Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Nintendo Patents Handheld Emulation, Cracks Down

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the kirby-lawyer-morph dept.

Emulation (Games) 658

mclove writes "Looks like Nintendo has recently been granted a patent that gives them new leverage in their fight against emulators: Patent 6,672,963 mainly appears to cover emulators like UltraHLE that are custom-tailored for particular games, but they're already using it to suppress a new Game Boy Advance emulator for the Tapwave Zodiac, Firestorm gbaZ, and there's no reason to think they won't start leveraging it against anyone else trying to emulate their systems." The reprinted lawyer's letter from Nintendo also notes: "Whether you have an authentic game or not, it is illegal to copy a Nintendo game from a cartridge or to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet."

cancel ×

658 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

nintendo suxors (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540623)

sega is better, it has blast processing. oh, and fp, propz to all my dead homiez.

Re:nintendo suxors (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540767)

propz to all my dead homiez.

Are you refering to the janitor at your surburban high school?

FP eh? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540626)

suck my ass hole dry you dirty piece of troll shit.

Okay have a nice day (-1, Troll)

Unreal7000 (728903) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540629)

I'm shakin in my boots mister big bad lawyer man. Kiss my ass!

TH1RD P057! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540638)

SUCK IT DOWN!

Re:TH1RD P057! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540657)

but you're first in our hearts as the jackass of the moment...

Umm? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540639)

'The reprinted lawyer's letter from Nintendo also notes: "Whether you have an authentic game or not, it is illegal to copy a Nintendo game from a cartridge or to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet." '

aren't consumers allowed to make backup copies of their electronic media?

Fuck them (4, Insightful)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540661)

You *are* allowed to make backups and fair-use copies. Wailing lawyers don't change this fact.

Re:Fuck them (4, Insightful)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540690)

Unless the media is protected by encryption or similar copy protection of any kind. The american DMCA prevents circumvention of copy protection, even if you have a legitimate right to make copies, you have no right to bypass copy protection.

Re:Fuck them (2, Insightful)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540703)

This assumes that Nintendo cartridges are even encrypted...

I don't think they even had the space to do stuff like that back in 1980. Not on a consumer console.

If 4 digit dates were a problem, I can't even imagine encryption.

ROMs are protected (4, Informative)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540794)

By a locking chip, which prevented duplicates from being used in the system. However, they didn't have anything to prevent copying at the time. Also, hardware encryption is very easy. They could have done DES (or even AES if it had been invented by then) in hardware with almost no cost.

Re:Fuck them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540705)

i don't think old s/nes cartridges have copyright protection on them beyond the physical formfactor of the cartridge do they?

The DCMA violates the US constitution (-1, Troll)

konmaskisin (213498) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540763)

and in any case only applies in the USA so yes ... fuck them!

Re:Fuck them (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540707)

You *are* allowed to make backups and fair-use copies. Wailing lawyers don't change this fact.

Yes, but you can only use a backup copy for restoration purposes, otherwise it's not a backup copy anymore.

And, if you're defeating an encryption scheme to try to use your "backup copy" in an emulator, now you've really got yourself on the wrong side of the DMCA.

At least Nintendo's sending a polite letter warning that this project is dangerously close if not over the line into foul territory before this project gets into trouble. They should at least talk to lawyers before going any further with their plans.

Re:Fsck them (5, Insightful)

Erwos (553607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540729)

A very good point, and one that people sometimes forget. I love it when stores post signs saying "we're not responsible for blah blah". They can SAY that, but just saying it does not make it true.

So, as you said, making backups of your own ROMs only become illegal when Nintendo wins a court case against someone. What they say about the matter only tells you whether they would file suit or not in the first place.

However, I would caution you against ranting about your fair-use "rights" as though it's part of the Constitution. Fair use rights are entirely at the court's interpretation of what is "fair" or not. What you think is fair may not jive with the court's interpretation.

Two relevant links:
http://www.eff.org/IP/eff_fair_use_faq.html [eff.org]
http://fairuse.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu]

I'm not arguing that downloading ROMs of cartridges you own isn't fair use, only cautioning against making "fair use rights" arguments - because the default opinion of the court is going to be for the copyright holder, unless you can make an extremely good argument. In this case, I think you could, though.

-Erwos

Re:Fuck them (2, Informative)

Aneurysm9 (723000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540731)

The only problem is, you never *own* any software. You *license* software, even handheld game cartridges. You are allowed to make backups and copies necessary to use a legally licensed copy under 17 U.S.C. 117, but that right terminates once the license terminates. If the license limits the use of the software to the machine it was sold for then the license may be terminated immediately upon the use of the software with an emulator.

Re:Fuck them (3, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540818)

Wow.

One, in the absence of a EULA, you do own the copy of the software. So the alleged licensor has to prove that a license existed. Even if there is a purported license, it still might not be operative due to the UCC.

Two, 117 only applies to owned copies of software, not licensed copies.

Re:Fuck them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540820)

Wrong, you own software. Se Adobe vs. Softman.

Re:Fuck them (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540837)

Rubbish. Unless there is a written and legally binding agreement between two parties, there is no "license" in effect. When Joe Public buys a Nintendo cartridge he's buying a product, and the manufacturer writing arbitrary restrictions on or inside the box does not change this. It's no different to buying a book from a book store - and good luck enforcing a book's EULA saying you can't read it on the train because someone might read over your shoulder.

