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Nintendo Wins One Battle in Its Perpetual Uphill War

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By Nelson Schneider - 08/12/18 at 03:42 PM CT

This past week, EmuParadise – which is not a porn site for those who wish to have sexual relations with large flightless birds – pulled all ROM and ISO files from public availability, citing recent legal pressure from Nintendo on other emulation websites, which caved and shut themselves down. The site operators sensibly wished to protect themselves rather than risk utter and complete legal ruin at the hands of corporate lawyers, but have left the door open for the possibility of a fresh start in the future.

EmuParadise has been around since 2000, making it one of the oldest and most Google-friendly emulation sites on the Internet. It was EmuParadise where I first turned when I decided to finally experience “Dragon Quest 5” and “Dragon Quest 6” all those years ago, and it was EmuParadise that ultimately disappointed and frustrated me even then.

It’s easy to see the precedent set by EmuParadise caving to Nintendo’s legal threats as a disastrous one for both game preservation and the possibility of sane copyright reforms within our lifetime. There’s no doubt that a Big Evil Corporation getting its way is problematic for anyone who isn’t a Big Evil Corporation, but ultimately the loss of EmuParadise specifically isn’t anything traumatic.

For years, EmuParadise has already made it impossible to download Nintendo’s first-party titles, as, out of respect for Nintendo’s copyright, the site simply didn’t host them. But even before that, EmuParadise had a rather spotty collection, and in my early days of emulation, I encountered problems with bad dumps as well as the site’s woefully out-of-date emulator section, which is the only reason I experienced those afore mentioned ‘Dragon Quest’ fanslations in ZNES instead of SNES9x. I’ve been a fan of emulation for nearly as long as EmuParadise existed, and I’ve only used that particular site once or twice.

There are far better ways to get ahold of ROMs and ISOs. Of particular interest – and which I’ve covered in previous articles on this site – the Internet Archive currently hosts gobs of console ROMs in the name of preservation. These ROM sets, many produced by the No-Intro group, are of far higher quality and far more comprehensive than EmuParadise’s slapdash efforts. Even outside of the highly-legitimate Internet Archive, there are numerous good-quality ROM sites with far more comprehensive collections than EmuParadise ever had.

Of course, we still need to be concerned that perhaps EmuParadise is the emu… err… canary in the coal mine. Just two years ago in 2016, the filesharing network at Kickass Torrents was taken offline by the United States’ Federal Government in the name of protecting copyright. Other torrent sites folded and shut down in its wake, and today, two years later, it’s almost impossible to find anything good in torrents, and the “torrent sites” that have risen up to replace the fallen are just malware honeypots.

Sure, ROMhustler, DopeROMs, CoolROM, and others are still around today, keeping the emulation torch alive and bright as a bonfire, but what if Nintendo’s legal muscle-flexing spooks them? Well, then we’re back to the same sad state of gaming before emulation became a huge deal. Only recent stuff will be playable, and everything will be ephemeral. Young folks won’t be able to go back and experience the “classics” in all their warty, janky “glory.” And it’s not like Nintendo or any of the big rightsholders are actually doing right by gamers or history, as they have made themselves beholden to the twisted legal morass of their own construction, making it impossible to legally sell access to many old games if the copyright is even slightly in question. To top it off, the 9th Gen Nintendo hardware, the Switch, doesn’t even have a Virtual Console anymore, likely due to the commercial success of the NES and SNES Classic stand-alone emulation devices.

For me, it’s easy to pick a side in the IP Wars. I like(d) Nintendo, but I LOVE emulation. And I HATE Big Evil Corporations throwing their legal weight around. As much as these media corporations don’t want to admit it, culture can’t be monopolized. When a company or individual produces a cultural product, the moment they share it publicly, it is no longer exclusively theirs. Copyright assures them the opportunity to make money off these cultural products, originally for a reasonable period of time, but through their legal clout, these rightsholders have corrupted the system beyond reason. Nintendo’s renewed legal efforts against ROM sites have proven that the company that revived videogames in the early ‘80s doesn’t truly care about gaming culture. Everyone who does love gaming more than they love Nintendo, however, should take some time to patronize their friendly neighborhood ROM sites, download some retro games, and give Nintendo the kick in the teeth it deserves.

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