment doesn't even address the GP post or the parent post. This is a horrible example of why copyright should be modified for reasons of innovation because there is no innovation involved here, simply an exact replication of the original work in a different technology.

The game isn't in public domain yet. It is still under copyright. The only way Super Mario Brothers would be in public domain today is if we were operating under the original Copyright Act of 1790. The next copyright act would have it under copyright until 2027.

Basically, you are full of shit and are spouting off because you want to get someone else's work for free. Oh, and you don't even know the meaning of the word shill, so shut the fuck up.

Re:Innovation? (1)

barlevg (2111272) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165097)

Or, if you read the article, the idea is to use the game engine to develop new and original projects without having to write them from scratch.

Re:Innovation? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165199)

Good idea. So take down the Super Mario Brothers site, change the graphics, re-release it as the Stupid Jackass Friends site, and go for it!

Re:Innovation? (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165215)

Or, if you read the article, the idea is to use the game engine to develop new and original projects without having to write them from scratch.

It should be easy to strip out the Mario original levels, rename it, and (less easily) design new characters. I don't think the gameplay itself would be a problem, as there are numerous similar games around.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165237)

If your game engine can't run Super Mario Bros. at a decent frame rate you should probably reconsider reusing it...

Game design is hard (5, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165109)

which is why Nintendo remakes games so often (Star Fox, Mario, Zelda, all had recent remakes from the N64 and Gamecube era).

Budding game designers get a chance to remake a game and release it it's a tremendous learning opportunity. It also provides them with a solid basis to launch new work.

As an Example, take the Giana sisters. Started as a Super Mario clone in the C64 era, but I don't think anyone would say this [] has much of anything to do with Super Mario besides being a platformer.

Me? I could live with the long copyrights if we also had big social safety nets and Basic Income (google the phrase if you don't recognize it). A lot of great stuff comes out of Canada and Europe because their socialized health care gives people the freedom to take risks you can't do in the states...

Re:Game design is hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165137)

No, game design is expensive.

Why make a new game when you can dust off old games to a new generation of kids for hardly any development cost?

Re:Game design is hard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165181)

Bullshit. You are one big stinking bag of talking points.

Even more great stuff comes out of the U.S.. Stop throwing health care into every fucking discussion.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165227)

Why not just make the new game very similar in style, but with new levels and simple graphics? I'm not a fan of long copyrights myself, and understand why people might want an update of an older game they enjoyed a lot. But if you are going to talk about innovation, why sully it by making it just a remake instead of show casing it with its own content? Make the work stand on its own.

Unless you are scared no one would play a random platformer on the web unless you targeted people's nostalgia. But if you need to copy another game's exact content and play style to get people to notice your innovation, maybe it wasn't that innovative to begin with.

Re:Innovation? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165249)

A "prime example", no less! I can think of no worse example than an exact duplicate.

Re:Innovation? (1)

Cigarra (652458) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165263)

By using a completely different technology. The innovation is in the medium, not in the contents.

Re:Innovation? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165337)

The real question we should ask is "What is the social benefit of Nintendo keeping it's copyrights vs. the social loss of restring access to it's work ?"

Nintendo budgeted it's Mario development program so as to fully recoup it's costs in a few years of the console market and make a profit, which it did spectacularly well. So anyone looking to do the same can try, with full confidence that copyright will ensure their profitability. On the other hand, very few entities make business and creative decisions based on what will happen 70 years into the future.

Such long terms are not socially beneficial (because they don't induce more works to be created) but they are socially detrimental because they impede the free use of citizens own property, require public resources to enforce and deprive the public of a work that would have been in the public domain should copyright not existed.

So instead of an utilitarian compromise, "let's set copyrights just as long/short as necessary to maximize societal gain" we've ended up with this ludicrous "god given property right to profit indefinitely from your own ideas" which never existed throughout history and is actually harmful.