Re:Fuck them (1)

Ghost_MH (677894) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540800)

Maybe I'm confusing matters, but unless I'm mistaken you not only have the right to make backup copies of any media you own, but do you not also have the right to modify that media so that it may work on a platform it was not originally intended to??? That would...Say...Cover your right to make a backup of your DVD on VHS incase your DVD player broke, rip an audio CD to MP3 incase your CD player broke, or dump a GameBoy game onto your PC for using it in an emulator if your GameBoy broke.

Re:Fuck them (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540811)

"You *are* allowed to make backups and fair-use copies. Wailing lawyers don't change this fact. "

Every manual for a Nintendo game specifically states that you cannot back it up. What exactly overrides that?

(Note: I'm asking out of genuine curiosity, not in defense of Nintendo.)

Re:Fuck them (2, Interesting)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540830)

By US law, at least, you are allowed to make copies for fair use (archival purposes, etc).

A statement in the back of a manual doesn't remove that right.

Re:Umm? (1)

kdgibson (626349) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540701)

Yeah, you can make back-ups, but their problem lies in the downloading and distributing said back-ups via the internet. Downloading and supplying is different than creating.

Re:Umm? (1)

Naffer (720686) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540723)

They're claiming that it isn't even legal to rip the data off of the cartridge yourself. Honestly I don't see why Nintento is so uppity about the whole thing. I don't want to play GBA games on my 12 pound laptop or (heaven forbid) on my stationary desktop. These PC emulators are not substitutes for the real deal. Last month I played a japanese rom with an english language patch. The game never came out in the U.S and was never translated officially. I own an SP and a ton of games, so why are you bothering me Nintendo?

Re:Umm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540726)

When the ROM readers first came out, they decided to ban them based on the fact they could be used to pirate the games.

You still are technically allowed to make backup copies, however the only method available of doing so is illegal which prevents you from being able to do so in practise.

You're still allowed to *have* backup copies, it's just impossible to *create* the backup copies.

Re:Umm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540756)

Regardless of actual truth, this has always been Nintendo's stance.

Re:Umm? (1)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540783)

> aren't consumers allowed to make backup copies of their electronic media?

You're allowed to make backups, but backup devices are illegal and any image created from said backup device is illegal. I think it's the same logic as the whole DMCA thing.

Bzzzt, try again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540810)

Many people seem to believe that it's legal for you to make/download a ROM of a game if you own it. This is a popular lie that permeates the ROM community. It's the type of thing that people believe because they want it to be true.

Downloading a game program from a cartridge into a computer is not covered by the 'fair use' laws that allow you to back up software. It's considered making 'derivative work,' something that you aren't legally allowed to do unless you have the express permission of the copyright holder. Although changing media for backup purposes isn't usually a problem (it's legal for you to buy software on a floppy disk and make a backup copy on a CD-ROM) this is NOT the case with copying software from a game cartridge into a computer file format.

This is not an open issue; it has already been decided by a federal court in the case of Nintendo of America Inc. v. Computer & Entertainment Inc., back in 1996. If you make or download a ROM from a game cartridge, you are almost certainly breaking the law. Of course you aren't likely to get caught or punished, but don't delude yourself into thinking that what you're doing in legal.

No surprises here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540642)

Nothing to see here, move on. In the years to come everything will be covered by patents, even basic stuff.

Kinda Silly (1)

ryg0r (699756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540643)

They can't stop it. But I helps people like me, stern PS2 fanatics to get into another system, be it old/new.

I'm loving the SNES!!

Prior art (4, Insightful)

Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (221748) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540650)

There has got to be prior art for handheld emmulators. I've ran NES emmulators on my desktop for years now. You can't tell me this hasn't been done before on a handheld. What about the Super Mario Bros. game that I had on my TI-85?

Re:Prior art (3, Interesting)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540663)

SMB on the TI-85 was more of a port than an emulation. However, TI-85 games on the TI-86 were partially emulated. Or Sega Master System chips in the Game Gear (which may or may not have been real, just came to mind). Or how about every emulator that has ever run on a Palm?

Re:Prior art (2, Informative)

DataPath (1111) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540664)

Phoinix: a GB emulator for Palm. Been around for years.

Re:Prior art (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540683)

Oh there is plenty of prior art. the world is saturated with it.

However, the US legal system doesn't rely on prior art or its lack to judge the granting of a patent. That's only relevant to the defending of a patent.

I could patent the apple macintosh now, if it weren't already, and I worded it sufficiently vaguely. It's not like I'd have the resources to defend it if Mr.Steve decided to ream my ass.

On the other hand, Apple Computer could patent the use of a computer near a window as a stress relief device during workdays as opposed to a computer in a cubicle, and there's not a fucking thing you or I could do about it.

It's not meant to make sense

Re:Prior art (1)

Aneurysm9 (723000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540773)

However, the US legal system doesn't rely on prior art or its lack to judge the granting of a patent. That's only relevant to the defending of a patent.
What do you mean? Are you telling me all this time I'm spending studying patent practice and procedure at $800 per credit hour is wasted? If patent law didn't look to prior art during examination prior to granting a patent, why then did Nintendo cite numerous U.S. patents going back to 1984, a handful of EU and JP patents, and more journal articles, web pages, and patent applications than you can shake a stick at? As an inventor seeking a patent in the U.S., you have a duty to disclose all relevant prior art you are aware of until the application is granted or abandoned. Do you think they just want you to give them that information so they can find it easier if someone challenges the issuance of the patent later?

