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Legal Information (Copyrights, Emulators, ROMs, etc.)

Thank you for your interest in Nintendo and our products. This section of our website is designed to answer questions you may have about our Intellectual Property ("IP" for short) rights. Here you will find information on such things as copyrights, use of game emulators, and counterfeit products. Please keep in mind that infringement of Nintendo's IP rights hurts not only Nintendo, but our players and the legitimate businesses connected with Nintendo. Counterfeiting is a serious problem not only for Nintendo but also the entire video game industry. Nintendo will continue to aggressively protect its intellectual property rights.

Definitions:

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Questions about ROMs and Emulation.

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Reporting Violations

  • Auction Sites
  • ROM sites, Emulators, Games Copiers, Counterfeit Manufacturing and other Illegal Activities
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    Intellectual Property Rights

    Nintendo owns intellectual property rights in its products. These include copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

    Copyrights

    A copyright is an exclusive right granted to an author of a literary, musical, audiovisual or artistic work, giving the author the sole right to reproduce and distribute that work. There are several different types of copyrights which are associated with Nintendo's products. These include various copyrights in Nintendo's software source code, executable code, game visual display, game music, game characters, product packaging, game manuals and labels; hardware chip microcode; artwork and publications.

    Trademarks

    Trademarks are the distinctive names, words, logos, designs and symbols used to distinguish a product of a particular manufacturer or source. Some of Nintendo's most widely recognized trademarks include Nintendo®, Game Boy®, Super NES® and Super Mario Bros.®. The Nintendo® trademark has been filed in many countries throughout the world and registrations have been issued in Nintendo's name in many countries.

    Patents

    A patent is a grant of the exclusive right in an invention for a period of time. Nintendo owns many utility and design patents. There are many patents and design patents associated with Nintendo's hardware and software products.

    Counterfeits

    A counterfeit Nintendo product is an illegal copy of an authentic Nintendo product. These counterfeit products often originate from Taiwan, Hong Kong or China. The production, distribution, or sale of counterfeit Nintendo products is illegal. Nintendo has brought thousands of legal actions worldwide to stop counterfeiters. In addition, thousands of criminal actions have been brought against those found to be distributing, reproducing, or selling unauthorized, illegal copies of Nintendo video game products throughout the world, including criminal actions against on-line distributors.

    For more information on piracy issues regarding the videogame industry, please visit the Entertainment Software Association's website at http://www.theESA.com/

    Mod Chips

    Mod chips circumvent the security embedded into Nintendo's products. To install the mod chips into a Nintendo hardware system, it is necessary to dismantle the product and, in some instances, remove components. Use of mod chips voids the consumer warranty. Mod chips have also been adjudicated to be illegal in various countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Countries around the globe are also adopting similar laws aimed at illegal circumvention of security measures. People caught selling or installing them may be subject to criminal prosecution and may also be liable for civil damages resulting from such activities.

    Independent Publishers/Licensees/Licensed Property Owners

    Nintendo licenses a number of independent third party publishers to use its patented technology, copyrights and trademarks in developing, creating and marketing their own video games. Additionally, there are a number of intellectual property rights associated with these games that are owned by these publishers. In addition, many independent property owners from such sources as movies, television, sports leagues, etc. license their intellectual properties for use in video games.

    What are Nintendo ROMS?

    A Nintendo ROM ("Read Only Memory") is the type of chip used in Nintendo's video game cartridge which contains the game software. However, this term is commonly used on many gaming sites on the Internet and refers to game data that was copied from an authentic Nintendo video game cartridge.

    What is a Nintendo Video Game Emulator?

    A Nintendo emulator is a software program that is designed to allow game play on a platform that it was not created for. A Nintendo emulator allows for Nintendo console based or arcade games to be played on unauthorized hardware. The video games are obtained by downloading illegally copied software, i.e. Nintendo ROMs, from Internet distributors. Nintendo ROMs then work with the Nintendo emulator to enable game play on unauthorized hardware such as a personal computer, a modified console, etc.

    Can I Download a Nintendo ROM from the Internet if I Already Own the Authentic Game?

    There is a good deal of misinformation on the Internet regarding the backup/archival copy exception. It is not a "second copy" rule and is often mistakenly cited for the proposition that if you have one lawful copy of a copyrighted work, you are entitled to have a second copy of the copyrighted work even if that second copy is an infringing copy. The backup/archival copy exception is a very narrow limitation relating to a copy being made by the rightful owner of an authentic game to ensure he or she has one in the event of damage or destruction of the authentic. Therefore, whether you have an authentic game or not, or whether you have possession of a Nintendo ROM for a limited amount of time, i.e. 24 hours, it is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet.

