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Emulation (Games) Games Your Rights Online

Atari C&Ds Emulators, Site About Asteroids 155

An anonymous reader writes "Atari Inc. has launched another round of cease-and-desist letters targeted at what remains of its fan community. Having threatened homebrewers for the Atari 2600 and 8-bit systems, as well as emulator authors for mobile platforms like Android, they're now upping the ante by menacing Atari emulator authors on the Dreamcast and sites with Asteroids in the name (though in fairness, that site apparently once hosted a version of the Asteroids game). The working theory is that the company is planning a big push into the mobile market, and is trying to eliminate everything it believes could threaten its latest attempts at reviving the brand name. However, the emulators in question appear to have no copyrighted content from Atari, so it's unclear what exactly Atari believes the infringing material to be."
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Atari C&Ds Emulators, Site About Asteroids

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  • by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:46PM (#37289578) Journal

    However, the emulators in question appear to have no copyrighted content from Atari, so it's unclear what exactly Atari believes the infringing material to be

    Their trademark.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      That's one thing I guess. Even so I could care less about this. If what's left of atari wants to slice it's own throat that's their business. Stupid is as stupid does and suing the few remaining fans they have ranks right up there. That's bean counters for ya.

      • Infogrames has forever tainted the Atari brand to the point that it is almost worthless. They've done more damage than a hundred Tramiels. Their shareholders should be pissed. What an ignominious waste of an incredible legacy.

        • I like how the base unit of damage to a company name is the "Tramiel". How much face has Sony lost in the past five years, would you say? 2-3 kiloTramiels?
          • by amiga3D (567632)

            I don't know that Jack Tramiel really did all that much damage to Atari. By the time he took over Atari was already reeling. The clones were stomping on everyone by that time.

            • Well, there was also the exit wound he left in Commodore to consider. I've heard that the headaches that Atari caused for Commodore's acquisition of Amiga didn't exactly help.
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Using a trademark for identification purposes is kosher IIRC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        The fact that the BIOS of a machine made in 1975 can be DMCAed shows us why China and India is gonna kick our ass. Can you believe such insanity? our entire industry is building upon the shoulders of the giants that came before but thanks to Valenti (may he rot in hell) and his endless copyrights combined with DMCA garbage the west is pretty much dead with regards to innovation.

        One simply can no longer build on the ideas of the past without a giant minefield of patents and copyrights controlled by absolute

    • by Purity Of Essence (1007601) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:58PM (#37289740)

      Except they are spamming DMCA notices -- the C standing for Copyright -- and all of the claims made in the notices are about copyright infringement. I hope someone nails Atari to the wall for this bullshit.

      • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

        Except they are spamming DMCA notices

        I can't verify that at the moment, as the dcemulation site is blocked, but the term "cease-and-desist letters" (used in TFS) doesn't specifically only apply to DMCA takedown notices.

        • by Purity Of Essence (1007601) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:32PM (#37290226)

          Here's a copy of the initial post of the DCemu thread linked in the summary:

          I received this cease and desist letter from Atari, are they completely dumb, did you guys get one? Should we be concerned? As far as I know, its still legal to distribute emulators unless some new law passed? and of all the sites, they are referring to my old ass DCEmu archive.

          "Atari, Inc.
          417 5th Avenue
          New York, NY 10016-2204

          Tel: 212-726-6500
          Fax: 212-726-4214

          August 30, 2011


          Dear Domain Admin:

          I am writing on behalf of Atari, Inc./Atari Interactive, Inc. (“Atari”) to demand that you immediately and permanently cease and desist from the infringing activities described below and comply with the other demands set forth in this letter.

          Atari is a global producer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment software for all market segments and all interactive game platforms. Atari is the exclusive owner of intellectual property rights, including copyrights and trademarks, in numerous interactive entertainment software products, including those listed below, and vigilantly protects its rights.

          Based on available information, Atari has a good faith belief that the url(s):


          infringes its copyright and other intellectual property right by copying, reproducing and/or offering for distribution, display and/or download (including through links to other sites) unauthorized console emulation software and/or unauthorized copies of game products (software) protected by Atari’s copyright rights. Atari’s copyrighted works that have been infringed include:

          Atari 800; Atari 2600; Atari 7800; Atari Lynx

          The infringing material or the material that is the subject of infringing activities (collectively referred to as “Infringing Material”) is listed and/or identified by console and game-related titles or variations thereof, console and game-related descriptions, or images of console and game-related artwork.