Re:Innovation? (4, Interesting)

jalopezp (2622345) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165475)

The implementation is different. Don't you think there is a lot you can learn about plataformer games by implementing one? Don't you see all the new discoveries that this game enables? When the Trinity Clock was first unveiled in 1910, people similarly questioned its value. 'What value is this? We have seen clocks before, how is making a new one in any way innovative?' they asked, incredulously. But they did not see that the clock was tremendously innovative: its escapement mechanism was novel and revolutionary, allowing it to be one of the most accurate pendulum clocks in the world. There is much more to SMB than its external appearance, which in fact may be called superfluous - what really matters here is the invisible mechanism inside of it that allows it to run. This mechanism, which before was hidden and kept secret, we can now look at, and directly change. Just imagine what you will learn about a protocol based approach to objects as your Yoshi swallows different coloured shells. After playing the -1 world, no-one should ever again make an off-by-one error. Just think of the insights into modularity you will achieve when finishing the special zone. Imagine how evident the shortcomings of a floating point representation will be when you jump on a flag at the end of a level. Visualise how important duck typing will become to you as you grab a fire flower or a star, or when you find your ?block simply contains a coin. All these things are much more ipmortant than a side-scrolling game, and they are innovations we were not delivered 30 years ago when we got the original.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165559)

Sure and he could have done so without violating Nintendo's copyrights. There wad no need to make it a Mario game.

Re: Innovation? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165519)

It's innovation, he's using a different technique to achieve the same result, a new path toward an end, maybe a shorter, more elegant, and more modern path.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165601)

It's not innovation, not even close. But it makes an attractive headline for the anti-IP crown to glom onto.

Re:Innovation? (1)

AdamWill (604569) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165683)

This. He can write a platform game on a web platform without re-using someone else's level design, character design and all the rest of it.

Also, SMB is hardly close to being 'obsolete' - Nintendo still manages to find ways to sell it again on every new platform it releases. I'm sure it's buyable or will be soon on the Wii U.

Innovation? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164917)

It's a copy of Super Mario Bros. A 1:1 copy, not even a derivative like so many other indie platformers out there.

Re:Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165127)

Try random mode.

Slow (5, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,3 days | (#45164925)

Super Mario Brothers ran at a steady framerate on a 1.7mhz 6502. This doesn't run smoothly on my 2.6ghz Core2Duo. Is this progress?

Re:Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164991)

Yea very slow on my 2.7ghz i7 sandy bridge, nvidia gt 650m... kinda top end hardware and it *crawls*.

Re:Slow (1)

liquidpele (663430) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165493)

Could be that's why Nintendo killed it... to avoid linking their product with something that didn't work that well...

Re:Slow (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165189)

In some way yes, because writing this required one guy with knowledge of a very common and relatively simple language for web pages, instead of serveral guys knowing whatever language that was used for writing original Super Mario. Besides, it runs smoothly on i7-3770k and uses only up to 12% CPU time (as far as I checked).

Re:Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165403)

It's eating a full core at "only up to 12%" since you have 8 logical cores.

Re:Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165319)

Mildly related, emulation have been taking steps backwards for a while. I remember playing SNES games smoothly on my 486DX4100 , and I tried to install a xbmc frontend on an atom 2 core, it crawls, the sound skips and it's unplayable. What the hell happened?

Re:Slow (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165351)

Emulation accuracy.

Re:Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165439)

I mean, the SNES emulator crawls, not the XBMC frontend

Re:Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165325)

It's built in JavaScript so if Nintendo hadn't interfered they could have probably sold it for 10 million dollars to some idiot VC in San Francisco. Probably could have gotten double that if they incorporated Node.js and MongoDB.

Re:Slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165589)

The nintendo had dedicated audio and graphics hardware and the software ran in real-time.
Add javascript, a browser, a nonrealtime OS, and a hardware abstraction layer, with audio and graphics handled in software. All that scaffolding costs a lot of cycles.

Re:Slow (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165655)

It seems to depend on browser. I tried it in Firefox and it was slow and I didn't have the status display or music. In Chrome it seemed fullspeed and I had status display and music.

2.8GHz Athlon II X2, Nvidia GT220 using the driver from RPMfusion on Fedora 19.

parasites (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164953)

Why not make your own sidescrolling platform game instead of slavishly reproducing someone else's? Oh that's right, you want to take advantage of all the hard work and marketing already done by Nintendo.

