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Wii Businesses Nintendo Entertainment Games

Atari Sub-Sub-Contractor Used ScummVM For Wii Game 313

Posted by Soulskill
from the hand-in-the-cookie-jar dept.
MBCook writes "In several recent releases, it seems that Atari published games for the Wii based on ScummVM, which was released under the GPL. Atari contracted Majesco, who contracted a company named Mistic Software with offices in the Ukraine. When the fact that the GPL was being violated was brought to Atari's attention, they were kind at first until it was discovered that Nintendo doesn't allow open source software to be used with the Wii SDK, so updated documentation mentioning the GPL wasn't an available solution. So, what happens to the games? 'There is a period of time in which all current copies have to be sold. Any copies beyond this period or any reprints get fined with quite high fine for each new/remaining copy. The remaining stock has to be destoryed [sic].' Atari and Majesco seem to have been very cooperative about this whole thing, but had their hands tied by the agreement with Nintendo."
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Atari Sub-Sub-Contractor Used ScummVM For Wii Game

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  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:49AM (#28453381) Homepage Journal

    Nintendo literally hates open source. Guess I'll skip that DSi.

  • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <sorceror171.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:51AM (#28453409) Homepage
    Companies do have to be careful how they use GPL code, sure. But the real lesson here is that companies have to be much more careful about who their subcontractors are!
  • by julesh (229690) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:59AM (#28453557)

    Horse status: bolted.
    Would you like me to close the stable door?

    (Obviously, the reason for nintendo refusing to distribute open source software on their platform is that it may also _requires_ them to distribute a toolchain for the platform, including signing keys etc as required to get code to run. Anyone who has already purchased one of these games, or who receives a copy from someone who has, has the right to demand this now.)

  • Re:GPL Grey Area (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:01AM (#28453609) Homepage

    Uhm,

    The SCUMM interpretor is the problem, not the data it is reading.

  • by Sj0 (472011) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:01AM (#28453617) Homepage Journal

    Since when?

    I've never seen anything even remotely close to such a thing.

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:04AM (#28453647)

    What's more likely is this response: OMG! GPL was violated! String Atari up by their balls!!11!!1! The GPL is sacred and must not be blasphemed like this. Grab your torches and pitchforks... we're going on a witch hunt!

    What's even more ironic is that those very same people probably have no qualms violating the copyright of Apple, MSFT, members of the RIAA or the MPAA. That is hypocrisy at its finest.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:07AM (#28453687)
    They can demand it, but is an unknowing party subject to the license or simply required to cease distribution when informed? It would be difficult to legally force Nintendo to provide anything in this circumstance...
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:09AM (#28453715) Homepage

    Atari would just have to make the modifications to ScummVM available somewhere

    s/would have have to/do/

    Cessation is not a remedy. The deed is done. Let's see the source.

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by julesh (229690) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:13AM (#28453783)

    Nintendo wants to prevent leakage of information about the Wii hardware that people can use to hack the machine. Of course, the Wii has already been throughly hacked and so it's just corporate doublethink to pretend it hasn't.

    No, what they want to prevent is more serious than information about hardware. You see, to make code run, you need a signing key. They'll be required to distribute this with the source code under the GPL, because otherwise you can't compile new software.

  • by bzzfzz (1542813) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:17AM (#28453845)

    What's the reasoning behind disallowing it? I don't understand.

    The platform is closed and Nintendo control the approval process, what's the downside for them?

    Their attorneys think about the GPL and the FSF the same way slashdotters think about ASCAP and the RIAA.

  • by cheapbastard (1534205) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:17AM (#28453859)
    Despite what supporters of OSS believe Should or Should Not be allowed or done, Nintendo still has the right to decide what software is acceptable for use on their hardware.

    The issue or lesson here is that companies have to be more diligent when fulfilling their contractual obligations. I Atari feels that it does not have to check on its suppliers, then the short coming lies with Atari, not Nintendo.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:19AM (#28453897) Homepage

    They can demand it, but is an unknowing party subject to the license or simply required to cease distribution when informed? It would be difficult to legally force Nintendo to provide anything in this circumstance...

    Even assuming that any of Nintendo's code would be involved (it's not obvious to me that this would be the case), you couldn't force them to do anything. If they don't comply with the terms of the GPL, then they are not licensed under the GPL, ergo they are guilty of copyright violations. It'd be their choice to comply with the GPL or accept the penalties for copyright violation, which would include having to cease distribution. You can't force a company to comply with a license agreement they never agreed to, you can only punish them for not having a license to begin with.

    So yeah, you're right.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc,paradise&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:30AM (#28454103) Homepage Journal

    Words posted on slashdot to not pay the bills. Nintendo is obviously concerned about the viral nature of GPL'ed code.

    Far as I know, the GPL can't be applied retroactively to the external platform the application is built on. It ain't that viral ;)

  • by abigor (540274) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:32AM (#28454129)

    I'd like to hear your opinion on it. What is the crucial difference that makes one form of copyright violation okay, and the other not okay? Is it simply the word "profit"?