Re:Prior art (1)

wfberg (24378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540822)

What do you mean? Are you telling me all this time I'm spending studying patent practice and procedure at $800 per credit hour is wasted? If patent law didn't look to prior art during examination prior to granting a patent, why then did Nintendo cite numerous U.S. patents going back to 1984, a handful of EU and JP patents, and more journal articles, web pages, and patent applications than you can shake a stick at? As an inventor seeking a patent in the U.S., you have a duty to disclose all relevant prior art you are aware of until the application is granted or abandoned. Do you think they just want you to give them that information so they can find it easier if someone challenges the issuance of the patent later?

Nice to see you're into the whole "spirit of the law" thing. Most companies go for that whole "letter of the law" thing, though. They only cite prior art if they can't get away with not citing it; if the patent examiner is lazy, then well, hey, that's their problem.

Besides, you never refer to actual prior art as it existed in the real world, but only to patents. So if there's a patent on, let's say, the wheel, you make sure you cite it, and then go on to claim "but that's not what my patent is about, my patent is about the application of the wheel for use with internal combustion engines! See, that's never been patented before!"..

Patents that cite a lot of prior art and other patents were usually too broad to begin with, and sent back multiple times by some patent examiner for clarification WTF it is that's so unobvious that they're trying to patent.

As a little guy, yes, you're charged a lot of money by patent lawyers to go through all sorts of prior art searches; it's basically an insurance policy to make sure you end up with a usable patent, or if it's been patented before, you don't end up spending years and thousands of dollars in amending and defending your patent applications that get disapproved. Big corporations don't need that insurance, they can just game the system; send in 100 applications, and probabaly half will stick on the first try, and the rest you elaborate with lots and lots of prior art..

It could also be that you're just being reamed. $800/hr is a lot of money. If I was charging that, I'd make sure I'd tell you how important it was as well!

Re:Prior art (4, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540724)

That's not what the patent claims. The patent is for a handheld emulator that can dynamically chose which platform to emulate based on the input file it was asked to load.

The workaround is to forget about coding that part and just have the user select which platform needs to be emulated.

Re:Prior art (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540789)

The patent is for a handheld emulator that can dynamically chose which platform to emulate based on the input file it was asked to load.

Ah, I see. So that leaves open a patent for a handhold emulator that can dynamically choose which platform to emulate based on the input file it was asked to load ... ON ODD-NUMBERED DAYS?

I mean, seriously, how can you patent something that is a subset of something that is prior art?

Re:Prior art (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540790)

The patent is for a handheld emulator that can dynamically chose which platform to emulate based on the input file it was asked to load.

Kinda like MAME, running on any portable device?

Or most of the SMS/GG emulators?

Or the GBA/GBC/GB emulators?

see your point, that most people have started ranting with no idea about what they should rant about, but... Prior art for this still most definitely exists.

Re:Prior art (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540826)

Yep, I'm just suggesting delcorations of "This is prior art!" be limited only to things that actually knock out the patent.

Re:Prior art (1)

Eatingdogs (698538) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540736)

That Mario game you had on your TI-85 was not an emulator, so not prior art. It was coded by a fan of Mario, doing it for fun. I'm pretty sure you can't emulate a z80 (on the Gameboy) on a z80 (the TI-85's). I'm not saying there was no prior art for handeld emulation, just that there was no Nintendo emulation on a Ti Calculator. Ever.

Read the patent (1)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540807)

It only applies to 'low power' devices. So stick an ARM or Centrino chip in your hand held, and avoid using BLITing or 'a state machine to emulate the LCD driver' and you should be OK.

The ti-89 mario game was a complete reimplementation, not a ROM.

Leaked Nintendo DS specs (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540652)

In the meantime, Leaked Nintendo DS specs reveal touch screen, Wi-Fi, 3D graphics:

A document leaked onto the Internet purporting to be a full specification for Nintendo's forthcoming DS handheld includes a touch panel input device, 802.11 wireless LAN support and a 3D graphics system.

The one-page specification summary, written entirely in Japanese, also provides further confirmation of many things we already knew about the DS, which has recently been revealed to have the codename 'Nitro', although it's not clear whether that is purely a development codename or if it will find its way onto the final product branding.

As expected, the system will have two processors, with an ARM-9 CPU running at 67MHz and an ARM-7 unit running at 33MHz. Retail DS devices will have 4Mb of main RAM (while debug development units will have double that), with additional chunks of cache and shared RAM for the processors and 656Kb of video RAM.

Read more [theregister.co.uk] at the register.co.uk.

Video game systems are dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540709)

3D chip? Ugh. Looks like I won't be buying it. Once a gaming system incorporates a 3D, it's entire game library devolves into mostly first person shooters. The lack of a 3D chip in the gameboy series is the only reason why it's the only gaming platform that I keep up with anymore.

Re:Leaked Nintendo DS specs (1)

psetzer (714543) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540711)

It's pretty much a Palm Pilot with a 3D chip to me. It seems too weak compared to other systems to really compete, but maybe I'm missing something.

As a game developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540655)

As a game developer I am interested in protecting my IP. Though I do find it to be unjust for Nintendo to hold this patent.

Re:As a game developer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540809)

"As a game developer I am interested in protecting my IP."