Re:parasites (2)

thaylin (555395) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165087)

Except he did not just reproduce it, he added to it, unless the original had level editors and creators on it. Lets not forget that this is also a 30 year old game, one which while the characters are still used the game style is not.. If you think about it almost all movies/games/music builds upon previous content.

Re:parasites (1)

hermitdev (2792385) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165211)

The game style is not? Have you played a recent Mario game? New Super Mario Bros. U [] is a side-scrolling platformer. If that's not what you're referring to as style, could you please elaborate?

Re:parasites (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165437)

The game style is not? Nintendo released a side scrollng Mario *last year*

Re:parasites (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165567)

Actually, this is the worst example, as Nintendo is just about the only game company that continually sells, markets, and reissues its classics in their original form for newer systems.

That said, the copyright on video games is far too long when it covers games of this age. Copyright clearly has already done its job by encouraging continued creation of works by Nintendo and their teams.

No further innovation will be discouraged or cancelled if Pacman, Asteroids, Pong, the original Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Super Mario Bros. entered the public domain tomorrow. But the ability to distribute, preserve, and enjoy the thousands of niche games that only a few remember (Basewars, Little Nemo the Dream Master, Blaster Master, Lolo, etc.) could prove an inspiration to thousands upon thousands of gamers who might try their hand at creating something of their own.

so... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164957)

copying an entire game is innovation?

Franchise (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164969)

It's not about this ONE version of Mario, it is about the whole franchise, which is far from obsolete.

Let's shorten (c) but let's use good examples of (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165001)


No innovation was lost, he didn't have to use Mario, he could have made his own game and done all of this. Instead he used Mario

Where is the loss of innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165003)

I don't think this demonstrates that copyrights hinder innovation. SMB was the motivation for him to create this site, but he still would have been able to be just as innovative if he didn't copy SMB exactly and made his own game similar to SMB.

Irrelevant, sadly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165005)

Just like Patent Law, Copyright Law is not the way it is because it makes sense.
It is the way it is because it is in certain entities' interest, and they are very good at protecting their interests.
Until money in politics changes, we can "make the case" until we're blue in the face, but things won't change.

The Game or the Franchise? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165011)

Is the real issue here the particular Mario game, or the Mario franchise? Sure, Nintendo probably doesn't care too much about the PC game by itself, but failure to protect the franchise would greatly limit their ability to come out with Mario (new or otherwise) games on other platforms.

I don't think so (3, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165167)

Nintendo's design work is generally so much better that it's not an issue. Does Intuit worry about Microsoft Money destroying Quickbooks? Not so much.

It might impair Nintendo's ability to crank out mediocre crap (I'm looking at you Super Mario 3D Land) but overall I don't think that's Nintendo's intention. Nintendo, like Sega, are craftsman that make games. They might screw up sometimes, but it's not for lack of trying, and they mostly get it right. Much as I love Indie platformers, very few come close to Nintendo levels of quality. Frogotto and Friends [] is the only one in recent memory and even it's not prefect.

Re: I don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165611)

Super Mario 3D Land is the best thing Nintendo have put out since Suped Mario 64 back in 1996.

There are a lot of bad games that Nintendo have thrown Mario at, but 3D Land ain't one of them.

Silly (4, Insightful)

Princeofcups (150855) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165029)

There's no reason that the game has to use the character designs of the original. They are using the Mario name to gain attention. Of course they are going to be sued.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165197)

Well, they certainly attracted attention... of the company that until recently was pissy about people even posting video of their 20+ year old games to YouTube.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165229)

Exactly. He could've made something, ANYTHING original. At the very bare-bones minimum, he could've at least TRIED to be original. Hell, when Carmack originally made Commander Keen, he started with re-engineering a level of Super Mario Bros 3 to the PC (tricky at the time), and he STILL managed to turn it into something original in the end. I mean, this guy could've even made a straight-up parody of the Mario universe (I know, I know, toss another Mario parody onto the pile, but still). But no, he had to go straight to trying to be a pixel-perfect copy of something he KNEW would get him in trouble.