          The Infringing Material is in violation of Atari’s exclusive rights under the United States Copyright Act. It therefore constitutes copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. 501.

          Pursuant to the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), which is codified at 17 USC 512, Atari demands that you 1) expeditiously remove or disable access to the Infringing Material; and 2) take steps to prevent further infringement of Atari’s intellectual property rights at the above referenced URL(s).

          I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described herein is not authorized by Atari, its agent, or the law. The information in this notification is accurate. Under penalty of perjury, I affirm I am authorized to act on behalf of Atari whose exclusive copyright rights I believe to be infringed as described herein.

          This notice is not intended to be a complete statement of the facts or law in this matter. Nor is it intended to be a complete statement of Atari's positions, rights or remedies, legal or equitable, all of which are specifically reserved.

          If you have any questions, please contact me by phone 212-726-6500 or email at

          Thank you.


          Kristen Keller,
          SVP & General Counsel"


          • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

            Ok, so they are claiming copyright infringement.

            They might be infringing, or they might not. It all depends on how the emulator was written, and whether or not they're providing ROM images or linking to other sites that do. Emulators are legal, but as I understand it there are certain limitations to avoid legal issues. E.g. the IBM-compatible BIOS, which was (legally) reverse-engineered from the IBM PC BIOS. The BIOS in classic Macs, by comparison, has never been reverse-engineered (to my knowledge), so in

            • by DavidTC (10147)

              Atari 2600s don't have BIOSes. Seriously.

              It sounds surreal, but they simply started executing code directly off the cartridge. (They didn't copy it into console memory...they couldn't, the damn thing had 128 bytes of RAM.)

              There is nothing copyrightable inside an Atari 2600 except the 'video ROM', which emulators obviously don't use. (1)

              Which is why this [] was found legal. (And, hell, at that point in time there were patents, also. Patents that have since expired.)

              1) The TIA, as it is called, is an utterly

              • by LocalH (28506)

                The TIA is in no way a "video ROM". And emulators obviously do "use" the TIA, or at least clone the functionality of it, else you'd get no video output. But, thanks to Coleco, cloning the TIA is legal as a settled matter of case law, even if the patents were still active.

                • by DavidTC (10147)

                  I really don't understand what you're trying to say there. If you want to assert the TIA has no actual firmware in it, that is fine, and perhaps true, I have no idea. As the system itself has no BIOS, it is entirely possible there is no video BIOS either.

                  But if it has no ROM, then the emulator can't be 'using' it. Uh, duh.

                  And I don't know why you decided that 'cloning' has to do with anything. Emulators do not 'clone'. Emulators 'emulate'. You can tell because they're called called emulators, not clones.

          • Sounds like the letter was produced by moronic marketdroids rather than a buncha bozo barristers.
      • Except they are spamming DMCA notices -- the C standing for Copyright -- and all of the claims made in the notices are about copyright infringement. I hope someone nails Atari to the wall for this bullshit.

        I haven't heard someone say that since Ms. PacMan.

      • by russotto (537200)

        The one I found [] isn't a DMCA notice, it's a C&D to the owner of the site, not the ISP. But it pretends to be a DMCA notice.

        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          IANAL, so could you explain why it "pretends to be" but isn't really a DMCA notice?

          • His point is, a DMCA takedown notice is sent to an ISP, not a site owner, in order to compel them to remove the content without requiring the cooperation of the allegedly infringing party. The ISP must comply, in exchange for which they are absolved of any liability in hosting the allegedly infringing content. So, he's technically correct, it's not a DMCA takedown notice in the purest sense, but it fits all the requirements of a DMCA takedown notice excepting who the notice was sent to.

          • by LocalH (28506)

            Because it was sent to the site owner directly, and not to the ISP.

      • To be fair, a few of them do link to Copyrighted ROMs and some give instructions on where/how to obtain copyrighted ROMs. It can be argued that links themselves do not constitute infringement, but they are not always upheld. I have never heard of instructions, being considered infringement. I guess they just wanted to bully people into removing stuff they didnt like.

        • BTW, IANAL!