Sounds like you want to have it both ways.

You want to distribute something worldwide, and keep it a secret too.

You want to have your cake and eat it too.

And the reason you think this is a good idea, or necessary, is that lots of other people seem to think it's a good idea. Even though there is no system that will work to control your ability to have your cake and eat it too. No system has ever worked. Not one of them. Litigation only works under a certain legal system, and if that's what you're down to, you really shouldn't have bothered.

No copy protection scheme has ever worked. They are always an inconvenience and make your product inferior. They do not ever achieve the intended goal, which is presumably to keep the workings of your product a secret, or to ensure that only distribution channels you control will distribute you product.

No system works, not one of them has ever worked, not even litigation. Yet the market for the product has never faltered.

I thought.. ? (4, Interesting)

SillySnake (727102) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540656)

I thought patents were only granted for new technology? Handheld emulation has been around for years. How can Nintendo suddenly own it?

Re:I thought.. ? (5, Funny)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540698)

You're new here, aren't you?

Re:I thought.. ? (1)

Fallout2man (689436) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540713)

Quite simple, sue/bribe/threaten/etc anyone who dares to challenge their "right" to patent it. I imagine enough money will keep anyone with the power to change things from considering revoking the patent. After all, considering Nintendo's history with questionable tactics in the console industry, I wouldn't put it past them.

Backup Copies (2, Interesting)

Nalanthi (599605) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540660)

Now I know that we can't make a backup copy of our DVD's because of DECSS but why aren't we allowed to make our backuo copies of nintendo games?
Nalanthi

Re:Backup Copies (1)

Bobdoer (727516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540696)

Do you have a ROM dumper lying around? If not, you really can't copy any cartridge based game yourself.

Of course, you can always exercise your fair use rights by downloading a backup copy, but they seem to want to keep you from doing that.

Re:Backup Copies (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540782)


"Do you have a ROM dumper lying around? If not, you really can't copy any cartridge based game yourself."

Not specifically for these games, but I know how to build one. What do you want? A PIC programmer? A PROM burner? A Flash interface?

Somewhere in this discussion is a pretext of understanding that such devices are either too complicated for the average person to consider, or else somehow ought to be controlled, or something. To the average electronics tinkerer, that notion is a joke.

Re:Backup Copies (2, Informative)

darkain (749283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540819)

actually, you can get a customized link cable that plugs into a parallel port to dump games onto the PC, as well as SAVERAM, and the GBA BIOS. it isnt limited to just ROM DUMPERs. and with there being home-brew versions of the cables being made now-a-days, just about *anyone* could get into it and start dumping their games.

Nintendo's the SCO of the gaming industry (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540662)

Nintendo used to be the leader in video games and consoles, but now they've seriously lagged behind everyone else (Sony and MS primarily).

If I still bought Nintendo, I would stop after hearing this sort of cheapshot move.

Own a pencil? (4, Insightful)

GoMMiX (748510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540669)

Things like this are disturbing. It's become acceptable, in today's society, for a company to tell it's customers how they can and can't use their products. It's like a pencil manufacturer selling you a pencil, then saying you can only write on the paper they make. Doesn't make much sense to me, but what would I know.

Re:Own a pencil? (3, Funny)

bangular (736791) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540717)

I'd like to see them stop me from wiping my ass with Rad Racer!!! *blows in cartridge first...*

Re:Own a pencil? (1)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540742)

You've got to stop saying things like that. You'll give them ideas.

But seriously, that's a very good business practice and it's worked very well for Microsoft in the past. Apple tries very hard, by making an O/S that will only work on their lock-in hardware. Many businesses use this kind of lockin wherever they can. Even my phone is locked down to 3 as a provider (Good phone, godawful company to be locked into).

The only thing that stops this kind of lock in is market forces that trend towards consumer choice. Those forces have almost always proved beneficial to consumers in the long run - Windows for instance is more popular than OS/X because there isn't as much lock-in for hardware (I can choose which platform to run Windows from, I can't choose to run OS/X anywhere but where Apple tells me to). In turn, Linux is now gaining serious footholds into Microsofts market for being even more pro-choice than Windows. Sony's memory stick and Minidisc formats aren't universal standards because they only tend to work with Sony or Sony licensed gear.

Re:Own a pencil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540808)

Apple doesnt make an OS that only works on their "lock-in hardware". They make an OS that ONLY SUPPORTS Power PC Systems that run with official Apple Firmware.

As for Windows being more popular than OS X because there isn't as much lock in for hardware. Why, just take that legal copy of windows XP you own and have run on your 1GHz Athlon for all of these years, and try installing it on that 500MHz thinkpad you just got off eBay. What's that? Microsoft won't let the product activation work?

Try installing Mac OS X 10.3 from the discs your PowerMac came with on to a clamshell ibook, oh hell look at that, it's working.

3 does not lock customers into only their service, but i challenge you to find another 3g provider in Australia.

Try getting an informed opinion before you sprout crap.

Re:Own a pencil? (1)

MacOS_Rules (170853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540744)

That's because in the example of the pencil, you would be granted a license to use the pencil, and hence must obey the terms of the license (as a contract, thought how can minors enter into contracts - IANAL). And this is about where I lose any remaining faith in intellectual property - as a consumer, I want the tool, and I can figure out what to do with it as I damn well please. But to the producers, it is much more profitable to essentially rent out products - never giving them away - they have greater control. I guess our [threat of] disobedience keeps them in line, but this kind of thing is a slipery slope IMHO.