Come ON, people. We're supposed to be smarter than THAT.

Re:Silly (2)

rwise2112 (648849) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165253)

There's no reason that the game has to use the character designs of the original. They are using the Mario name to gain attention. Of course they are going to be sued.

Yeah, it sounds more like a trademark issue than copywrite.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165603)

The Mario character is copywrite protected. There may also be trademarks, but copywrite is a strong enough legal protection. This isn't about technical advancement when the guy is using artwork from someone else. What does he expect?

Re:Silly (2)

lisaparratt (752068) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165371)

Replace Mario with a self portrait, and the enemies with lizard-lawyers, and they'll be golden!

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165637)

Yeah, deserves to be sued for using stuff that looks like Mario without permission from Nintendo. No sympathy from me. But should be sued under trademark infringement, not copyright.

Innovation != Plagiarism (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165041)

He copied Nintendo's character and level design as accurately as possible. How is this innovation? Create your own levels and characters you tool!

Some people with hold roms from emulators (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165043)

and they have the balls to quote the 70+ year copyright BS. Some old video games are stuff on old hardware / old PC hardware that is hard to find parts for and a lot of the older pc based arcade games are tied to older chip sets or may be on old HDD's that can fail taking the code with them. Also ROM based games can have bit rot and battery acid damage.

Re:Some people with hold roms from emulators (1)

TrollheartBlue (2944865) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165681)

Except it's not hard to find. I'm pretty sure Nintendo has released it onto the Virtual Console for all of their modern systems.

No fault of Nintendo. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165045)

What about the case for spreading awareness on how copyright law works?

Work with Nintendo (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165047)

Why not try work with Nintendo from the outset?
He knew it was copyrighted.
He didn't bother to contact them for a business deal where he'd share a large portion of the ad revenue / usage fees it would generate.

Sounds like a case for compulsory licensing ... (1)

davidwr (791652) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165103)

... rather than shorter copyright terms.

Re:Sounds like a case for compulsory licensing ... (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165487)

The problem is, Mario is a trademark, not a copyright. I don't see it as productive to force a trademark to be licensed against someone's will.

That said, a product containing trademark material should be able to enter the public domain. Steamboat Willie, for example, should have entered the public domain long ago, even though Mickey Mouse would remain trademarked. This seems to me the most compelling argument one could have made at the time copyright laws were extended, the idea that someone else would use trademarked characters, logos, and names to sell the now-openly-available products.

That's one of the wonderful things about the Internet. You no longer have to let hardcopy media companies handle the marketing and distribution, which makes the trademark part a non-issue.

Any derivative works, well, that enters into what I've always thought of as the "collage" issue, since rarely does a collage artist own the copyrights to every image used in his work. Puts everything in a bit of a legal spot, but to me is a compelling case for shorter copyright due to its nature as a derivative work rather than a simple copy. Very similar to how The Beastie Boys used Jimmy Page's riff from Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" in "She's Crafty", but they are clearly separate works.

Lot of abandonware out there as well (3, Interesting)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165107)

That can even now days that may have a unknown owner makeing finding who has the rights hard.

This isn't innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165111)

It's cloning a very famous game on a newer playform, clearly illegal in all copyright laws around the world. The same law that protects out beloved GPL projects. Mario is protected as much as that stupid mouse, and Nintendo are every bit as protective of their stuff as Disney.

There's nothing stopping this kid from changing the assets to not be a blatant rip-off and releasing it as yet another clone.

Astroturf (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165135)

Sure is a whole lot of AC strong-copyright astroturf on this thread so far. The BSA drones are hard at work.

Woot (2)

spykemail (983593) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165139)

Finally, RPI is more famous than MIT.

Pierre Menard (2)

flabordec (984984) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165143)

Reminds me of this short story/essay by Borges: []

He did not want to compose another Quixote —which is easy— but the Quixote itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.

'I didn't think it would be that big.' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165155)

This is like saying, I wouldn't have shoplifted if I knew I'd get caught.