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          but really people do you think that the people that use emulators would buy atari retreads? Or worse do you think they would wouldn't buy a good new version of an Atari game?
          This is just a waste. Next they will go after Strella.

          • by bedouin (248624)

            Look over at AtariAge. The front page has an article about Atari's Greatest Hits for iOS. A lot of people, including myself bought it, just because we're classic gaming fans. They're also the same demographic who bought many of the all in one joysticks and keychains. Just like with music and movies, the biggest fans are naturally the biggest spenders AND downloaders. One day maybe these idiots will understand that.

            • by LWATCDR (28044)

              Pretty much fans are who will buy these and they will buy them out of love.
              Same people that get the emulators.

    • by Rob Kaper (5960)

      If they were smart, they would stop overestimating the value of the Atari trademark. Most mobile gamers are too young to have a positive reaction to the name itself. The rest are probably old and experienced enough to realise their past achievements are not relevant today. Just find a new name. It is actually possible to launch a succesful brand with a name unknown twenty years ago, you know.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      'Their trademark.'

      Since there's no actual trading going on here, where's the violation?

    • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:55PM (#37290468)
      Bullshit. It's more legalized extortion. They know just the threat of a length and expensive lawsuit is enough to get these small operations to shut down, even when Atari knows damned well they don't have a case. Laws and rights don't mean shit if you can't afford to defend them. Welcome to America.
    • by LocalH (28506)

      Except none of the machine names are currently trademarked (and the one existing "Atari 2600" trademark - not "2600", but "Atari 2600" - is a dead mark).

    • by mikael (484)

      An Atari 400/800/1200(XL) emulator requires copies of the contents of the ROM chips to run (BASIC, Atari-DOS, ASSEMBLER). But for many third-party games that booted directly from disk, that wouldn't apply.

      For the games (consoles, computers) themselves, the ROM codes of many games have been put online. In the past you would need the original hardware and some EPROMS to play the games, but now you can just run the emulator.

      Atari did bring out a retro style joystick controller that had about 100+ original 260

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday September 02, 2011 @03:41PM (#37290984)

      Their trademark

      Exactly. If they don't protect the name "Atari" from being used by these sites, there's a chance that someone under the age of 30 might actually learn what "Atari" is.

      • by ncc74656 (45571) *

        Exactly. If they don't protect the name "Atari" from being used by these sites, there's a chance that someone under the age of 30 might actually learn what "Atari" is.

        When using someone else's trademark in reference to products or services, isn't it usually sufficient to acknowledge that the trademark in question belongs to whoever? You mark the first occurrence of a trademark with the appropriate marks (which /. unhelpfully mangled for me, so they're not included for reference). Once that's done, you the

    • by DRBivens (148931)

      Their trademark.

      No, I don't think so. Intellectual Property, perhaps, but the takedown request, which may be seen by following one of the links in TFA, specifically mentions "17 U.S.C. sect. 501", which is copyright, not trademark law. (For trademark law, see the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.)

      This really looks like they think he's distributing their property. He should take a deep breath and send them a letter, clearly stating that he's doing no such thing.

      Here are what appear to be the salient points of Atari

  • Sure it's a technicality, as the ROMs aren't art of the emulator, but it's obvious they don't want people playing Atari games, because they probably intend to release thm on the App store.

    But hey, don't let common sense get in the way.

    • So they should go after the sites that host ROMs and such. Emulators are legal, regardless of how people may use them to do illegal things. Courts have stated this in many cases in the past. As long as the emulator authors don't go so far as telling people where to get ROMs and the like, I don't see how Atari would have a leg to stand on.
      • by Endovior (2450520)

        So they should go after the sites that host ROMs and such. Emulators are legal, regardless of how people may use them to do illegal things. Courts have stated this in many cases in the past. As long as the emulator authors don't go so far as telling people where to get ROMs and the like, I don't see how Atari would have a leg to stand on.

        This is true... but the fact remains that the average person is notoriously vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits. Most people don't want to go to court, even if they'd win, because the amount of money a big corporation can throw into harassing and delaying them in legal ways is very large. Even if you're totally in the right, what's easier... fighting a lengthy legal battle over your right to continue pursuing some hobby you're up to, spending large amounts of your own money in the process? Or simply conced

        • by spazdor (902907)

          This is why it needs to be easier to countersue for your legal expenses and time.

