Nintendo went on the warpath over the summer in an effort to clamp down on ROM sites that make its classic games available for download. It went after two of the largest ROM sites, both owned by the same people, and now it’s secured a substantial settlement that could deter other sites. The owners of LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co have agreed to pay Nintendo a whopping $ 12.23 million.
Nintendo filed its suit in July, and both LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co (owned by Jacob and Cristian Mathias) suspiciously went down for “maintenance” around that time. The ROMs available on those sites let downloaders play games with the use of an emulator on a computer or phone. This bypasses Nintendo’s hardware ecosystem completely.
ROM files themselves exist in a legal gray area. Many feel backing up your own game cartridges and discs to ROM files is legal, but Nintendo disagrees. Distributing ROMs is explicitly illegal, and Nintendo is apparently quite happy to sue over it. Emulators often require proprietary BIOS to function, and those are considered infringing.
LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co made ROM files available for many classic game systems, not just Nintendo’s. However, Nintendo cited 140 infringing ROMs and 40 trademark violations on the sites. Each copyright-infringing ROM is subject to damages as high as $ 150,000, and the trademark violations are worth as much s $ 2 million each. The gaming company asked for $ 100 million in total damages. That amount was enough to scare the owners into settling.
Nintendo didn’t have to go to court at all — the site owners admitted to direct and indirect copyright and trademark infringement. The parties negotiated the $ 12 million settlement, but it’s unlikely the couple will actually pay that amount. A smaller private agreement may have been negotiated in private. Jacob and Cristian Mathias have agreed to a permanent injunction that prevents them from using or distributing Nintendo ROMs. Were they to violate that injunction, Nintendo could come back for any unpaid settlement cash and sue them all over again.
If you go to LoveROMS.com right now, all you’ll find is a short apology to Nintendo. It directs visitors to the Nintendo website for information about playing classic games. Sadly, Nintendo doesn’t make its entire back catalog available. You can at least get devices like the SNES Classic to legally enjoy some of yesteryear’s best games.
Now read: Nintendo May Launch Switch With Improved Display in 2019, Nintendo Is Using Streaming to Push Games to Switch That It Otherwise Can’t Run, and Nintendo Will Relaunch the NES Classic Edition in June