Court Orders Injunction Against RomUniverse To Permanently Shut Down, Destroy Nintendo ROMs

from the the-end dept

What a ride for RomUniverse and its owner, Matthew Storman. By way of background, 2019 saw Nintendo start an all out assault on ROM sites, websites where users could download ROMs of old Nintendo games to play on emulators. When the company set its eyes on RomUniverse, Storman attempted to crowdfund a legal defense, which failed, only to represent himself in court and make a lame argument that somehow first sale doctrine allowed him to commit mass copyright infringement. When that all failed miserably and RomUniverse lost in court, Storman was ordered to pay $2.1 million in damages in monthly $50 installments. He failed to make even those payments.

And so now this all comes to an unceremonious end, with Nintendo asking the court for a permanent injunction on RomUniverse and that injunction being granted.

A California court has ordered RomUniverse owner Matthew Storman to keep the website permanently offline and to destroy all illegal Nintendo ROMs.

As reported by TorrentFreak, he has until August 17 to comply with the order. The publisher had filed a request for a permanent injunction in May to keep the website offline, but the court at the time denied it. Nintendo however asked that the decision be reconsidered in June as Storman didn’t specifically dispute that the website would be revived.

To be clear, everyone in this story is somewhere on the spectrum of dumb. Storman’s defenses were laughable and the fight he attempted to put up in court pitiful. When Nintendo specifically brought evidence that Storman had been directly involved in some of the infringing content either appearing on his site, or with him pushing rewards for uploaders to induce them, his argument of first sale doctrine was incredibly weak.

Nintendo, for its part, has buried what mostly amounts to a current non-threat. Nintendo’s sales of older consoles and older games, including on new consoles, has been wildly successful. It buried this site not because it acted as some major threat to Nintendo, but rather because it could. That is very much the Nintendo way, as is the total lack of acknowledgement as to how ROM sites like this, whatever you might want to say about their legality, certainly served for decades to keep interest in classic Nintendo games alive.

But instead, Nintendo has gone through this entire process, spending whatever money it had to and cannot extract from Storman, just so RomUniverse is no longer online. If that’s how the company wants to spend its money, mission accomplished, I suppose.

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Companies: nintendo, romuniverse

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Comments on “Court Orders Injunction Against RomUniverse To Permanently Shut Down, Destroy Nintendo ROMs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I strongly believe that ROMUniverse gave other ROM sites a bad name. The site had premium membership for extra perks, recent Switch games, as well as recent movies and also eBooks for some reason. Storman was very much in this for profit, not for the the love of old games and preserving them for newer generations to play. It is very much ROM sites that are not like ROMUniverse that have served for decades to keep interest in classic Nintendo games alive, and lumping Storman’s site in with them feels like a huge disservice.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Having never seen for myself, he could be a giant twat but the one constant in the universe is Nintendo hates their customers.

Their most die hard fans who buy every stupid thing that hits the market with their favorite character on it make the mistake of photoshopping themselves into a pic with said character & the Nintendo lawyers show up demanding they be executed.

This twats site will be used as the poster child for the label of RomSites by the copyright cartels, ignoring that not every romsite is run by an asshole.

Nintendo could solve this I mean for less than they are spending on the tactical lawyer teams they could probably buy off anyone who was a rights hold out & own the roms free & clear.
I mean its not like they can pretend that there is no customer demand.
They could make a killing offering a legit console that could handle all the old games, hell pack the old roms onto new carts with multiple titles on each one & it’ll fly off the shelves with demand for more.

Or keep pissing money into the abyss where you think if you just spend a little bit more you will finally win against those bastard consumers who will get what they wanted 1 way or another.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Stupid court thingie...

… destroy all illegal Nintendo ROMs.

It’s amazing to me that a court would grant such a poorly worded injunction.

There are no illegal files. That’s because files don’t break the law. Having possession of a copy of a file may be unlawful (e.g. CSAM). Similarly but perhaps easier to understand, there are no illegal firearms ("gunz"). Having possession of a firearm that violates the law is unlawful (e.g. prohibited possessor, concealed carry, modifications to allow automatic fire, etc.)

Once you realize that monkeys can’t own copyright, you may also reasonably notice that non-persons (a file, a torrent, a sawed-off firearm) can’t violate the law. Only those people who make use of them may be violating a law.

It was stupid of the court on another level. Injunctions should only be granted where no other relief is available. In this case I would think an OSC would be all that’s "needed." Nintendo didn’t do their legwork to collect that massive $50/mo, like liens, garnishment, etc. and here they get rewarded with an injunction and a court order about destroying "illegal files."

The only example of an inanimate object being the object [no pun intended] of an order of a court is the very nefarious civil forfeiture where cash or assets are sued because they exist. With every LEO getting a cut, and "lawmakers" (lazy asses who bicker with each other as they pass lobbyist-written bills reducing their own constituents’ rights) this is unlikely to change.


PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Stupid court thingie...

"It’s amazing to me that a court would grant such a poorly worded injunction."

Well, to be fair, that’s a quote from reporting on the case. The actual court order reads:

"Defendant shall permanently destroy all unauthorized Nintendo games or other unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s intellectual property including movies, books, and music no later than August 17, 2021"

Which is still poorly worded, since they don’t specify that those files have to be in his personal possession, but the order itself doesn’t say "illegal". I can imagine some lawyer stepping in to try and claim that since the files can still be found on some random website that he has zero relationship with then he violated the order.

Rekrul says:

I never used RomUniverse myself, but Nintendo’s war against ROM sites had some major collateral damage. EmuParadise removed all their download links and TheISOZone shut down completely.

Yes, there are still bunches of ROM sites on the net and actual ROM files (as in dumps of cartridge games) are easy to find. What’s harder are ISO files for disc-based consoles. Even among sites that have them, none have really comprehensive collections. Maybe they don’t have European versions, maybe they don’t have a particular game series, maybe they only have the most popular games for a given system.

Granted, the above sites weren’t perfect either, but they often had more complete and/or foreign collections than others.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have no idea about ROMUniverse, but EmuParadise had a pretty extensive ISO collection. You can still browse the game lists, but the download links no longer work.

They list ISOs for systems up to the PS2, although the Xbox section is pretty slim.

By my count, they list ISOs for 13 different systems.

Space5000 (profile) says:

"and throughout the world"

Is it even possible for the court to enforce that restriction outside of the United States? Part of the document said this:
"any of the following activities in the United States of America and throughout the world:". Note I had to adjust the quote but it’s based off here:

I remember hearing that countries can apply restrictions to outside countries, but I am not sure if this is based off the same thing.

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