Nintendo Hates You: Scans Of ‘Super Mario 64’ Manual Taken Down Via Copyright Claim

from the nintendon't dept

I’ll give Nintendo this much: the company certainly is an absolute master at enforcing copyright in the most extreme, pettiest manner possible. I’ve already had some fun comparing Nintendo to Disney, in that the way the company is handling shutting down older game stores and making those games no longer available in most places is akin to Disney’s long history of “vaulting” movies to control their availability. Combine that with Nintendo’s practice of attempting to take down absolutely every instance of fans sharing bits of its content, taking down game music that isn’t available anywhere else, and its killing off emulation sites so it can sell trash versions of old games, and you’re left with the impression that business success is entirely secondary to its desire for control.

There are tons more examples of this, but perhaps none so petty as Nintendo taking down a super dope Super Mario 64 game manual scan over copyright. This looks to have started, at least in part, with a Kotaku post on just how cool the manual that was scanned is.

In 1996 a book was released in Japan called Super Mario 64 Complete Clear Guide Book, which wasn’t just a strategy guide but also a collection of developer commentary and photos of custom-made 3D dioramas, crafted just for the guide.

While it’s hardly a lost relic—you can find copies all over eBay for $200-300 if you’re serious about reading it in the flesh—most people reading this will have never seen the book, or if you have, will have only seen a select few pages of it. That simply will not do, so it’s great to see that someone (CFC’s Dave Shevlin) has taken the time to scan and upload the entire book at a very useful 600dpi.

Those 3D dioramas are super dope. And, frankly, there are a ton of us out here that have an affinity for old-school retro video game manuals. I used to love reading them back when I was kid. It’s also a fact that those manuals are part of the history of the art that is video games. And, as art, they ought to be preserved.

Instead of preserving it and then making it available, however, Nintendo pulled a Nintendo again.

To be clear, this book was released in 1996. In Japan. It was never released in the West, has never been released anywhere since, and has not been commercially available for decades. The only way you can purchase a copy, if you have the cash, is to spend hundreds on one via resale on eBay or Yahoo, from which Nintendo wouldn’t see any proceeds. Oh, and also these scans weren’t making anyone a cent.

But nope! Nintendo of America sent a takedown notice earlier today to the Internet Archive, where the scans were being hosted, who then passed it into the scan’s uploader, Comfort Food Video Games.

As CFVG told Kotaku, this is a 27-year old video game guide that is “extremely out of print” and was never released in America to begin with. The only other place you can get it appears to be in online resale shops for hundreds of dollars. Nintendo sees no money from those sales.

So what in the absolute hell is the point of any of this? There is none, to the rational observer. But again, Nintendo isn’t making rational, business-based decisions. It’s exerting control, its only real overriding interest, apparently.

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Comments on “Nintendo Hates You: Scans Of ‘Super Mario 64’ Manual Taken Down Via Copyright Claim”

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

No Penalty? No Problem

Nintendo will keep having a draconian enforcement of their IP as long as they don’t get penalized for doing so. Considering that Microsoft (Ori 1&2, Banjo-Kazooie are characters in Smash Ultimate) and Sony (The Show) have games on the Nintendo Switch, it’s not like Nintendo has any real competition, and as long as their games are so good
A: we keep buying them at $60, and
B: Nintendo keeps having fun making sure we don’t get to have any.

Thanks for posting this, Dark Helmet.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Sabroni says:


You know the way we always want specific instances of silenced conservative voices?
THis manual has been out of print for 30 years and was never released in the US. As a resident of the US, why should this manual be freely available to you?
Please be specific but note “Because I want it” isn’t a valid reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Okay, so , a remedial lesson...

The basic principle underlying the establishment of copyright is that you are granted an exclusive right to make a work available, in order to incentivise you to make it as available as possible in order to maximise how much you can profit from it. Of course, this fundamentally and wilfully ignores how capitalism works based on scarcity, and how manufacturing scarcity is incentivised to maximise the profit from the limited amount you make available.

In this case however, this copyright is NOT being utilised. At all. Nothing is being produced, no profits are being made. The copyright holder has failed to even attempt to meet their side of that bargain. Use it or lose it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m not sure US copyright would even apply here. I’m certainly no lawyer, but it’s my understanding that copyright binds at publication not when created. If that’s correct, it would mean that barring some treaty, there is no copyright in the US for the book. No copyright, no (valid) copyright claim.

