Nintendo Uses Patent to Crack Down on ROM Copying

There’s been some confusion in how this story is being reported, so we thought we’d go over the key points.

Nintendo’s patent applies to emulating ROM-based games consoles, such as the N64 and GBA in other systems. You’ll no doubt have seen this before when you’ve played Mario Kart on the way over to New York from London: obviously there aren’t a hundred SNES consoles behind the cargo hold (if there were, it might explain why they’re so pricey on eBay).

From the patent document: “A software emulator for emulating a handheld video game platform such as GAME BOY.RTM., GAME BOY COLOR.RTM. and/or GAME BOY ADVANCE.RTM. on a low-capability target platform (e.g., a seat-back display for airline or train use, a personal digital assistant, a cell phone).”

The patent can be used to prevent other people making commercial use of a similar system – such as Firestorm gbaZ, and that’s exactly what’s just happened. Nintendo contacted Kyle Poole, responsible for the emulator and demanded that he no longer promote, market, use or distribute the Firestorm gbaZ or pursuse any further emulation of any Nintendo system. Nintendo’s key is that “All of the software for Nintendo’s proprietary video game systems is distributed in a tangible medium, sold through retail outlets. None of the games are distributed in digital versions on the Internet. Any such distribution, or promotion of any such distribution, is illegal.”

Crimson Fire – home of the Tapwave Emulator

Slashdot on the affair

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?