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FBI Cracks Down on Piracy of Obsolete Game 191

Posted by Zonk
from the i'm-not-sure-i-get-this-one dept.
Alien54 wrote to mention a story detailing an FBI crackdown on pirated...NES games. From the article: "More than 60,000 pirated copies of Nintendo game consoles were seized Wednesday during raids in New York and New Jersey, prosecutors announced. Four people were arrested in the crackdown on the theft of popular games such as "Donkey Kong," "Mario Brothers," "Duck Hunt," "Baseball" and others, according to a release by federal authorities and papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Nintendo told the FBI that individuals and companies copy the video games and sell the pirated versions throughout the world, costing the company millions of dollars in lost revenue annually, according to the complaint."
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FBI Cracks Down on Piracy of Obsolete Game

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  • by richy486 (781114) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:25PM (#12240446)
    Do nentendo still sell the old games?
  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ReverendRyan (582497) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:28PM (#12240463) Homepage
    copy the video games and sell the pirated versions throughout the world, costing the company millions of dollars in lost revenue annually
    Then I should be able to go buy an NES and Super Mario Brothers from Nintendo, no?
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by happymedium (861907) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:41PM (#12240555)
      The so-called "millions of dollars in lost revenue" actually come from remakes and compilations of these old games for the GBA/SP/what-have-you.
    • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

      by MilenCent (219397) *
      Not an NES, or at least not easily... but you CAN get Super Mario Bros., in a version very close to the original, for the Gameboy Advance.
    • Re:Really? (Score:1, Redundant)

      by clu76 (620823)
      Then I should be able to go buy an NES and Super Mario Brothers from Nintendo, no?

      You are able to go buy a GBA and Super Mario Bros from Nintendo.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Apreche (239272) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:44PM (#12240583) Homepage Journal
      No, but you can buy a GBA, SP or DS and the re-released version of Super Mario Brothers. Duck Hunt however is another story.

      I always thought that Nintendo and other old game companies should just make an emulator, and give it away for free. Then sell ROM downloads for like 50 cents each. They would make a killing and their claims against pirates like these would actually have some more meaning. This is yet anothe reason we need IP reform. If you aren't currently making money from that IP you shouldn't be able to claim damages if someone else does. That will provide the most benefit to society by legally providing a supply of goods which are in demand. As it stands there is a demand for goods that IP holders refuse to produce, that is not good for people.
      • ROM downloads for fifty cents?

        That means they could drum up, oh, four or five dollars in revenue from each typical customer. In 5-15 separate transactions.

        That's a heck of an interesting business model.
        • What about a monthly subscription (either access to the library) or a random title each month or biweekly for say $10-$20 bucks a year.
        • Sure is interesting. The downloads would be a lot cheaper to produce than iTunes type downloads. (Smaller files, Nintendo doesn't have to pay anyone else royalties on them)
    • Well, technically, even if Nintendo doesn't sell the old games anymore, the people who own ligitimate copies are seeing the value of their old games reduced by illegal copying. I'm not saying I agree that that's something a person should be removed from society for, as very few legitimate owners would care, but it is something.
      • Maybe the copyright owner should be compensated (_depends_), but so what if owners of copies see the value of their copies reduced.

        Are you saying that if I buy a copy of a book and someone makes cheaper copies of the book, then I should be compensated?

        That's weird man. Weird.
      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Facekhan (445017) on Friday April 15, 2005 @12:51AM (#12241828)
        If you are truly buying a licensed copy of a copyrighted work and not just the media itself then by all right the consumers should be able to force Nintendo and Music CD companies and software companies to provide replacement copies of works that were sent on defective/degraded/stolen media forever.

        When that happens I will no longer insist on my right to backup copies of media I buy and I will no longer download those albums that I have had stolen/lost/wrecked cd, old cartridge that won't work etc.
        • If you are truly buying a licensed copy of a copyrighted work then there must be a legally executed contract prior to the distribution of the item. Copyright merely gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to make copies of the work. You can slap any license you want on the side of a box, but absent a signed agreement, it doesn't mean a damn thing, no matter how often or loudly certain commercial interests may proclaim otherwise.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gothic_Walrus (692125) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @09:11PM (#12240732) Journal
      For the record, there's an even better version of Super Mario Brothers for the Game Boy Color. Screen ratio is a bit off, but it came loaded with extras, including The Lost Levels.

