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EFF Challenging Nintendo Emulation Patent

by Steven Rodriguez - June 30, 2004, 8:14 pm PDT
Total comments: 15 Source: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,64038,00...

The group is calling Nintendo a "big bully," and asking that the patent be re-examined.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is launching what it calls the Patent Busting Project, a campaign to recall patents awarded to large companies that are detrimental to the well-being of public domain. One of the companies listed in their "Top Ten" is Nintendo. They recently patented Game Boy software emulation, amid some controversy and some legal action on the part of some companies.

The EFF is claiming that the Nintendo patent is making it unfair for smaller companies to take advantage of something that was supposedly allowable under the fair-use doctrine, which in this case is technology used to emulate game hardware. EFF attorney Jason Schultz says about Nintendo's patent, "a bunch of small game companies are writing these emulators, and they're really no threat to Nintendo. But Nintendo is being a big bully." Their website states that the "crime against the public domain" is that the patent "threatens reverse engineering of videogames to promote interoperability and emulation by hobbyists and entrepreneurs...".

The EFF is trying to round up evidence to bring to court in order to invalidate Nintendo's patent, as well as the nine other patents in their list. If you think Nintendo's patent is out of line, you can offer your assistance to the organization, but considering Nintendo's record in court, they're going to have a long fight ahead of them.

Talkback

Koopa TroopaJune 30, 2004

I agree with Nintendo. The people who use emulation legally are the minority, the rest are stealing games. No one should have any problem since Nintendo can't stop what they do in their own homes, it is when they release to the public there is a problem and they should have no reason to release it.

Infernal MonkeyJune 30, 2004

Is the EFF made up of children or something? Wah wah, Nintendo, now we can't steal your games! You big bully!

WindyManSteven Rodriguez, Staff AlumnusJune 30, 2004

Remember that technically, they're not arguing about the actual games, but rather, the process of reverse-engineering the hardware to make software-based emulators.

Of course, the only thing you'd be using on those emulators are illegally obtained ROMs, so...

Felis Demens CCXXIJune 30, 2004

I shall also point out the EFF's use of loaded words and phrases, such as "big bully", and "Crime against the public domain."

Bill AurionJune 30, 2004

Ahahahaha! Is this really news-worthy? I can't believe that this kind of stuff comes up...

GaimeGuyJune 30, 2004

The people who say "but we want to home-brew code" should just buy a dev kit with the official emulator from Nintendo.

JHarrisJune 30, 2004

Nintendo makes, arguably, the best video games in the world right now. But they aren't always sunshine and goodness. Remember their bullying of game retailers back in the NES days? And software patents are a big problem these days. It takes a long time for a patent to expire, folks; GIFs are just *now* falling out of patent. Saying that emulators are used mostly for illegal purposes doesn't mean Nintendo should have the right to wipe out *all* other Game Boy emulators for twenty years in order to be able to sue the infringers.

Not only that, but even if one accepted the premise that software patents should be allowed, this one should probably be busted anyway -- Game Boy emulators have certainly been around since before Nintendo filed their patent.

I hate to say it, but I'm ashamed of the big 'N' for applying for the patent.

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusJune 30, 2004

"threatens reverse engineering of videogames to promote interoperability and emulation by hobbyists and entrepreneurs..."

How does this patent stop hobbyists from doing anything?

ENTREPRENEURS? So it should be ok for people to make money just by reverse engineering something that isn't theirs, and sell it as if it were their own?! Sorry EFF. I like your general message, but this condones criminal action.

Koopa TroopaJune 30, 2004

Quote

Remember that technically, they're not arguing about the actual games, but rather, the process of reverse-engineering the hardware to make software-based emulators.


Right, but like I tried to say, reverse engineering should be about learning, there is no reason to release the product of that learning experience to the public. If these people who create emulators don't want to get in trouble, all they have to do is keep it to themselves, Nintendo isn't going to run around raiding peoples homes because it suspects them of emulator creation.


Quote

threatens reverse engineering of videogames to promote interoperability and emulation by hobbyists and entrepreneurs...


Same as above.

The only thing that is threatened is home-brewing games. However, homebrewers tend to be the type of people that can't focus on something long enough to make a game anyway; they constantly jump from one platform to another and just play around. Even in the off-chance someone completes a game and that that game is actually good, it is no more likely to be published if it runs on (insert console here.) Ultimately this means homebrew is little more than a fun distraction. It can also be a good learning experience, but most people rely on the work of others, so only a minority of dedicated people really gain anything from it.

Quote

Not only that, but even if one accepted the premise that software patents should be allowed, this one should probably be busted anyway -- Game Boy emulators have certainly been around since before Nintendo filed their patent.

I hate to say it, but I'm ashamed of the big 'N' for applying for the patent.


Than you either have no idea what you are talking about, or you are a thief.

NephilimJune 30, 2004

Everyone is forgetting why Nintendo did patented Game Boy software emulation
It was because of that palm pilot which played Gameboy games.

I dont wanna sound rude but Michael, dont they have to ask permission anyway to emu games because of the Nintendo Gameboy Code which the game uses to run anyway?
I would rather them use a offical one then one they created themselves or created by a "hobbyists" as it was called by someone on this thread, a program like Visual Boy

darknight06July 01, 2004

Are we forgetting probably one of the main reasons why this is being done? I believe it's called Advance Game Port. It uses a port of a well known PC GBA emulator and it connects to your memory card slot so you can play GBA games on the Cube. You know, if I were Nintendo I wouldn't want companies to be able to pull crap like this either, especially since they've already made the GBPlayer and want that to sell.

Yeah, Nintendo is sorta forced into this line of action because today we may be playing GBA games on the Palm, but soon we may be playing GBA games on the PSP...

No matter the legality of the issue, emulators completely destroy the business model (console maker charging licenses for developers making games on its console) that has been in place for years now. I'd be perfectly fine with destroying that business model... except that it doesn't seem toc ause any large ills in a highly competitive market like the one we have today, and I don't see any alternative business models to replace it with that'd create more chaos than good.

Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

KDR_11kJuly 01, 2004

To make this clear, Nintendo didn't patent emulation in general, just emulators running on handheld platforms. These clearly have NO legitimate purpose (since homebrew devs use computers for their development process).

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorMarch 02, 2008

I apologize in advance for bumping such an old post, but a guest was reading it and I clicked in to see what it was about - anyone know how this ended?

Looks like they haven't done anything so far.  Then again, Nintendo hasn't tried using it, either.

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