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Nintendo blocked Dolphin emulator release on Steam

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Update 29/05: According to Pierre Bourdon on Mastodon, who was Dolphin's treasurer for the foundation backing the project (Bourdon is stepping down), Valve actually initiated the conversation to check in with Nintendo on this. So this is not a DMCA takedown request but Nintendo said it would violate the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions, so Valve took it down. So there's technically nothing for Dolphin to counter here.

Kotaku also got a statement from Nintendo on this:

“Nintendo is committed to protecting the hard work and creativity of video game engineers and developers,” a spokesperson for Nintendo told Kotaku in an email. “This emulator illegally circumvents Nintendo’s protection measures and runs illegal copies of games. Using illegal emulators or illegal copies of games harms development and ultimately stifles innovation. Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of other companies, and in turn expects others to do the same.”

The article title was updated to better reflect the situation.


Original article below for context:

Back in March the plan was announced for the Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin to release on Steam, along with some useful Steam features but now that seems unlikely to happen.

The Dolphin team has now announced that their Steam page was taken down, as Nintendo sent a cease and desist notice to Valve about it. Here's the statement they released:

It is with much disappointment that we have to announce that the Dolphin on Steam release has been indefinitely postponed. We were notified by Valve that Nintendo has issued a cease and desist citing the DMCA against Dolphin's Steam page, and have removed Dolphin from Steam until the matter is settled. We are currently investigating our options and will have a more in-depth response in the near future.

We appreciate your patience in the meantime.

Such a shame.

Why now though? Dolphin has been around since 2003 for GameCube, adding basic Wii support in 2007, so Dolphin was there during the time the Wii was still being fully supported. Nintendo also only went after the Steam page, not the project as a whole as it can still be found on GitHub and official site. According to a comment from the Citra developer on Reddit, it's due to Dolphin including decryption keys with the project.

Really, it's not going to do Nintendo much good, it's put Dolphin all over the news and even more people will now know about it and end up using it.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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123 comments
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Quoting: Mountain ManBut here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it?
Yes, we bloody well are. You know that old question, what would you do if you had a time machine and could use it just once? You have no idea how many people answer that question, "Would go and rescue the books from the Library of Alexandria"; although my mother leans towards "Would go stop the fire that burned down the building that held all the Anglo Saxon literature that was ever written down".
F.Ultra May 30
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Quoting: ssj17vegetaAs a non-american, just asking : can Nintendo be sued for this ? Is there such a thing in US law as a "counter-DMCA" or "abusive use of copyright laws" ?

No, a copyright holder filing a DMCA cannot be punished in any way shape or form unless they filed the DMCA for something that they didn't hold copyright on AND if you can prove that they new that they didn't hold that copyright.

That said there is a counter-thing built into DMCA where the Dolphin devs in this case can tell Valve "we think the DMCA was filed in error so please add our software back", once that have happened the next step for Nintendo is to either drop the case entirely with "oops my bad" or to sue the Dolphin devs in court for copyright infringement. Since the devs know that they have published the encryption key and that this key is protected under the DMCA they most likely do not want to risk being sued so they will not try to file a counter DMCA.
dibz May 30
Honestly I'm not sure why Nintendo keeps getting vilified for this, while there is a lot to be annoyed about with them, in this specific instance, they honestly seem to be in the right to me.

My understanding is they don't care about the emulator itself, they care about the encryption key specifically. Many emulators do not include things like that for this very reason, and I think most people were likely unaware that Dolphin did/does. I'm fairly sure if Dolphin wasn't distributing that then there would be no issue here.

I'm a little baffled that the Dolphin team thought courting this kind of attention while knowing a key like that was in their public source code would end well. Queue literally any meme for "Surprised <animal>".

It's not that surprising to me that Nintendo hasn't come after them until now. This is the first time it's been on a storefront, even if it's free. They typically only go after things that potentially involve money, even if there isn't any there (remember that youtube etc COUNTs). They never sold the emulator or anything related to it as far as I know. The Dolphin team just stepped over a line -- to the surprise of absolutely nobody.

I really don't get why they wanted it on Steam anyway, maybe to make Steam Deck installation easier? Otherwise it's kind of an awful way to handle emulators...
Pengling May 30
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Quoting: dibzQueue literally any meme for "Surprised <animal>".
Well, there's really only one that we can go with...