      Since everyone else has mentioned the GBA port, I just thought I'd point out that there's another way to get it too, even though it's not in production anymore.

      Come to think of it, there's Super Mario Brothers All-Stars for the SNES, and that includes SMB as well.

      And if I'm not mistaken, there's a version of it in Animal Crossing for the GameCube.

      The point that I wasn't planning on making when I started this post: Nintendo is still making money off of the game, by rereleasing it on occasion. If someone has a pirated copy and doesn't buy a rerelease because of that, Nintendo has lost revenue.

  • by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:29PM (#12240477) Homepage
    How do they figure out how much selling games that aren't sold any more is costing companies? If Nintendo was still selling say "Solar Jetman" or "Duckhunt" for the NES then I would understand it could cut into their bottom line. But seeing as they don't how is this calculated?
  • by DeanMeister (868655) <theymightbespartans@gmail.com> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:31PM (#12240485)
    Next we'll be arresting people for making flash animations of copywrited material with really bad translations. Psh. So how much does a NES game go for these days? Buck and a quarter? Buck Fifty? Thank god the man put these criminals at bay. All your base.
  • If they don't sell the titles but may intend to in the future, how can they justify the current loss of income?
  • Crappy consoles. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pentomino (129125) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:32PM (#12240497) Homepage Journal
    I think the biggest impact these consoles are having is not in revenue, but in brand damage, as is the case with most counterfeit products.

    The games are all there, but often the titles or copyright notices are removed, or the graphics are askew, the little built-in light gun doesn't work, or the sound is off for some reason. The controllers are badly designed, such that you don't know which button is Start, which is Jump, and what the deal is with the turbo buttons.

    I do think Nintendo is missing the opportunity to sell consoles like this themselves. But it seems they'd rather sell us old NES games for $20 each on the Game Boy Advance.
    • Hmm... I must say that Nintendo did a lot of brand damage itself. That blinking red light still haunts my dreams. It's just blinking. No. No. No. Will it work this time? No. No. No. Load the game? No. No. No. Load the game! No. No. No.

      I cleaned you, I washed you, I bloodied my fingers rubbing erasers across your contact points. (...No No No...) And this is the way you repay me!? (...No No No...) WORK DAMN YOU WORK!

      No. No. No.

      (sob)

    • Re:Crappy consoles. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aztektum (170569)
      They do sell a controller packed with games on a ROM chip, just not in the US. I think it's in China and Korea if I remember correctly. Google for Nintendo iQue. Last time I was at the site, Lik Sang carried them.
  • Are talking about cartridges or consoles here? I know all about pirating game cartridges -- ahem -- but I've never really heard of a pirated console.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:36PM (#12240520) Homepage Journal
    If you had to pay a yearly fee to maintain your copyright this kind of crap wouldn't happen. As soon as a game/book/movie/whatever is no longer being sold it should pass into the public domain. Not that the public domain will exist in 5 years.
    • That would mean 'back catalog' games/books/movies would be perpetually available, for 10 times the original price.

      Or does your mechanism for forcing the publishers to keep everything in print also prescribe a price they need to sell it at?
      • They should need to be kept in print at or below inflation-adjusted original price. There should also be a minimum printrun per year, low but nonzero, so they have to be actually producing the product which encourages them to sell at a reasonable price. But even allowing what you suggest would be a vast improvement over the current system.
    • If you had to pay a yearly fee to maintain your copyright this kind of crap wouldn't happen.

      I'm sure it would, unless you could somehow make the yearly fee a variable amount.

      Hmm, maybe the yearly fee could be based on the declared value of the work. So if Nintendo wants to claim that pirated versions of Duck Hunt cost them a million dollars a year in revenues, then they've got to put up say 0.1%, or $1,000/year to keep it copyrighted.

    • Not that the public domain will exist in 5 years.

      What do you mean '5 years', have a look http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050412 2 25604578 [groklaw.net]

      The short course is that (at least in music) while the copyright for the creator, (songwriter, musician, etc.) may expire, the publisher continues to have 'common law copyright' on anything produced pre 1972. With the extension of copyright currently to between 75 and 95 years, it's going to be 2067 before anything music wise goes into the public domain, by
  • Not obsolete... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nuxx (10153) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:37PM (#12240527) Homepage
    They obviously aren't obsolete if they are still selling.