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:38AM (#28454227)
    ScummVM released their software under the GPL. They did not do this with the intention of preventing Wii development, they did it with the intention of ensuring that all copies of their code, including modified copies, remain open source. ScummVM's developers would love to see ScummVM running on the Wii, and they did not attack anyone for doing this; Nintendo is the belligerent party here, for preventing developers from licensing Wii games in certain ways.
  • by patSPLAT (14441) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:41AM (#28454295) Homepage

    This really should be a story about the legal risks of sub contracting... if you ship the work out, then it's very difficult to make sure all your ducks are in a row.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd o t .org> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @11:58AM (#28454595)

    No, you don't get, just how twisted those lawyers' minds are:

    They thought, if their code can't be a illegal copy of ScummVM, then ScrummVM must be the illegal ones.
    So they started, just like children, to say "No you are stupid and have stolen it from me!".
    They seriously think they can act as if ScummVM reverse-engineered "their" oh-so-precious game so that Nintendo does not realize they broke a license with them too!
    And they think that, because they are a big company, they can get trough with it.

    Obviously they are stuck between a rock, and a hard place, and pretty much fucked either way. Essentially all because of Nintendo and that small sub-sub-contractor.
    If I were Nintendo, I would lift the ban for open source games, and profit from it. But those managers have to much exaggerated egos, and think changing their minds would look weak. (When in fact, being so stiff, does make them look weak and stupid.)
    If I were the EFF, I would sure Atari, and instantly call them up, and tell them, that this is not directed at them, but meant to be redirected to the real sourceos of this (The sub-sub-contractor and Nintendo.)
    If I were Atari, I would then sue the sub-sub-contractor, to pay damages to the EFF, the ScummVM team, etc, and be out of it.
    Then the EFF should lobby a bit at Nintendo, to show them, how much they can actually profit from allowing open source software on their console. (Explain to them how essential a community is for a game and a console, and quote right out of Jesse Schell's (chairman of the international game developers association) book, chapter 22.)

  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @12:03PM (#28454673)

    Releasing the compile or whatever to run the code isn't required - it is just the code that is required.

    Otherwise I could buy a license for Redhat or Novell for zOS (or use Debian's port to the s390, etc) and "they" (RH, Novell, Debian) would need to give me an IBM mainframe since that is the only way I could run the code?

    So where's my free mainframe?

  • An SDK on another platform does not count as 'libraries that are part of the operating system', as far as I can tell.

    And I don't think the DS SDK works like you'd expect a normal compiler to work...I believe it builds a single binary executable that is the entire OS and game. So the 'operating system' essentially doesn't exist independent of the binary, or, to rephrase, there is no OS. There's a compiled function to, say, draw a pixel on the screen, and a header for that, and if your DS program uses that, it is included in the final binary.

    What's more, I think you're wrong. GPL programs can link to Windows DLLs because Windows DLLs do not have restrictive licensing on them. They're commercial, yes, but they have no restrictions on who can link to them, as long as you own a legal copy of them. (Which you got with Windows.)

    DS libraries, being part of and included with the SDK, also have the same restrictive licensing as the SDK.

    That said, obviously this wouldn't force Nintendo to do anything. It would simply make the distribution of said binaries illegal.

  • Re:How exactly? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @12:10PM (#28454795)

    If there were no copyright laws there isn't any way the GPL could exist, legally speaking.

    And it wouldn't be required either. The GPL is a legal hack to turn copyright law around on itself.

  • The license to the MS code (basically only the various library code) you get with Visual Studio is one that you can use it anywhere, I believe. Something like BSD code. If you link into MS's libraries you don't need the source, so there's no GPL problem there. An SDK like that for the Wii DOES need the source, though. And if you can't distribute that source, you can't use it with GPL software.
  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @12:59PM (#28455721) Homepage Journal

    What's more likely is this response: OMG! GPL was violated! String Atari up by their balls!!11!!1! The GPL is sacred and must not be blasphemed like this. Grab your torches and pitchforks... we're going on a witch hunt!

    What's even more ironic is that those very same people probably have no qualms violating the copyright of Apple, MSFT, members of the RIAA or the MPAA. That is hypocrisy at its finest.

    I don't know who these hypothetical people are, who you're talking about... It seems that when you're talking about imaginary people you can apply whatever level of hypocrisy to their opinions that you like - in reality, I suspect you're seeing different groups of people who post on Slashdot and assuming they all hold the same set of opinions... More "groupthink" bullshit...

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @01:18PM (#28456045)
    The bit about open source/GPL software being used isn't the important part of this story. The major point that should be learned is that sub-sub-contracting out to development companies in (sorry, Russia) practically lawless countries can expose the parent company to SEVERE repercussions. Atari wasn't really to blame, other than being too trusting, but they're bearing the costs. The major development houses NEED to be actively involved, at least in an auditing sense, with whoever is actually writing the code.
  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @02:17PM (#28456905)

    After reading TFA, I get the impression that besides the GPL violations, the choice of license for ScummVM is itself an issue. The ScummVM developers seem to have no specific interest in getting the code back, rather they just want to be credited for their work on ScummVM and are proud of the fact that it was used in a commercial title. Accordingly, it strikes me that ScummVM was wrapped in entirely the wrong license.

    This seems like a textbook case for using the MIT license or some other non-copyleft license where the authors are attributed, but the code isn't forced open. You see this on other projects like LUA or the Vorbis reference decoder, where they are commonly used in commercial games with great success, including Wii games. If the ScummVM developers are as disinterested in the copyleft aspects of the GPL as they seem to be, then they should be looking at relicensing ScummVM under a more permissive license, which would avoid these kinds of snafus. If you just want attribution, it's much easier to just ask for that then to get in these boondoggles of asking for the code and tools too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @05:22PM (#28459775)

    What strikes me is this:

    1.It's ok for me to reverse engineer your work and derive fame or whatever from it.

    2.But, It's theft when someone uses the same code.

    Writing the code is the easy part, thinking about the code that should be written is the hard one.

That does not compute.

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