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posted by hubie on Sunday March 03, @06:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the are-you-not-entertained? dept.

Nintendo's recent lawsuit against Switch emulator maker Yuzu seems written like it was designed to strike fear into the heart of the entire emulation community. But despite legal arguments that sometimes cut at the very idea of emulation itself, members of the emulation development community I talked to didn't seem very worried about coming under a Yuzu-style legal threat from Nintendo or other console makers. Indeed, those developers told me they've long taken numerous precautions against that very outcome and said they feel they have good reasons to believe they can avoid Yuzu's fate.
"This lawsuit is not introducing any new element that people in the emulation community have not known of for a long time," said Parsifal, a hobbyist developer who has written emulators for the Apple II, Space Invaders, and the CHIP-8 virtual machine. "Emulation is fine as long as you don't infringe on copyright and trademarks."
And others feel operating internationally protects them from the worst of the DMCA and other US copyright laws. "I have written an NES emulator and I am working on a Game Boy emulator... anyway I'm not a US citizen and Nintendo can kiss my ass," said emulator developer ZJoyKiller, who didn't provide his specific country of residence.
Chief among those differences is the fact that Yuzu emulates a Switch console that is still actively selling millions of hardware and software units every year. Most current emulator development focuses on older, discontinued consoles that the developers I talked to seemed convinced were much less liable to draw legal fire.

"There is a difference between emulating a 30-year-old system vs. a current one that's actively making money," Parsifal said.
Many emulator makers also largely agreed with Nintendo's arguments that Yuzu developers were too explicit about guiding users on how to play copyrighted games through channels like their Quick Start Guide and Discord channel. "I think Yuzu definitely crossed some line when they started explaining how to actually pirate games," one anonymous emulator developer told Ars.

"I've personally experienced how strict most emulator communities/discord servers/forums are regarding copyright and piracy, so it's really weird to me that Yuzu devs wouldn't be like that," Lycoder added.
Emulator developers I talked to also pointed out the fact that the Yuzu development team currently makes upward of $30,000 every month through a Patreon campaign. That could imply "that their goal is profit-making and not educational," ZJoyKiller said, which is at the very least a suspect look in parts of the community.

"The fact that they are making money is a big no-no, definitely how you can get on the [legal] radar," Parsifal said.
Among the developers I talked to, it doesn't seem like Nintendo's new lawsuit has had much of a chilling effect on the work they're continuing to do on a wide array of emulation projects. "It's more of a reminder to keep up best practices that I already try to follow," one anonymous developer told me. "It's not going to stop me from making emulators," StrikerX3 added.
For the most part, though, a healthy fear of Nintendo's litigiousness seems to have been baked in well before this week's legal developments. "From a personal standpoint, it just reinforces that if I were to write a Nintendo emulator, even of an old system, I'd probably keep my repo completely private," ZJoyKiller said. "Or if public, I'd do so under a different account. But I've always thought this anyway. So... no, this ruling doesn't change much on how I see this."

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by looorg on Sunday March 03, @07:15PM

    by looorg (578) on Sunday March 03, @07:15PM (#1347237)

    While Nintendo seems to be hot for lawsuit I'm not sure this will accomplish much. I guess there is, or might be, a difference between emulating a system that is currently for sale and is their current handheld machine and one that is old as dirt. Even tho they apparently don't like it when you write 8bit NES emulators either. Probably cause of the rampant ROM piracy. Lets be honest here, nobody uses these to play their own private cartridge collection. At least I have never met such a person. Still it's not like they sell those old cartridges anymore anyway, they might sell online versions thru one of their stores or something. But I'm not sure how I would run those on my NES unless I burned them to cartridges myself afterwards.

    Personally I backed up *cough* *cough* all my old cartridges so I can enjoy them in emulators ...

    That said if you want to be sure that you'll have your copy of YUZU you could just drop by their github and fetch a copy. Game ROMs not included. []

  • (Score: 2) by Mykl on Sunday March 03, @10:44PM (1 child)

    by Mykl (1112) on Sunday March 03, @10:44PM (#1347254)

    I agree that Yuzu is getting heat at the moment because they are emulating a product that is currently being actively promoted and sold. It also looks very much like they are doing it for profit, not for more lofty ideals - making them even more of a target.

    Nobody cares if someone's putting together an emulator for the SNES or the VirtualBoy (well, Nintendo is still making some stuff available for the SNES via their online subscription service, but piracy of a 35 year old system is far less concerning than a current product).

    • (Score: 2) by Samantha Wright on Monday March 04, @07:15AM

      by Samantha Wright (4062) on Monday March 04, @07:15AM (#1347290)

      Entirely agreed. The headline should be more like, "Emulation Community Expresses Apathy in Wake of Nintendo's Yuzu Lawsuit." At most this is a cautionary tale. Did the Ars editor who came up with this title even read the article first?!