    How Does Nintendo Feel About the Emergence of Video Game Emulators?

    The introduction of emulators created to play illegally copied Nintendo software represents the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers. As is the case with any business or industry, when its products become available for free, the revenue stream supporting that industry is threatened. Such emulators have the potential to significantly damage a worldwide entertainment software industry which generates over $15 billion annually, and tens of thousands of jobs.

    What Does Nintendo Think of the Argument that Emulators are Actually Good for Nintendo Because it Promotes the Nintendo Brand to PC Users and Leads to More Sales?

    Distribution of an emulator developed to play illegally copied Nintendo software hurts Nintendo's goodwill, the millions of dollars invested in research & development and marketing by Nintendo and its licensees. Substantial damages are caused to Nintendo and its licensees. It is irrelevant whether or not someone profits from the distribution of an emulator. The emulator promotes the play of illegal ROMs , NOT authentic games. Thus, not only does it not lead to more sales, it has the opposite effect and purpose.

    How Come Nintendo Does Not Take Steps Towards Legitimizing Nintendo Emulators?

    Emulators developed to play illegally copied Nintendo software promote piracy. That's like asking why doesn't Nintendo legitimize piracy. It doesn't make any business sense. It's that simple and not open to debate.

    People Making Nintendo Emulators and Nintendo ROMs are Helping Publishers by Making Old Games Available that are No Longer Being Sold by the Copyright Owner. This Does Not Hurt Anyone and Allows Gamers to Play Old Favorites. What's the Problem?

    The problem is that it's illegal. Copyrights and trademarks of games are corporate assets. If these vintage titles are available far and wide, it undermines the value of this intellectual property and adversely affects the right owner. In addition, the assumption that the games involved are vintage or nostalgia games is incorrect. Nintendo is famous for bringing back to life its popular characters for its newer systems, for example, Mario and Donkey Kong have enjoyed their adventures on all Nintendo platforms, going from coin-op machines to our latest hardware platforms. As a copyright owner, and creator of such famous characters, only Nintendo has the right to benefit from such valuable assets.

    Isn't it Okay to Download Nintendo ROMs for Games that are No Longer Distributed in the Stores or Commercially Exploited? Aren't They Considered "Public Domain"?

    No, the current availability of a game in stores is irrelevant as to its copyright status. Copyrights do not enter the public domain just because they are no longer commercially exploited or widely available. Therefore, the copyrights of games are valid even if the games are not found on store shelves, and using, copying and/or distributing those games is a copyright infringement.

    Haven't the Copyrights for Old Games Expired?

    U.S. copyright laws state that copyrights owned by corporations are valid for 75 years from the date of first publication. Because video games have been around for less than three decades, the copyrights of all video games will not expire for many decades to come.

    Are Game Copying Devices Illegal?

    Yes. Game copiers enable users to illegally copy video game software onto floppy disks, writeable compact disks or the hard drive of a personal computer. They enable the user to make, play and distribute illegal copies of video game software which violates Nintendo's copyrights and trademarks. These devices also allow for the uploading and downloading of ROMs to and from the Internet. Based upon the functions of these devices, they are illegal.

    Can Websites and/or Internet Content Providers be Held Liable for Violation of Intellectual Property Rights if they are Only Providing Links to Illegal Software and/or Other Illegal Devices?

    Yes. Personal Websites and/or Internet Content Providers sites That link to Nintendo ROMs, Nintendo emulators and/or illegal copying devices can be held liable for copyright and trademark violations, regardless of whether the illegal software and/or devices are on their site or whether they are linking to the sites where the illegal items are found.

    How Do I Report Potential Infringements to Nintendo Products?

    To report infringing items on internet auction sites, please call us at 1-800-255-3700 or e-mail us at auctionpiracy@noa.nintendo.com

    To report ROM sites, emulators, Game Copiers, Counterfeit manufacturing, or other illegal activities, please call us at 1-800-255-3700 or e-mail us at piracyscene@noa.nintendo.com

    For any other legal inquiry or concern, please call us at 1-800-255-3700 or e-mail us at noalegal@noa.nintendo.com

    For more information on piracy issues regarding the videogame industry, please visit the Entertainment Software Association's website at www.theESA.com.