    And also, these are the crappy 1000-in-1 games-in-a-controller things for sale at malls. The problem isn't so much that they cause Nintendo to lose money, but instead diminish Nintendo's brand.

    See, many of the games in these systems are literally hacked ROMs with various sprites replaced, and often the ROMs don't work and simply crash. Since the consumer thinks "this Nintendo sucks", they are less likely to buy a Nintendo product down the line, thinking it'll be similarly crappy.

    Not to mention that the consumer got ripped off in the first place, as these systems tend to be sold for US$60 or so in mall kiosks and are of absolutely piss poor quality which would likely break under moderate use.
    • They obviously aren't obsolete if they are still selling.

      Right. I used to be in the abandonware-should-be-public-domain camp until I saw Nintendo rerelease old games, e.g., the SNES Zelda for Game Boy Advance, and many NES games for the E-Reader. Granted, we can talk about the incentive for innovation of a long copyright period, but these works are firmly within their copyright (they're only about 15 years old) and Nintendo has shown that they're definitely not abandoned.

      If anything, we should shorten co
      • Re:Not obsolete... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nuxx (10153)
        Well, also, this is completely different from someone like you or I downloading old ROMs to play them. This is some folks profiting off of such copies, and doing so in a manner which can demonstrably damage the reputation of Nintendo.

        I think NOA is completely in the right here... In fact, I've called NOA before to report such items for sale, and ended up in a conversation with one of the employees about how copying old games for personal use is not that bad, but this sort of thing just isn't right.
  • by RM6f9 (825298) <rwmurker@yahoo.com> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:40PM (#12240546) Homepage Journal
    all the mi-i-i-llions of taxpayer dollars, thousands of person-hours of deep investigative efforts using the latest in 1990s technological know-how and tools, our beloved Homeland Security leaders bring us ... NES pirates.
    Nice try, people, but there're things you're *not* telling us and cases you're *not* showing us that keep some of us fearful - not respectful, given the above, but fearful.
    Controlling the media to portray you, our beloved federales, as incompetent clowns is only halfway effective - which half varies depending, and I'm afraid of clowns.

    • Arrrr !! (Score:5, Funny)

      by AtariAmarok (451306) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:42PM (#12240565)
      "our beloved Homeland Security leaders bring us ... NES pirates."

      Arrrr! They be only 9 pixels wide, and be made of 3 colors, but arrr, these NES buccaneers have me shaking in me sea-boots!

      • Sorry for being a correction nazi, but the NES tiles are 8*8px and 4 colors. Below is a blurb if you're interested to know more. Else skip.

        I wrote a program that extracts the tile tables from NES roms and thus had to do a bit of reverse engeneering. It seems the tiles are 8*8px and 2 bitplans, which means 4 colors. One of the colors is transparent though, so 3 is sort of correct. A tile only requires 16 bytes of memory (8*8 bits * 2 bitplans).
        The tiles are arranged in 16*16 blocks or banks, and two of t
    • Maybe I'm being cynical, but I can imagine this scenario.

      big company: "FBI guy, Asia doesn't give two shits about our copyright laws. do something about it!"

      FBI: "alright, since we can't fly over there and catch people pirating your software, we'll catch the people here pirating their software. Then maybe they'll be obliged to do the same"
  • That article is a horrid write up on the incident, it says that 60,000 game consoles were siezed in the raid.
    Do they really mean 60,000 consoles or is it 60,000 cartridges as the article implies earlier?
    Also, I really wanna know if these guys were "pirating" NES games or if "Donkey Kong" and "Mario" were the only nintendo properties that the article writer knew. Herm.
    • It's consoles. It's one of those things where they put a nes-on-a-chip and solder on the contents of an xx-in-1 game cartridge which contains lots of pirated mapper 0 games. Usually it's built into an N64 controller type shell and plugs directly into a TV.
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:44PM (#12240575)
    1) Nintendo has on occasion re-released old NES games for new platforms, so they are still able to make money off of those titles.

    2) Many 8-bit games have new incarnations, and as far as I know, its a good idea to control the IP in all its incarnations if you dont wish to lose that control.