Seems fairly straightforward to me, so I’m sure I’m missing something.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If that’s correct, it would mean that barring some treaty, there is no copyright in the US for the book.

And there are plenty of treaties which bind the US vis-à-vis copyright:
-The Berne Convention

And that’s off the top of my head (anyone more knowledgeable feel free to list more). This is why I say that the US would still have © even if it weren’t for the clause in the US constitution allowing it: because of our treaty obligations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2

the US would still have © even if it weren’t for the clause in the US constitution allowing it

Or “formerly allowing it”, were any judge willing to read laws in a straightforward way. Copyright clearly infringes the right to free speech, a right codified in a Constitutional Amendment and hence overriding the original Copyright Clause.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


As a resident of the US, why should this manual be freely available to you?

Preservation of gaming history and cultural curiosity. It’s a nearly 30-year-old book; I fail to see how it being online brings financial harm to Nintendo when the company was likely never going to re-release that book⁠—even in Japan.

The takedown, on the other hand, brings a little more of a hit to Nintendo’s reputation. It might have a lot of money and gaming history on its side, but nothing lasts forever. That includes goodwill from gamers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Also, it’s a part of the original product. Digital games don’t typically come with manuals, and gamers under a certain age might not remember this but manuals often contained gameplay clues, background information and other details that make the game easier to understand and play and thus make it a more valuable gameplay experience.

I’m not sure if this was the case with Mario 64, but it’s not hard to see why such information being made available for free helps the gamer if it’s not available through official means. Meanwhile, what do Nintendo stand to lose? They don’t lose out financially since people can’t buy a new manual. The worst case scenario seems to be that it makes the new legal purchase of a game more valuable to the player.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hmmm… OK re-reading it properly, I see that this is a guide to the game and not simply an in box game manual.

But, the same argument applies – the manual doesn’t replace the original game, it’s adds value to it, and there’s no reasonable argument that it would be used by pirates and not people who bought the game legally on a newer platform. I’d also argue that the ownership of copyright might be different here – for example, the 3D dioramas would seem pretty clearly to be original content, so the copyright would surely belong to the original publisher and not Nintendo, unless it was originally printed under a licence that granted Nintendo full ownership of the derivative works.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think there’s lawyers who work for Nintendo who need to justify their salary. Nintendo makes no money selling manuals, of course this manual will probably be avaidable on torrent websites as a PDF scan. Nintendo thrives it makes games like no one else does which can be played by anyone it’s the Disney of videogames games like breath of the wild or Mario kart do not age they’ll be popular in 20 years
Western company’s are not so aggressive over fans making art or fan created mods as they realise they need fan support to survive in a competitive market

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Anonymous Coward says:

Another ignorant Timothy Geigner article. Color me surprised.

Look, Tim. I get it. You and everyone else at Techdirt don’t like copyright as it is today. Tough shit. America did nothing as these idiotic bills got passed into law, just as the CASE Act is about to do as well.

For all the years you whined and whined, what you fail to consider is that NINTENDO HAS EVERY LEGAL RIGHT TO DO THIS.

It doesn’t matter what you think, and it sure as hell doesn’t matter if money is involved (which is always a damn argument when it comes to copyright).

The law does not say “Take it upon yourself to preserve the art of gaming by dismissing the rights of the creator/owner”, now does it?

So do the world a favor and shut the hell up already.

Life isn’t fair. Suck it up, buttercup.

Rico R. (profile) says:

Am I the only one who thinks a fair use argument could be made here? I’m not saying it would hold up in court, and it’s not as strong an argument as other, more clear-cut examples, but an argument could be made nonetheless.

For the first factor, the purpose of the scan’s upload is for preservation and archival use and is non-commercial in nature. As the article says:

…those manuals are part of the history of the art that is video games. And, as art, they ought to be preserved.

The work was originally created to provide strategy for the game as well as developer commentary. Here, it’s being used to preserve the manual as a part of history. It could arguably be considered transformative, and therefore be fair use. It’s not a strong argument for being transformative, and it hasn’t been tested in court before, but it definitely could be made.

The other factors are a lot more straightforward.