Re:Own a pencil? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540768)

"It's become acceptable, in today's society, for a company to tell it's customers how they can and can't use their products. "

Actually, it *hasn't* become acceptable. There's pretty much constant noise about it everywhere you look. What's missing of course is severe action. On the peaceable side of things, we still consume the products of these corporations. We could put them to death in a single business quarter if we would merely cease doing that.

On the other end of the spectrum we get into advocating violence. When someone makes a statement like the guy in the article, wherein EVERYONE's rights are threatened and diminished,
why does that guy live to see the next morning?

Sooner or later, they won't. Right now, we have too much to lose, so we don't tend to resort to violence. If life wasn't so damned cushy and pleasant for everybody, the upper eschelons wouldn't be so smug about how they treat the masses.

I don't think video game copyright control is going to be the catalyst for the revolution, but it makes as much sense as anything else.

Only for handhelds? (4, Interesting)

Creedo (548980) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540674)

Given the repeated mention of an LCD display, does this patent only affect laptops and handhelds?

Re:Only for handhelds? (5, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540714)

"Virtual LCD" means that the emulator emulates an LCD and all its interactions with the emulated CPU, specifically the Hblank and Vblank states and the current scanline number. But still, any Game Boy emulator first published on the Internet before November 28, 2000, is prior art that a reasonably-funded defendant could use to invalidate most or all of this patent.

Re:Only for handhelds? (1)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540839)

Given the Slashdot title, I'd say yes. Too busy posting to even read that?

Nintendo, you fools! (5, Interesting)

BenSpinSpace (683543) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540682)

I find it strange and somewhat stupid that Nintendo hasn't tapped into this market... they should be teaming up with the people making emulators, rather than trying to stop the community from doing what they love. It's not like they're going to get any money from the Nintendo/SNES/Etc. at this point anyway. I can understand their frustration with a GBA emulator, but the others... just think of the possibilities, Nintendo!! Surely Nintendo couldn't hurt itself by teaming up with the creators of ZSNES and releasing a commercial version (rather like Linux commercial releases) that includes a bunch of games and some extra features (PDF guides for the games, maybe some touch-ups to the emulator, etc.). Plus, people would get a warm fuzzy feeling for knowing that they'd be collaborating with both Nintendo and emulator creators.

Re:Nintendo, you fools! (2, Interesting)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540735)

Well, the thing is, a GBA is essentially a SNES in handheld form. (I think the SP's chip is faster, even.) There are a lot of games for the GBA that cut their teeth on other systems first, so emulation would be cutting into that market.

Frankly, I use emulation to check out old games you can't find anymore, or to play games that never made it stateside. Remember "Illusion of Gaia" for the SNES. I loved that game. I loved the first game in that series, "Soul Blazer." The third game, "Terranigma," never made it here, but it was released in the UK. So, I can either buy a copy of the game on eBay and not get to play it because of NTSC/PAL incompatibility, or I can get a ROM, which I did.

Square/Enix can come after me if they want, but they're sorely mistaken if they think I'm depriving them of any sales.

Re:Nintendo, you fools! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540801)


"I find it strange and somewhat stupid that Nintendo hasn't tapped into this market... they should be teaming up with the people making emulators, rather than trying to stop the community from doing what they love."


Why team up, and share the profits, when they can just file a patent, and keep any potential profits to themselves? That makes much more sense to me. It's also partially what they're doing.


"It's not like they're going to get any money from the Nintendo/SNES/Etc."


Except for games rereleased on their handhelds.. you know, like, the mario brothers game for snes was rereleased on the GBA. .. I bet with an emulator, too. They also have used old games in atleast one of their GameCube games, "Animal Crossing." You can find old nintendo games within the animal crossing game, and play them. They, obviously, used an emulator to do this.

The games are their "property." They can do what they want with them, including keeping you from playing them :)

Fair use (5, Insightful)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540684)

C'mon - you know how in the back of the instruction manual they tell you it's illegal to make any kind of backup of your cartridge because it's unnecessary, and then cover their bets telling you they're not infringing on your statutory rights?

Software is software is software, and you are allowed to back up your software in case the original gets damaged. Period. Most of my old NES carts are unusable because they're so old. So is it unnecessary for me to backup the cart because Nintendo is going to buy me a new cart, or because I'm allowed to download a ROM and play it on an emulator?

(Yes, carts do deteriorate - it's called bit rot. Look into it before you flame.)

Just dumb (-1)

tarunthegreat (746088) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540685)

I think game companies should follow the model of IBM PC-Compatibles...

Heck if everyone is emulating Nintendo systems, they're buying nintendo games...(and that should be good for Nintendo, unlike IBM, which didn't have any proprietary software tied to its systems)

And from what I hear, the real margins aren't in the consoles anyway....

So, is Sony in violation? (4, Insightful)

IshanCaspian (625325) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540686)

The PS2 contains a PS1 emulator...does that mean the PS2 is in violation of Nintendo's patent?

Re:So, is Sony in violation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540727)

It's not an emulator. It basically has a 'playstation on a chip' that shares some hardware with the PS2 chips.

Though Sony HAS been making a push to aquire lots of emulation talent, etc. lately.