    3) This is about as blatant a case of piracy as one can name. It was both wholesale and flagrant. And Nintendo went after the source, not the customer.

    This is not anything like the RIAA / MPAA suing individual users.

    END COMMUNICATION
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:49PM (#12240608) Homepage Journal
      "This is not anything like the RIAA / MPAA suing individual users."

      You're right. I would also add that Nintendo will definitely want to continue to own the copyright to these titles. If clones or rips are made and sold without permission, Nintendo's basically giving them the green light to keep going. They can't just wait until a big one comes along that uses one of their franchises that are still active.
  • This article has to be referring to those "100 games in 1" (or whatever) consoles that they sell in the mall. I just don't see the market for a quarter of a million pirated NES consoles otherwise, not to mention games you can get at Gamestop for a buck.
    • I'm inclined to agree. I've never heard of someone bootlegging Duck Hunt one cartridge at-a-time. I'm guessing that the games mentioned in the article are present on most Nintenclone 100-in-1's. That way, the Fed raid would have a high probability of success.

      Nintendo did an open call to consumers last Christmas season to NOT buy these unofficial products. This was a HUGE hint to the pirates that they would be targeted. At that time, though, the FBI was more interested in pirated software on the XBox.
  • Uhhh... The FBI? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OmgTEHMATRICKS (836103) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:56PM (#12240645) Journal
    Don't these guys have anything better to do? Like tracking down murderers and rapists, for instance?
    • Yeah. Because it's impossible to, you know, have some officers tracking down murderers and rapists, and some others bagging copyright infringers at 100x the hourly criminal-catching rate. (Seriously, how many murderers and rapists do you think there are compared to numbers of these "pirates"? And although one pirate is obviously much better than a murderer, you can get more harm overall stopped per police-hour by having them catch pirates (easy) than murders (very very hard, since other police have caught a
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2005 @08:59PM (#12240661)

    Four people were arrested in the crackdown on the theft of popular games

    How many times does it have to be explained that copyright infringement is a different offence to theft?

    If somebody put a game up on the Internet where it was downloaded thousands of times, that can cause far more harm than if somebody went into a shop and stole something.

    If somebody copied games that you can no longer buy, it can cause less harm than if somebody went into a shop and stole something.

    Copyright infringement and theft are fundamentally different actions, with different consequences, governed by different laws. Even the Supreme Court has ruled that copyright infringement is not theft (Dowling vs US, 1985).

    There is a perfectly good term to use when somebody copies something illegally. It's "copyright infringement". People who insist upon misusing the term "theft" are only seeking to cause yet more pointless arguments. There is a word for these people too. It's "troll".

    • How many times does it have to be explained that copyright infringement is a different offence to theft?

      I don't know - how many times will it take until the people who claim that "it's not theft" learn English?

      Not all theft is illegal or even wrong. "Mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal," as some great artist once wrote. Shakespeare stole the plot for Romeo and Juliet from some Italian writer. Block and Adler stole the plot of Forbidden Planet from Shakespeare. None of them did anything wrong
    • Even the Supreme Court has ruled that copyright infringement is not theft (Dowling vs US, 1985).

      In case anyone's interested here are the relevant paragraphs, Dowling v. United States, 473 U.S. 207 (1985):

      the Government's theory here would make theft, conversion, or fraud equivalent to wrongful appropriation of statutorily protected rights in copyright. The copyright owner, however, holds no ordinary chattel. A copyright, like other intellectual property, comprises a series of carefully defined and care
  • Nintendo made those games. They own the rights. They should be allowed to do what they want with it. How about that? I don't get it why people want everything to be free after a while. If Nintendo judges it can still make money off these games in a few years, then it is in their own right to arrest people who steal from them.
    • If Nintendo judges it can still make money off these games in a few years, then it is in their own right to arrest people who steal from them.

      If Nintendo were doing the arresting, this wouldn't be nearly as bad. But instead they've got the FBI doing it for them.

      If stories like this aren't a good reason for having highly progressive taxation, I don't know what is.

      • The only problem is this: nobody is stealing from anybody else, the cime is piracy and copyright infringement. Nintendo can't nessecarily arrest for this.
      • Are you trying to say that Nintendo should be able to have it's own police force? Or maybe even it's own code of laws?
    • Your right, they do own them. Though personally, if I can't buy something anymore, then to me, it's fair game. Seems like a pointless exercise to me. I suppose there are some brand/trademark issues that are involved.