  • Nature of the work: The work is at least slightly creative and is published, so it goes against fair use with little weight. Besides, this factor is rarely determinative
  • Amount of the work used: The SCOTUS has said that although less is more, the whole work can be used as fair use when the purpose of the use requires it. That is the case here. There’s no purpose in preserving only a small portion of the manual. This slightly favors a finding of fair use.
  • Effect on the market: The market (at least now, when the scan was made) is nonexistent. It was only released in one region, is out of print currently, and is otherwise rare. Those that wish to buy a copy will have to spend hundreds on a used copy, which Nintendo won’t see a cent, and there are no plans for Nintendo to bring the book back into the market. Without a market to harm, there’s no market harm. This would favor a finding of fair use.

Weighing the factors together, we have three factors that favor fair use and one factor that doesn’t. The factor against fair use is rarely determinative and carries little weight. So, a court could reasonably conclude this is fair use.

But of course, Nintendo comes from a country where there is no fair use (or similar) exception in copyright and where such fair uses where arguments to such could be made in civil court in the US instead end up as a criminal matter with suspended prison sentences imposed. Combined with Nintendo’s general “I hate you, fans” stance on their copyright enforcement, I doubt they’d be willing to entertain such a defense.

If the uploaded raised this argument in a counter-notice, I’m almost certain Nintendo would sue. Thanks to the DMCA, it would have to be in a US court that could hear a fair use defense. But given the costs of litigation, I doubt the uploader would want to risk it. Such is the sad nature of copyright law, which is once again, showing its true original nature as a system of censorship as opposed to an incentive for creativity and protecting creators’ works that copyright maximalists would like us to believe!

Anonymous Coward says:


Am I the only one who thinks a fair use argument could be made here?

Fair-use only works as a defense, and in order to put that forth as a defense, that would require going through the process of getting sued.

Once that happens, then the lawyer fees start to add up, and most people would rather just take it down then purposely enter into a long drawn-out court battle that will cost 10’s of thousands of 💵💰💸 dollars!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even rich corporations rarely exercise fair use. One can find hundred-million-dollar movies whose credits indicate a license for a 3-second clip of a video game, game show, music, whatever. The film companies don’t lack lawyers, as is evident in all the “Hollywood accounting” stories we see. (This licensing might be intended, however, to promote the idea that fair use does not and ought not to exist.)

Bilvin Spicklittle says:

What’s so difficult to understand? You keep asking “what is the point of doing this, it wasn’t making them any money”… at some point, I start to wonder if this is rhetoric anymore, or if you really are an imbecile.

It is obvious to all that this has no tactical purpose. They do not win a legal fight, earn revenue, promote a new game, or convince anyone not to pirate roms when they do this.

But it has a very strategic purpose, one near and dear to their undead, diabolical hearts. And it is a simple purpose. Copyright maximalism. You cannot advocate for maximum copyright if everyone sees you not even bothering to keep ahold of the not-quite-maximum copyrights you already have.

They might not know why they want copyright maximalism. But they want it the same. It’s probably the result of three or four weird little corners of human nature, things like “if 3 is good, 9000 is better!”, and “it’s the principle of the thing, even if the far reaches of argumentum ad absurdum has us stomping on baby heads to make a point”. Maybe with a crust of legal expert indifference as shit icing on this turd cake.

They want it. They’ve identified that they need to do these things to push for it, and they’re doing those things. And they haven’t missed a single beat.

Space5000 (profile) says:


Does Nintendo even have a right to take down the existence of such a manual in the archive alone? Destroying such history like that is not a human right and I certainly think it’s absurd if there is no copyright limitation that defends such preservation. Destroying such thing clearly damages the point of Copyright too.

Also I feel like sharing such manual needs to be fair use judging by the situation.

Rocky says:


Well, that’s the perversion of the copyright we have – the owner of said work can remove and destroy it anytime they so wish and that makes the words To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries ring very very hollow.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A reminder for anyone still confused – people here saying that Nintendo are idiots for their aggressive copyright enforcement aren’t saying they dong have the right to do it. They’re just saying it’s stupid and achieves nothing.

Nintendo have the right to take it down. Everyone else has the right to say that it’s pretty stupid to do so and they just wasted money on lawyers on something they don’t even offer for sale. Then others will say it means nothing long term, but it’s still dumb and annoying.

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