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Nintendo pursues emulator sites

Shifts focus from developers to host ISPs

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Nintendo has declared all emulators illegal and has begun shutting down Web sites that contain them, starting with www.snes9x.com, online home of Dutch developer Jerremy Koot, on Friday. The Great Satan of Italian Plumbers' actions now seem targeted more at the ISPs hosting sites devoted to emulation, rather than the developers themselves, since they have more to lose and are easier to target. Early anti-emulation action by Nintendo focused on the programmers responsible for the utilities, most notably its legal threat against the developers of the UltraHLE Windows-based N64 emulator, known only as 'RealityMan' and 'Epsilon'. Those threats were sufficient to persuade RealityMan, for one, to abandon UltraHLE, though tracking down his or her real persona would have proved difficult. In an email, Koot said he did not know exactly what Nintendo had said to his ISP beyond outlining the company's firmly held view that emulators promote piracy. Its point is that the only way of emulators can be used is through illegal copies of cartridge ROMs. It's often argued that cartridge owners have a legal right to make backup copies of cartridge games, and that they can then use these backups on a PC running an emulator. Nintendo's counter-claim is that "it is well established by judicial decisions in the US that this [backup right] does not apply to game data contained in ROM chips", though it cites no precedents. That's an advantage it has over Sony, whose action against emulator developers Bleem! and Connectix conveniently ignores the fact that they work with legal copies of PlayStation games. That's not something that can be said of N64, SNES or NES emulators, since all these units are cartridge-based. However, Nintendo will lose that advantage when it ships its upcoming next-generation console, codenamed Dolphin, which will be DVD-based. In many ways, it's a shame that Nintendo's actions fail to take into account the talent of the developers of emulation software, and that it assumes the only reason for writing an emulator is to play games without paying for them. Still, it is correct in its claim that all copies of Nintendo and third-party ROM cartridges infringe copyright and are therefore illegal. ® See also Bleem beats back second Sony strike Sony wins second victory against PlayStation emulator N64 emulator vanishes after lawsuit threat

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