Re:So, is Sony in violation? (1)

dutchdabomb (248104) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540743)

From the title of the patent:

Software implementation of a handheld video game hardware platform

From the title of the article

Nintendo Patents Handheld Emulation

From the abstract of the patent:

A software emulator for emulating a handheld video game platform

Re:So, is Sony in violation? (2, Interesting)

Naffer (720686) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540766)

Actually, I'm pretty sure it has a PS1 on a chip. No real emulation there.

Programmer, get thee to a lawyer! (5, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540694)

These guys seem to have stepped into legal hot water in several places.

- Emulating a video game platform is okay, but the patent Nintendo is claiming is against a program emulates multiple handheld videogame consoles based on analysing its input file to declare what format it has been given and therefore which console it needs to emulate. Now, there's likely was that a multi-platform emulator can step around this limitation, like requiring the user to declare which emulation mode is to be used, but this is definitely something the write of such a program should have a lawyer look over before they release their product.

- Emulating a video game platform is okay, but if there are no legal non-cartrige games available for that platform, there's a problem. The Atari emulator community has managed to not just reverse engineer the platform, but have also reverse engineered development tools for that platform so there are some legal freeware Atari 2600 games in circulation. I don't think there are any freeware Game Boy Advance games in circulation yet.

- You can legally copy your cartriges to your computer (if you can) to make a backup copy that could later be used to restore a lost or damaged cartrige, but you can't legally do anything else with your backup copy and still hide behind the backup fair use shield.

- The moral justifiation that you can download from the internet what you legally have another copy of is not a legal one. Maybe it should be, but under today's laws it isn't so that's not a defense to hide behind.

In short, this seems like a tool that encurages piracy and cannot seem to come up with a "substation non-infringing functionality" yet. It should be held tight to the developer until somebody can come up with one... maybe a lawyer can help find one.

Re:Programmer, get thee to a lawyer! (4, Informative)

Bobdoer (727516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540725)

I don't think there are any freeware Game Boy Advance games in circulation yet.
Think again [zophar.net] .

Download GPL'd GBA games (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540774)

Now, there's likely was that a multi-platform emulator can step around this limitation, like requiring the user to declare which emulation mode is to be used

Two words: Filename extension. On my computer, I have .nes set to launch FCE Ultra, .bin set to launch a DGen, and .gba set to launch VisualBoyAdvance.

I don't think there are any freeware Game Boy Advance games in circulation yet.

You think wrong [pdroms.de] . In fact, I myself have made some [pineight.com] and have run them on hardware [mwelectronics.com] .

You can legally copy your cartriges to your computer (if you can) to make a backup copy that could later be used to restore a lost or damaged cartrige

I can also make copies and adaptations necessary to run a program on a given computer (17 USC 117 [cornell.edu] ).

The moral justifiation that you can download from the internet what you legally have another copy of is not a legal one.

The defense of owning a lawful copy (that is, an original Game Pak) does shift the burden of proof to the copyright owner to prove that the alleged infringer was not capable of making the copy, which raises a question of fact that can preclude summary judgment. The seventh amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that civil suits where at least $20 is at stake will go before a jury, which brings into the picture jury nullification of copyright technicalities such as the DMCA.

Of course, nothing you read on Slashdot is legal advice; only your attorney can provide that.

Re:Download GPL'd GBA games (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540798)

The defense of owning a lawful copy (that is, an original Game Pak) does shift the burden of proof to the copyright owner to prove that the alleged infringer was not capable of making the copy,

Off by a little bit. It's not that the infinger could not make a legal copy, all they need to show is that the infinger did not make a legal copy. Any proof that the infringer downloaded a copy that was not from their source is a checkmate.

Re:Programmer, get thee to a lawyer! (5, Insightful)

dogles (518286) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540781)

Freeware GBA games do exist. GBA is in fact becoming a rather popular hobbyist platform - there is a free compiler and lots of documentation out there. All you have to do is get a flash ROM, which are cheap and pretty easy to find - you simply upload your games using a USB adaptor into the GBA itself. gbadev.org [gbadev.org] has links to tutorials, places to get flash roms, and links to freeware games that people have created.

Re:Programmer, get thee to a lawyer! (1)

SEE (7681) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540823)

US Code, Sec. 117. (a): ....
Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:

(1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or ....

I am not a lawyer, but my reading of that is that you have the explicit right to make a copy if you have to do in in order to run it on a machine. Note that there is no provision that limits it to making a copy to run on the machine it was designed to be run on.

When Nintendo says you cannot copy a ROM to your computer to play it on your computer, it looks to me like they're explicitly lying.

Their view (4, Insightful)

loraksus (171574) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540695)

The reprinted lawyer's letter from Nintendo also notes: "Whether you have an authentic game or not, it is illegal to copy a Nintendo game from a cartridge or to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet."

Basically Nintendo is saying "Now pay us again, you consumer piece of shit."
Apparantly they liked DirectTV's business model (i.e. extortion via letters from lawyers). One has to wonder if this is a first step in something greater.

Re:Their view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540728)

So, if you give the Nintendo Corporation your money, or consume their product in any way, shame on you twice. Once for supporting the company that has already trampled your rights (and mine) when they accused you of being a thief, and again for supporting them ANYWAY.

Seriously. Shame on you if you use their product. End of story.

Re:Their view (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540746)

It's legal to format-shift under far use, but everybody must do their own format shifting for yourself.