      • by bonch (38532) *

        They're not legal if they're using Atari trademarks or linking to Atari ROMs, such as BIOS images.

        • by LocalH (28506)

          The emulator authors are doing neither (unless you can find a trademark for a targeted machine outside of the dead "Atari 2600" mark). The 2600, which is a targeted machine, never had a BIOS. Try again.

      • Emulators are legal, regardless of how people may use them to do illegal things. Courts have stated this in many cases in the past.

        Got any cites for that? AFAIK there has never been a definitive ruling on the matter; Bleem! ran out of money before they got that far. Haven't researched it though.

        • Your honor, the defense cites Sony v. Connectix: []

          Although the case in question pertains to whether or not Connectix as a whole were engaging in copyright infringement by way of having "intermediate copies" of the BIOS for the original Sony Playstation, I would submit that the following statement in Judge Canby's ruling on the case is pretty definitive regarding both the legality of emulators as well as the subject matter (trademarks) with regard to which
          • Your honor, the defense cites Sony v. Connectix: []

            That's one decision, and it's also the only 'emulation' decision I can find doing a full text search of Nimmer on Copyright. That's not "many cases," as claimed. Also, there's no real discussion in Connectix with regards to the actual act of emulation; Connectix constrained its analysis to the issue of copying of Sony's BIOS for the purpose of building/testing the emulator. Not saying it's not 'good' law, but it's not very 'strong' law; it may even be dicta.

            The current Oracle / Google case could prove inter

    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      ... it's obvious they don't want people playing Atari games ...

      Well, I for one am happy to oblige.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      You should take your own advice.

      Lame copies are not a replacement for the real thing. This is the basic flaw in all of this nonsense and nonsense like it.

      It makes absolutely no sense to attack the enthusiasts that have been keeping your brand alive for years. If you want to "cash in", then license the use of the original ROMs. You could even improve the emulation experience on the platforms you want better visibility on.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        And at their price, I would still just go to a yard sale and buy them for 50 cents. Although if they offered the ROM's for $1 each, I'd save myself the trouble.

  • by diodeus (96408) on Friday September 02, 2011 @01:59PM (#37289750) Journal

    8-bit Atari is to Atari is like Duke Nukem is to Duke Nukem Forever.

  • by neostorm (462848)

    Sorry Atari, you're not even the same entity you think you used to be. This is like me taking on the name of some deceased man, and trying to claim his property and namesake in retrospect.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:05PM (#37289814) Homepage

    Going after 2600 emulators for Dreamcast?

    Going after emulators for Android is like the RIAA going after bit torrents. Going after emulators for Dreamcast is like the RIAA going after bootleg Edison cylinders.

    (Not that I don't have emulators for the 2600 and NES for my Dreamcast--I do--but still. The phrase "bigger fish to fry" comes to mind.)

  • Who knew?

    *goes back to sleep*
    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      In name only. I believe the company that bought the name was known as Infogrames, but acquired the Atari trademark and game library sometime in the early naughties.

      Back in the 90's I worked as an artist on a game for the original Atari in Milpitas, they folded over a decade ago.

      • by Carrot007 (37198)

        > Back in the 90's I worked as an artist on a game for the original Atari in Milpitas, they folded over a decade ago.

        Well you pass on the maths.

        However the original Atari are surely Atari Inc. They ceased to be in 1984.

        • by Osgeld (1900440)

          correct, if anyone was working for atari in the 90's they were just in denial, Pretty sure Time Warner still owned them directly into the ground up till the jag and then traded off to infogames probably as a joke. Which I honestly cant say who makes a shittier game tween those three.

          After that its hard to tell, Atari is like a crack whore, hitting up each company for the opportunity to score another hit.

          • Atari passed through several hands between Time-Warner and Inforgrames. Before Warner, it was owned by it's founders (Nolan Bushnell, et al). After the North American video game crash, the Tramiels (Commodore's founders) purchased Atari's debt from Time-Warner in the mid-80s for next to nothing. After a reasonable run of actually producing compelling product (Atari ST/TT/Falcon line and the over-hyped and critically bugged Jaguar), they sold it to a disk drive manufacturer in the 90s, who in turn sold it to

            • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

              My stint was in 93 and prior to the Jaguar release. As far as who ran the show then, I have no clue -- I was a contractor, worked from home and only met the team in Milpitas once when I was in the Bay Area for a visit since I lived in Seattle back then.