      I don't bother with emulators and what not, but would anybody be hurt if I played Robotron or Berzerk for nostalgia?
  • by PedanticSpellingTrol (746300) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @09:13PM (#12240737)
    I'm a bit confused here.

    Back in november, when Nintendo asked for your help in tracking down these "N64 controllers" full of hacked roms [slashdot.org], everyone thought it was great, lined up at their e-door to help

    Now when they've finally raided the warehouse and put a stop to it, there's nothing but "bitch bitch bitch copyright is teh suck".

    Fuck you guys, I'm going home.

  • Four people were arrested in the crackdown on the theft of popular games such as "Donkey Kong," "Mario Brothers," "Duck Hunt," "Baseball" and others, according to a release by federal authorities and papers filed in U.S.

    These guys seem like they wouldn't know theft if it bit them in the rear end. The crime is copyright infringement, not theft. Why are the police not involved if it is theft? Why is the IP "stolen" still in Nintendo's posession? Because what is going on is a violation of copyright laws/co

    • Despite the lack of paragraphs, this guy has an extremely good point. Theft and violating copyright law are two different things. In many cases, if not all of them, here in the US, copyright litigation seems to be based on the principles of theft, where the plaintiff pleads that the copyright violation has 'stolen' their profits... or will steal their profits.

      This is nearly the same as say:
      If a drunk kills someone with a car, the family of that person sues the drunk driver not only for the wrongful death o
  • I really don't understand....pirates are trying to make a quick buck, right?

    The handheld console games from a while back were selling because they were easy to use and on the cheap.

    Why would you bother knocking off NES consoles and games when most people who have the itch just buy GB versions or use emulators?

    Wouldn't it make more sense to pirate Gameboy games?
    • I get the impression that this is a case of those "10 in one" or "plug right into your TV" game console things, rather than actual NES and cartridges. You know, like all of those crappy game-things they sell in kiosks in malls nowadays.
  • Analogy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dizzle (781717) on Friday April 15, 2005 @12:55AM (#12241849) Journal
    The way I view it it's similar to records -> tapes -> cd's -> ???? -> profit!!!

    Seriously though, Thriller first came out on vinyl. Everything was good. The tape offered portability. Everything was still good. The CD offered portability and sound quality. Still grand. You can buy these games for a song for the original NES, or you can pay 20$ for the portable version that has all the graphics of the original (sometimes improved) and maybe a few extras thrown in here and there. Sounds like a good deal to me.

    The issue is this: some, if not most, of these games are not available for sale any more. I can't go to a store and pick up Double Dragon, for any system. I need to hunt hunt hunt for it. Now Nintendo may want to rerelease these games, they may not, but they can't say that they're currently losing millions of dollars in revenue. These guys have been stopped, I guess sales of old NES carts should start bringing in the big bucks for them again.

    HOWEVER, that being said... these guys were profiting from counterfeit goods, and I'm sure no one can condone that.
  • by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Friday April 15, 2005 @01:14AM (#12241925) Journal
    An anticircumvention ruling was issued by the Librarian of Congress on 10/28/2003. It protects - for the time being - sites such as ours at videogamemaps.net (my url). The pertinent clause:

    (3) Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

    Sounds like the FBI straight out fucked up to me.
    http://www.copyright.gov/1201/
  • This is kind of insane.

    They do not sell the games themselves. Nor do they sell the consoles that these games require to run. And they have no online aftermarket auctioning thing which might tie resale of used items into a revenue generating stream

    And yet they claim lost revenue?

    It obviously can't be enough revenue to motivate them to actually sell the product. If it was, then I would expect them to put Donkey Kong et al on the shelves for consumers to purchase.

    This is an interesting loophole on Ameri

  • The article doesn't give details, but I believe this is the crackdown on those shitty "9999 videogames for $9.95!" booths at every mall. Yup, those pieces of crap. Not only is it just blatant copyright infringment, it's some massive trademark dilution too. They make "9999" videogames because they just rename the NES games over and over. So you've got "Ice climbers" "Glacier Climbers" "Slippery Climbers"... bah. Oh, and 75 copies of "Duck Hunt" that you can't use because they don't actually have a pr

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