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Nintendo to ROM sites: Forget cease-and-desist, now we're suing

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Enlarge / Though LoveROMs acted quickly to remove all traces of Nintendo-related content at its site, its 404 page still redirects to this Chrono Trigger (SNES) homage.
LoveROMs

Nintendo’s attitude toward ROM releases—either original games’ files or fan-made edits—has often erred on the side of litigiousness. But in most cases, the game producer has settled on cease-and-desist orders or DMCA claims to protect its IP.

This week saw the company grow bolder with its legal action, as Nintendo of America filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking millions in damages over classic games’ files being served via websites.

The Arizona suit, as reported by TorrentFreak, alleges “brazen and mass-scale infringement of Nintendo’s intellectual property rights” by the sites LoveROMs and LoveRetro. These sites combine ROM downloads and in-browser emulators to deliver one-stop gaming access, and the lawsuit includes screenshots and interface explanations to demonstrate exactly how the sites’ users can gain access to “thousands of [Nintendo] video games, related copyrighted works, and images.”

Nintendo's lawsuit includes this image of LoveROMs' "most popular games," which all happened to come from Nintendo consoles. (The lawsuit also mentions the sites' constant use of official box art as a basis of infringement.)
Enlarge / Nintendo’s lawsuit includes this image of LoveROMs’ “most popular games,” which all happened to come from Nintendo consoles. (The lawsuit also mentions the sites’ constant use of official box art as a basis of infringement.)

Nintendo is seeking serious money as relief for alleged damages, with the biggest number coming from “$150,000 for the infringement of each Nintendo copyrighted work and up to $2,000,000 for the infringement of each Nintendo trademark.” (Multiply that first figure by “thousands” of copyrighted works, and, well, that’s a lot of zeroes.) Additionally, Nintendo has requested full disclosure of the operators’ “receipts and disbursements, profit and loss statements, advertising revenue, donations and cryptocurrency revenue, and other financial materials,” which relates to the suit’s demand for a “reward” to Nintendo for whatever profit the sites made.

The lawsuit makes a point of describing the named defendants as “not casual gamers,” but “sophisticated parties with extensive knowledge of Nintendo’s intellectual property and the video game industry more generally.” It is possible that the suit uses this language to explain why some ROM sites’ operators may not draw the same legal fire. (Additional, alleged paths to revenue may not help matters for the named defendants, as Nintendo alleges that the operators “enrich themselves through, among other things, donation requests and the sale of advertising space.”)

After the suit was filed, LoveROMs was updated to remove all Nintendo-affiliated links, including ROMs and emulators, and the site announced on its social media channels that “all Nintendo titles have been removed from our site.” LoveRetro.co now redirects to a single, text-only page that reads, “Loveretro has effectively been shut down until further notice.”

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