  • It read "Delete yourself! [] (You got no chance to win!)"
  • Maybe this recent push has to do with the upcoming Asteroids movie [] that was announced a while back.
    • by Anomalyst (742352)

      Maybe this recent push has to do with the upcoming Asteroids movie that was announced a while back.

      DO NOT WANT.

  • I grew up on Atari games, maybe they are planning a push into the mobile market. That'd be cool. But suing everyone who still remembers your name is not a good way to generate good will.

    • I know this one!!

      There's this Triangular Lawyer, flying around, suing at anyone and anything that uses the Atari name! The small targets are single businesses - the larger ones are small companies and clubs, which, when sued, split up and take the emulators and pass them around!

  • Do these retards understand that in a couple of years, your iphone is going to have the 3D capability of a PS2? Who's going to play "asteroids" as an iPhone app when Sega will be releasing Shenmu as an app?

    They are assuming nostalgia value, but seriously, the larger market for the smartphones is 20-somethings who have NO memory of 8-bit Atari games. To them nostalgia is Pokemon and Power Rangers, and the games they played were SNES Starfox or better.

    • by bonch (38532) *

      It doesn't matter what you think of their business decisions or their target markets (Atari was before my time, but I'd still play a retro Asteroids). That doesn't mean they don't have the right.

      • by LocalH (28506)

        They don't have the right to go after these emulators, though - they don't infringe "Atari's" copyrights at all. None of them include BIOS images, and the 2600 never had a BIOS to begin with. Also AFAIK all patents are expired on the targeted machines, especially in the case of the 2600. The machine names (2600, 7800, etc) are also not trademarked ("Atari 2600" used to be trademarked, but is a dead mark now).

        Fuck "Atari".

        • As far as I can tell, they're not going after the emulators themselves, but the sites that host them...that also often link to ROM hosting sites, or sneakily tell you where to go to get them. AtariAge has direct links to ROMS!

          Also the "names" are trademarked. So those sites had better be using the ATARI® and 2600â as appropriate.

          • by LocalH (28506)

            Um, did you ignore me? I searched and found no active marks for any of the specific model numbers, except for a dead mark for "Atari 2600".

            • How could ignore you when I hadn't even seen your other post when I posted thi, impatient much?

              The various Atari trademarks are most certainly still active. Check the Atari Anthology box if you don't believe me. And even if the model number isn't still trademarked, the games still are as is the Atari name.

              Look, lets be honest...emulators are used for copyright infringement, we all know this. Sure there's a few homebrew games...but the majority of emulator users don't play them.

    • by Dogtanian (588974)
      Disclaimer; this reply is not an endorsement of Atari being dicks.

      Who's going to play "asteroids" as an iPhone app when Sega will be releasing Shenmu as an app?

      I would- Asteroids is a great game. (Let's ignore that it might suck without physical buttons- that's clearly not the point you were making). Without looking it up on Wikipedia, I genuinely don't know (nor care) what Shenmu is, beyond being a game. I don't claim to be typical, nor a part of the most lucrative market. I say this to show that your personal view (*gasp*) doesn't represent every person on the planet, despite the fact you think it

  • Good point. I haven't played asteroids in a while. Time to fire up the ol emulator.

  • Its some holding company who bought the rights. What most of us would consider Atari has been gone for a long time now.

  • It's because some jerk-ass lawyer is working through Atari's trademark catalog alphabetically. Next...Breakout?

    Let's all go infringe against Yar's Revenge. We'll be safe for years!

  • I have an Atari 400, an 800XL, and a 520ST. They all still work!

    Not much you can do with them. Star Raiders is still fun every once in a while, though.
    • My Atari 800 still works (that bastard was a TANK), but sadly, the floppy drive and all the floppies have gone the way of the original Atari.... :)

      I can still play Centipede though... (one of the only carts I have left.)

      I loved me some Star Raiders though... man, that brings back memories. ;)

    • by Renegrade (698801)

      I'd love to play with an 800XL. That's like the 8-bit ancestor to my Amiga lineup.

365 Days of drinking Lo-Cal beer. = 1 Lite-year