Owning a music CD allows you to rip the files to MP3 for your own use. Owning a music CD however doesn't give you an excuse to be lazy and download an MP3 file that was made for somebody else's copy. Yeah, the net result of getting the song in MP3 form on your HD is the same, but one method is legal under fair use while the other isn't.

Debatable (3, Interesting)

bperkins (12056) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540697)

"Whether you have an authentic game or not, it is illegal to copy a Nintendo game from a cartridge or to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet."

This seems very debatable to me. Has anyone ever been procescuted for downloading something they own?

It's not illegal to make a tape that I can listen to in my car off a CD, so why would copying info from a cartidge be any different?

Is the cartidge form factor enough of a copy protection mechanism that they think it falls under the DMCA?

Re:Debatable (1)

Mooset (9986) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540741)

This seems very debatable to me. Has anyone ever been procescuted for downloading something they own?

I doubt such a situation has ever presented itself...

Re:Debatable (3, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540758)

Well, somebody has been gone after for allowing somebody who has proof of ownership of a CD copy song to download a digital copy of that song... That was the lawsuit that brought down the original MP3.com site and turned the joint over to the recording industry's hands.

Does it Matter, really? (3, Interesting)

globalar (669767) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540700)

Pirated game roms are just as common as emulators, and are basically illegal. "Archival purposes only" is a complete joke with digital content.

Still, selling an emulator is asking for trouble. What are you making money off of? You are selling a software representation of the system vs. the hardware system. Which is cheaper? - So you are competition for the hardware platform. It doesn't matter if the emulator is legal or not, the company will take you to court over it and you will be a small world of hurt (even if you win). As a business, a paid-for emulator is encroaching upon the turf of the emulated machine and whoever owns it. Naturally, this turf will be protected in the interest of the company and shareholders.

Isn't it true most every business to do with a console has to pay royalties to the console's maker (company who controls the platform)? So the company is going to go after you if you are trying to make money off their platform without royalties.

Re:Does it Matter, really? (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540778)

Likewise, it's very hard to reverse engineer a product legally. It's almost as if the civil burden of proof that a reverse engineered product is on the defendant to show documentation that all the proper setps were followed in order for the reverse engineering defense to fly.

The reverse engineering sheild is often invoked in cases where it just doesn't function.

Saying it does not make it so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540710)

Just because someone says something is illegal, it doesn't mean it's illegal, unless that person represents a legislative body of course.

The last word from the US legislature is that it is legal and necessary that a consumer is permitted to make copies of his media. This has been upheld by judges. It is the law of the land.

So on one hand we have the Law, which is the fundamental basis of our civilization.

On the other hand, we have some guy from some company who things by merely making some arbitrary statement, then his statement supersedes the law of the land. In other words, this gentleman belies that civilization is based on his discretion alone.

A person with such beliefs should be REMOVED from society.

Fair Use - Archival Copies (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540733)

This is bullshit. I think I'll start a service to rip legal images from legal carts.

Bring me the head of Mario.

What happened to fair use? (2, Interesting)

CycoChuck (102607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540737)

I have several NES and SNES games that I own the cartiage yet play them through a PC emulator because the game systems stopped working after a lightning storm. Why am I now a criminal just because I don't feel like wasting time and money for a new system off of ebay that may or may not work?

Re:What happened to fair use? (1)

August_zero (654282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540777)

Why am I now a criminal just because I don't feel like wasting time and money for a new system off of ebay that may or may not work?

Yes you are. But I won't tell on you if you don't tell on me ok?

Nintendo has realized that there is big money in old games. Look at the number of 8-bit NES games they have snuck onto other titles: Animal crossing had a dozen early NES games, There was a zelda bonus disc with both NES Zeldas, Metroid Prime and Zero mission had copies of the NES metroid included. They are trying to protect themselves and keep a lock on their old games.

Does this suck? Yeah, a little but I really doubt that the storm troopers are going to be kicking down the door to my, or anybody elses house because we have Actraiser and Tales of Phantasia ROMS.

The irony (0, Flamebait)

Bill_Royle (639563) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540750)

Ah, the irony. The emulator of the Playstation and the Xbox (with a twist of Hello Kitty), coming out against emulators.

Remember when they used to define the industry?

Nintendo says they'll litigate? Circumnavigate! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540762)

Actually, a pretty (hearteningly) specific patent which would be not-too-challenging to bust open.. some ideas:

"storing, in said computer system memory, a binary image that when executed by said handheld video game platform provides interactive video game play on said handheld video game platform;"

Seems if I store that binary image, say XORed with the Constitution, it wouldn't execute on said handheld video game platform. Or invent your own ARM binary instruction set and convert it offline. That won't provide jack shit interactivity on said handheld video game platform!

"converting, with said software program, instructions within said stored binary image into instructions for execution by said first type microprocessor;"

Definitely a hole here. Use an offline program (other than "said" program) to do your dirty work, and save that in a format that executes natively on your processor.

Also, another hole:
"analyzing, with said software program, said stored binary image to detect whether said binary image constitutes a predetermined video game title;"

So, have the "other than 'said' program" I mentioned earlier do the analysis and stick it in a DB or INI file or something.

