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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Filed Under: classic video games, copyright, matthew storman, permanent injunction, rom sites, roms, video games
Companies: nintendo, romuniverse


Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2021 @ 8:55pm

    Urders?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 17 Aug 2021 @ 9:06pm

    Re:

    It's "Orders" and "Murders" put together. Which is what courts do to ideas when they make a copyright decision

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2021 @ 9:24pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Aug 2021 @ 9:33pm

    Re:

    Udderly ridiculous!

    I say, good riddance. Time to let Nintendo die. Don't help keep it alive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Aug 2021 @ 10:54pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2021 @ 11:59pm

    So it was going to take him 42,000 months to pay off his $2.1mil fine? A mere 3,500 years. Seems logical.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Jajo (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 2:54am

    Re:

    It's clearly a typo. It should read Udders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 3:01am

    Dear Rom Universe, you are hereby ordered to destroy ALL Nintendo Roms and/or Cartridges.

    RomUniverse is then legally obligated to destroy Nintendo HQ and their storage systems.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 3:52am

    Let's hope he already backed them up and spread them via Sneakernet/torrent the moment he was hit with the lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 5:30am

    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.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 5:36am

    Re:

    I hope you don't think he was the only person who had those ROMs

    because he wasn't and isn't

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    PaulT (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 6:04am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Ninja (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 7:53am

    And Nintendo ultimately failed. There are tons of torrents circulating with said roms and these torrents cannot be taken down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 8:31am

    Re: copyrights wet dream

    Since they want copyright to last forever and pay heirs for generations to come, seems right that they would setup a fine to be paid by generations to come...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 8:39am

    Re: Re:

    No, "Murders"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Thad (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Stupid court thingie...

    Well, to be fair, that's a quote from reporting on the case.

    Yeah, but when has Ehud ever let a lack of reading comprehension stop him from ranting about semantics for 5 paragraphs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous, 18 Aug 2021 @ 10:57am

    All of a sudden, Techdirt "respects" copyright trolls?

    Apparently, Techdirts done a complete about face when it comes to anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 11:14am

    "Urders"?

    left up for half a day now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 11:19am

    Re: "Urders"?

    yeah, that is weird, TD used to be able to spell or at least correct!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I thought "Murders", unless it was the famous Kurt Urders to whom was being referred.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re: "Urders"?

    Probably got dinged by autocorrect one too many times and turned it off.

    It'll get corrected. Unless it's just more enjoyable as-is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 2:29pm

    Re:

    Uh, Yers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Glenn, 18 Aug 2021 @ 5:21pm

    Nintendo just keeps reinforcing my desire to have nothing to do with Nintendo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Rekrul, 18 Aug 2021 @ 6:14pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Re: copyrights wet dream

    Declare bankruptcy and be done with it in that case. However, even if he did pay this for the rest of his life, the payments would stop when his estate either paid it off or went bankrupt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2021 @ 6:50pm

    Re:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Thad (profile), 18 Aug 2021 @ 9:09pm

    Re:

    Did RomUniverse or EmuParadise have ISOs?

    I feel like ISO sites are rarer simply because the files are at least two orders of magnitude larger than ROMs for 16-bit consoles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Aug 2021 @ 7:41pm

    Re: All of a sudden, Techdirt "respects" copyright trolls?

    You just don't understand how to reason with evidence and context instead of drowning faithfully in ideology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Rekrul, 19 Aug 2021 @ 7:41pm

    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.

    https://www.emuparadise.me/roms-isos-games.php

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Space5000 (profile), 20 Aug 2021 @ 3:00pm

    "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: https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.758131/gov.uscourts.cacd.758131.88.0.pdf

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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