GitHub removes repository containing Game Boy Advance emulator at Nintendo's request

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

TorrentFreak now reports that GitHub was served with a DMCA notice to remove a repository that held a Game Boy Advance emulator and several games. The browser-based Javascript GBA emulator allowed players to play games like Advance Wars, Dragon Ball Z, Super Mario Advance, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, and Legend of Zelda.

"The files located at the repository link contain unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s video game software in violation of the law and GitHub’s Terms of Service," Nintendo wrote in its takedown request.

GitHub complied with the cease and desist, so the repository is on lockdown barring a counter-notice from the repository owner. Nintendo indicated in its letter that it still might pursue legal action against the offender.

“We are considering action regarding those matters but are not including them in this notice,” the company said.

If the company is serious about shutting down every emulator of its hardware, its legal team may find itself writing a lot of demand letters. Nintendo emulators are relatively common across the internet, and several others still remain even on GitHub.

Hardware emulation is one of those murky legal gray areas that is easy to see both sides of the story. On the one hand, you have the copyright owner who certainly has a valid claim under the law. Then on the other hand, in some (if not most) instances the hardware being emulated has been out of production for years, so emulation is the only way to access such software.

The Game Boy Advance, for example, was discontinued in 2010. Unless you happen to have an old one lying around, you’re not going to get a chance to play Advance Wars without using an emulator.

Usually in situations where the hardware has been discontinued for a time, and the software titles are no longer generating revenue for the copyright holder, emulators are left alone. However, if the owner gets word that money is being made from its IP, it will go after the offender. That is what got LoveROMS and LoveRETRO in trouble — the owner of the websites was monetizing the emulators.

In the case of the GitHub repository in question, TorrentFreak says there is no indication that the owner of the emulator was profiting in any way. Of course, who knows with Nintendo. It might be getting ready to release a Game Boy Advance Classic Edition and doesn’t want any emulators stealing its thunder.

What do you think? Should Nintendo allow sites to host emulators of its old discontinued hardware as long as the site is not profiting from it? Or should it put the screws to anyone daring to offer old defunct titles to fans or those who may have never had a chance to play them?

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yRaz

Nigerian Prince
While you can play gameboy games on other hardware, obtaining the games is another matter as they are also out of production. IDK love to play old Zelda games in the switch. I'd pay for the privilege but Nintendo isnt providing a product that many people will PAY for
 
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ZackL04

TS Guru
While you can play gameboy games on other hardware, obtaining the games is another matter as they are also out of production. IDK love to play old Zelda games in the switch. I'd pay for the privilege but Nintendo isnt providing a product that many people will PAY for
I agree, I sold my NES classic and SNES classic to buy a switch thinking it would have these games available sooner than later....that was around February...
 
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Mighty Duck

TS Addict
I wonder what could happen with the CEMU team, those guys actually have a Patreon meaning they are getting paid for their emulation-developing efforts.
 

gamerk2

TS Maniac
The issue here isn't the emulator; the Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that clean-room reverse engineering is perfectly legal. The issue here is the fact that the emulator in question plays ROMS that are hosted on the Internet, which is a big no-no.

You can backup copies of your own cartridges and CDs/DVDs, per the DMCA. But you can't legally download them or run them off the internet. That's why Nintendo is focusing on this emulator in particular, since this one is outright ignoring the law.
 

Sausagemeat

TS Maniac
I don’t see how Nintendo pulling emulators and illegal ROMS is an *****ic thing to do. It’s their property. If you can emulate Nintendo games for free you’re less likely to buy them. I understand that yes it’s annoying for us gamers who want free Nintendo games but I can’t blame Nintendo for it.
 

gamerk2

TS Maniac
I don’t see how Nintendo pulling emulators and illegal ROMS is an *****ic thing to do. It’s their property. If you can emulate Nintendo games for free you’re less likely to buy them. I understand that yes it’s annoying for us gamers who want free Nintendo games but I can’t blame Nintendo for it.
As I noted before: Emulation is legal. Making backups of games you already own is legal. What Nintendo is really going after here are the hosted ROM images, which is certainly illegal.
 

NightAntilli

TS Maniac
I don’t see how Nintendo pulling emulators and illegal ROMS is an *****ic thing to do. It’s their property. If you can emulate Nintendo games for free you’re less likely to buy them. I understand that yes it’s annoying for us gamers who want free Nintendo games but I can’t blame Nintendo for it.
Buy them where?
 

Sausagemeat

TS Maniac
Buy them where?
There are several classic games available for download on the Nintendo store. All for extortionate prices. I don’t know which ones exactly, these extortionate prices put me off. £50 for Skyrim on the switch in 2017? So that’s 5 years after I paid £20 for it on the PC?

Of course I don’t like Nintendo’s business model, I want cheap access to Nintendo games and hardware. I even think Nintendo could make a lot more money if they slashed prices as I believe their products have a high price elasticity. But at the end of the day Nintendo probably know how to run their own business better than me or most people.

Still, no skin off Nintendo’s nose at all to get the emulators removed. Can’t see it as an *****ic move. I think most people are aware of the fact that Nintendo doesn’t really love any of us, just our money. And it’s not like people are going to boycott buying Nintendo products because of this decision. In my case and most users of emulators, we weren’t buying them anyway!