Any one of those, and the patent's busted, but I'd be thorough, just to make sure!
(IANAL)

Not out of the ordinary for NOA (3, Insightful)

Two Scoops (694777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540780)

Nintendo has traditionally been quite thorough in going after piracy and this crack down on emulation is nothing new. Their first breakthrough was discovering a multi-million dollar game piracy ring linked to the Taiwanese government during the NES heyday. Ever since, they have made piracy defense one of their top priorities. Through litigation, hardware design, and choice of media (cartridges vs. CDs with the N64) Nintendo reclaims all lost revenue it can.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it seems pretty reasonable for them to secure their market. Normally I would be aghast that Nintendo is threatening a form of emulation, something I hold dear. But they have a legal basis with this patent, so this is more than just strongarming from a big company (*cough* Sony vs. Bleem *cough*).

There were however some market tactics from Nintendo which I disapprove of such as inventory control. Back then NOA had so much clout, retailers that carried unlicensed Tengen games got a letter: "drop Tengen games or we pull our NES shipments". No license meant no royalty and no NOA quality-control to stop a crapflood of third-party games that destroyed the Atari VCS years before. At least it's good that Nintendo took Tengen to court and took care of matters legally in the end.

Atari Games v. Nintendo (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540838)

At least it's good that Nintendo took Tengen to court and took care of matters legally in the end.

Tengen lost in Atari Games v. Nintendo only because it had defrauded the U.S. Copyright Office in a request for the 10NES lockout chip source code. When Nintendo tried to sue American Video Entertainment over its lockout defeat method based on a charge pump (now commonly called the "Macronix method" after AVE's parent company), Nintendo lost because no copyright infringement had occurred. AVE went on to license the Macronix method to Camerica (Codemasters' North American publisher) and to Color Dreams.

Tengen would later get bought out by Midway, a licensed publisher.

prior art galore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8540795)

Interesting how they make reference to MAME, but are ignorant of the fact that prior to 2000 or so, someone ported MAME to a digital camera of all things. I think that qualifies as prior art for emulating stuff on a handheld device.

A valid arguement against fair use? (3, Interesting)

nsingapu (658028) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540796)

What a polite and well written way to say (paraphrased) "we'll sue your ass." Perhaps if the RIAA were only half as elequent the world would be a nicer place. Mabye it was the unexpected simplicity of the legal doubletalk, but the letter from Nintendo seems to raise some valid points:

The very limited archival copy exception to copyright laws is set forth in 17 U.S.C. 117(a)(2), which specifies that the owner of a computer program can make a copy "for archival purposes only." Even if it were otherwise permitted, which it is not, playing a copy of a Nintendo game on the Zodiac system is not "archiving".

While generally I am amoung the first to annunciate my right to fair use, you have to admit that in this case there is a very legitamate and valid difference between media such as a cd and media on which a game is stored, and as such Nintendo makes a strong arguement. While one could do some waving of the hands and talk about hardware upgrades or software cd/dvd players, the plain and simple case in point here is that Nintendo software is meant to be extremely platform dependant. To reiterate this concept, to this day such software is distributed on a piece of plastic that would seem to have broken off a commadore 64.

I dont know...I enjoy emulation but generally (due to hardware limitations more then choice) get my kicks from the plethora of original nintendo, super nintendo, original gameboy, atari, playstation, and arcade emulators available. In retrospect there seems something fair-er about playing such games on under emulation, as many of these systems are no longer produced, and as such the emulator itself becomes - conceptually atleast - an archival copy.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth... (4, Interesting)

Thedalek (473015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540816)

This is already causing quite a stir on one of the more prominant Zodiac message boards [emuboards.com] .

A few relevant issues: Since the recent DMCA exemptions [copyright.gov] created by the Library of Congress, Nintendo's claim that "You're not allowed to play roms you own," is only valid for the GBA, since the Gameboy and Gameboy Color are both legally considered obsolete.

At any rate, the patent only refers to emulators running on "limited capability devices" (Cell Phones, PDAs, and embedded entertainment centers), not to emulators running on desktop PCs. Further, it only covers the Gameboy family of systems: NES, SNES, Virtual Boy, N64, Game Cube and DS are not protected at all.

As for prior art, the patent was applied for in 2000, but wasn't granted until Jan. 6 2004, but the patent acknowledges prior art in its own phrasing:

"A number of GAME BOY.RTM. emulators have been written for a variety of different platforms ranging from personal digital assistants to personal computers. However, further improvements are possible and desirable."

Even more interesting is its mention of Aaron Giles' MAME patent.

One thing that really makes me scratch my head: I've known of people getting patents in a matter of months. Was this one constantly rejected over the course of those 4 years or something?

Typical Slashdot replies (3, Insightful)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 10 years ago | (#8540836)

Oh the typical slashdot replies. How terrible it is that Nintendo are taking away people's rights? Well I personally don't see it that way. Imagine for a second that I started up a company that made Gameboys, compatible 100% with the Nintendo Gameboy. Essentially I'd be profiting of the design of the Gameboy without paying any money to Nintendo. This would be wrong. Right?

How is an emulator any different? If a company produces a GBA emulator for a Palm Pilot, even ignoring the fact that guaranteed the majority of it's users would be pirating the games for it (yes - they would, admit it), it's essentially a unlicensed gameboy compatible device.

This patent covers Nintendo against this happening, and is as such a very valid use of a patent, i.e. to protect their business interests from being ripped off by third parties.

Oh and no, I don't expect to be modded up BTW, being as I'm not towing the Slashdot party line of "oh my god, what about fair use?".
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>