Whether you like it or not, that content it currently protected. Nintendo is still selling it ported to their current systems, so his 'project' is in direct competition with their sales of their property. He is in the wrong and needs to comply. He's lucky that Nintendo is making a good faith request first before beating him to dust in court.

Strip out their levels, swap out their graphics, leave the random level generator and the level designer and he's probably fine and his 'innovation' is still there...

As a content creator people like him make me really really angry.

Trademark (4, Insightful)

jbolden (176878) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165165)

Assume that there were no copyright violations. This is still a clear cut trademark violation. I'm not sure how this case is even questionable. The right thing to have done would have been to go to Nintendo and asked permission to license Mario to do a web based version. Nintendo might have been receptive, and have been willing to grant some sort of license as it is kinda cool. But heck yeah, they own Mario.

This is like me releasing a soda called "old fashioned Coke" using 1970s style soda ingredients.

Missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165169)

1) The Mario intellectual property is of course crucial to Nintendo, as it one of their most important brand, and they keep releasing works that feature him.
2) Besides that, Nintendo is still making money by selling _this specific work_ on Virtual Consoles (so, people are still happily paying for this, even decades later).

Metroid (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165171)

Noone ever copies metroid

I'm going to sound like a tool, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165179)

Nintendo isn't hindering technical innovation in this case, they need to protect their trademarked character. There was no necessity for this project to use their characters. There is also no claim to artistic innovation, since the project is a port. The student could have chosen from a bunch of other freeware/abandonware to use for his project, or simply developed his own with similar gameplay mechanics.

For all the good arguments for copyright reform out there, this isn't one of them.

Conflation (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165185)

Since when did copying an existing work become innovation?

Seriously, if you want to use the term innovation it should be in reference to something new.

Re:Conflation (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165305)

You're conflating innovation with invention.

Re:Conflation (4, Insightful)

c (8461) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165359)

Since when did copying an existing work become innovation?

Ah, but it's not just a copy. It's a copy of something "on the Internet" and/or "in a browser", which according to the US Parent Office is almost certainly innovation.

Re:Conflation (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165395)

Since when did copying an existing work become innovation?

Since unoriginal people developed a handy sound bite they could use to rationalize copying people's work and deliberately over-abstract everything out as "everything builds off everything if you really really think about it, maaaaaaaan". After all, having a sound bite is just as good as making sense or being right nowadays.

The game is not copyrighted (5, Informative)

FellowConspirator (882908) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165259)

Not that I disagree with the sentiment that copyright terms are indefensibly long, but it's important to recognize that the game is not subject to copyright. The original source code is, as is the artwork from the game. The characters of Mario and Luigi, as well as the Mario Borthers name and logo are trademarked.

The students could very well have innovated by making a rip-off game without any covered elements to it, but they wanted to make something looked exactly like the Nintendo game (trademarks and all). The thing is that in the US, trademarks are unique in that if you do not defend them, you can lose them. If Nintendo didn't react, then they could lose their trademarks. Were I Nintendo, I would approach the students about licensing the trademark (say, for $1 so long as they kept the terms of the arrangement a secret) rather than face any sort of backlash for being heavy handed - they save face and defend their trademark in a single act.

Re:The game is not copyrighted (1)

aitikin (909209) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165727)

This is a perfect explanation of what is going on. Now, whether I'd say they're being heavy handed or not, that's a different story. Personally, I think this should be a situation of the students were idiots about it and should've asked permission first.

Re:The game is not copyrighted (1)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165751)

The level design would also be copyrighted. So you could make a platformer with the same physics, but different characters (the character artwork is copyrighted and trademarked), different graphics, and different level design. No point associating it with Mario once you get to that point.

Progress? (1)

OrugTor (1114089) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165361)

Innovation or not, I'd rather be reading a story about a student using his undoubted abilities to advance the human cause. Remaking Mario is the depth of irrelevance.

Re:Progress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165715)

Remaking Mario is the depth of irrelevance

Says the person complaining about a Slashdot story...

Not a good example (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165367)

"copyrights hinder innovation by game designers seeking to build upon such games, and shortening copyright would breathe new life into games who have long since passed into obsolescence."