Quoting: dibzHonestly I'm not sure why Nintendo keeps getting vilified for this, while there is a lot to be annoyed about with them, in this specific instance, they honestly seem to be in the right to me.
I would say they didn't actively do anything much. And I would say they are probably not misinterpreting the law they invoke. And I would say it would be foolish to expect their answer to Valve to be different from what it was. I would even say that Dolphin were probably unwise to include the encryption key, although someone earlier in this conversation (sorry, it's been a few pages, don't feel like hunting it down) pointed out very cogently with some very solid chapter and verse that it doesn't really matter for the law if the encryption key is in there--if the software is meant to use a key to do decrypting, that already breaks the law whether the key is in there or not.

But. I wouldn't go so far as to say they are "in the right"; that's an ethical issue, not a legal one. Ethically, the law they're invoking, and particularly the section of that law they're invoking, is a bad law. And it is annoying that one country's bad law gets to cause problems for people in all other countries. And ethically, it would have been better if their reply to Valve had been "What Dolphin is doing does not damage us, and it enhances the rights of people who were our customers, so we're not going to worry about technicalities; let 'em do their thing." and it probably would have been best if they said "We're going to use this opportunity to put all our relevant games up on Steam as well, so people can get them without either fiddling with old ROMs or pirating, and we can make some extra money, and gaming can be improved, and everyone can be happy."

Yes, it's certainly no worse than we would expect from Nintendo, or for that matter from many other corporations. And they did not initiate any action, which means they bear less responsibility. But none of that makes them "in the right". Sure, it's worse for someone to decide to do the wrong thing and work hard to accomplish it, than for them, when asked "Do you want to do the right thing or the wrong thing?" to merely say "The wrong thing" . . . but that second thing is still not good.
Quoting: pleasereadthemanual
Quoting: Mountain ManBut here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it? No, I don't think so. It's just stuff, and there are more important things in life.
I think it's sad that the same laws meant to protect a copyright holder's works are the same laws which prevented archival of many 20th century films where the studio went bankrupt, the copyright holders disappeared, and the orphaned films were thus damned them to the ether. Copyright lasted just long enough for nobody to be able to archive the film stock, and by the time they were in the public domain (back when we had reasonable copyright periods), the film stock had faded away.

On the subject of video games, I found this documentary from Noclip about GOG's archival of old games very interesting. There are some games where it's completely unclear who holds the copyright anymore, so even though the studios which helped create the game would love to publish it again, they can't because they don't know who owns it, really. GOG goes through weeks and months of investigation for some of these games, where everyone thinks someone else owns it, and in the end they might find out for sure...or they may not.

While we can argue about the value of art and its loss, I would say copyright is doing a bad job protecting these works and a great job lowering the value of our public domain. One way to fix this is to go back to reasonable copyright terms. Even though there is some support for this among publishers and copyright lawyers, it's doubtful this will happen.

I see no reason to disagree. I admit that there are numerous grey areas that crop up when discussing this topic.


Last edited by Mountain Man on 30 May 2023 at 9:04 pm UTC
Quoting: JordanPlayz158
Quoting: Mountain ManBut here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it?
I mean there is definitely a reason that archaeologists and museums exist, to find, showcase, and preserve old history that were previously lost to human history before discovery.

Yes, I understand that. My point is that losing art is not the cataclysmic event that some people make it out to be. Mainly, I'm talking about people who justify piracy and emulation for the purpose of "game preservation".
Quoting: poiuz
Quoting: GuestEmulation =/= Piracy
Stop trying to equate it.
I've even given the most common reason for emulation: convenience.
Whether it be traveling or just wanting to quickly experience an old classic, emulation makes it much easier to do.
A download from a random source is always "piracy". The source is not allowed to provide the download. That's a fact.

/edit: Added quotes

That's a valid point, and I think it is almost a certainty that every single person using Dolphin to play Nintendo games has taken advantage of warez sites with the justification "I already own the disk, so why can't I download the game?" That's where this debate gets messy.
Quoting: Mountain Man
Quoting: JordanPlayz158
Quoting: Mountain ManBut here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it?
I mean there is definitely a reason that archaeologists and museums exist, to find, showcase, and preserve old history that were previously lost to human history before discovery.

Yes, I understand that. My point is that losing art is not the cataclysmic event that some people make it out to be. Mainly, I'm talking about people who justify piracy and emulation for the purpose of "game preservation".
Well, that's a point. Mind you, game piracy is hardly cataclysmic, either. Weighing a small good versus a trivial problem becomes once again difficult.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy on 30 May 2023 at 11:40 pm UTC
Quoting: Purple Library GuyAnd it is annoying that one country's bad law gets to cause problems for people in all other countries.
This makes me wonder if Valve could've simply said "OK, it's going up but won't be available in the US" and there'd be nothing Nintendo could do about it. I Am Not A Lawyer (thank goodness), so I have no idea…
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