It's a good argument, but a crappy example. Nintendo's not a great company to point to here, because they tend to release and re-release anything popular they've made. Mario Bros, I know, is available on the Wii and Wii U at least via the Wii shop (maybe also on the Wii U's virtual console). It's also been re-released in several incarnations before that. It's still pretty popular for a game of its age.

Why not point to the forgotten gems? I just heard that there was to be a remake of Day of the Tentacle, that was canned. I wasn't even aware such a thing was in the works until it was gone. :-(

Innovation (1)

Jaktar (975138) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165379)

Apparently, innovation recommends I specifically use Google Chrome to play the game but offers to let me attempt to try it in other browsers.

Copyright is too long, but... (1)

Phoenix Rising (28955) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165385)

I agree that Nintendo's suit based on copyright is counterproductive - that, in fact, anything that's been on the market for 30 years has outlived any need for protection under Copyright law. Limit it to the same duration enforced for patents - 14 + 14 - and I think we come closer to the intent of the founding fathers (who probably would argue that even 7 years was an incredible head start...).

But Nintendo could still have shut this project down through trademark protection. Indeed, they are obligated under trademark law to shut the site down or at least force a formal licensing agreement out of the author (and a corresponding change in the open source license terms...). SMB and its characters remain prominent symbols not only of the Mario franchise but also Nintendo as a company - there's no way they could let this go.

Cloning isn't innovating (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165405)

Ok, Fair play, I've downloaded and played this and it's a spectacularly well done game. Very very well done. So all credit to the guy for coding such a faithful copy of Super Mario Bros.

But to say it's stifling innovation is a HUGE stretch. What the guy has done is "borrow" or exacly copy some other company's artwork, sound effect, game design, game levels, BRAND, and idea. Mario is probably Nintendo's biggest still active brand and for all we know maybe they planned to publish their own web based version of this all time classic. if it was abandonware, or a defunct brand, you MIGHT argue they're being petty. But c'mon.. fair enough they've asked him to stop copying something they're still actively using and generating revenue from.

The guy who coded this is clearly very talented, I'm sure a few tweaks here and there: Changing Mario to "Pauley" Princess Peach to "Princess Maria" a few small sprite changes here and there and changing the name to NOT say Mario and Nintendo would probably leave him alone.

You could well argue that exactly BECAUSE of copyright this will encourage the developer to genuinely innovate and create something that isn't an exact clone.

trademarks not copyrights. (1)

Nyall (646782) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165429)

You absolutely do not want company A to have the ability to pretend to be company B. It might seem trivial over Mario or Disney characters but symbology is how companies sign their 'good' name to a product.

Super Mario Bros. Crossover (1)

eyenot (102141) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165489)

This: []

Didn't face nearly as much opposition. It was up for months and Nintendo never really gave a care. Only when the author wanted to sell a version did Nintendo strongly suggest that he invent his own characters. But you can still play Crossover for free.

Nintendo seems picky and choosy about this stuff. Sort of like Atari!

The game is not an exact duplicate (1)

Azure Flash (2440904) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165509)

Not even close. It handles like shit. Jumping is laggy, stopping is slippery, turning is sluggish. Tried in Firefox 24 and Chrome 30 (really? THIRTY? jesus)

End the corruption of copyrights (2)

mbone (558574) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165585)

14 year terms, required registration and a possible (single) 14 year extension would go a long way to restoring sanity in copyright.

Now, this would require abrogating / modifying an international treaty, but I don't see why I should care given that the whole point of such treaties is to put these matters beyond the reach of the mere legislatures and parliaments of democratic governments. (If you doubt this, you really need to follow how such treaties are negotiated.)

Trademark? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45165607)

Isn't this actually a trademark issue and not a copyright issue? This is a 1:1 copy of someones work. Yay for him duplicating it in a different medium but "Mario" is a trademark. The original game is a trademark. The style of the blocks and landscape is probably a trademark. If Nintendo abandoned the Mario trademark then you'd be allowed to do what ever you wanted with it.

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