CyberGadget’s RetroFreak proven to use Snes9x Next/2010 code, non-commercial code being sold

Today it is very disappointing for us to learn that CyberGadget’s RetroFreak appears to have been using an exact copy of our non-commercially licensed Snes9x fork, Snes9x 2010 (previously called Snes9x Next, which if you’d like to know was originally created as a speedhack-focused emulator for the PlayStation3 of Snes9x 1.52) since their product went on sale in 2015. Check out this source file directly from their website –

http://www.cybergadget.co.jp/assets/files/download/RetroFreakSource-20151031.zip

According to an anonymous report –

“This was on Cybergadget’s website months ago but conveniently disappeared after website update to circumvent GPL and copyrights mentions”

An astute Github member has made a backup of this file in case it goes missing suddenly from their site for ‘reasons’ –

https://github.com/uraran/RetroSource

In order to dispel any further doubts that they just took our cores, removed the libretro interface and then replaced it with their own – look at this exact file that pops up –

https://github.com/uraran/RetroSource/blob/master/jni/core-pce/mednafen/msvc_compat.h

yes, indeed, a RetroArch source file that is a part of libretro-common but which I copied pasted to several repos as a compatibility layer. This particular file isn’t the problem; their use of the Snes9x cores is. No rights can be arranged for the potential ‘commercial use’ of Snes9x 2010/Next, and I have copyright assigned to several files in Snes9x mainline too that states the same. In short, the non-commercial license will stand as is, and it’s not a case of paying some people some money so you can still use it. I will not budge.

See for instance my copyright here – this license header is in all the other files too –

https://github.com/libretro/snes9x2010/blob/master/src/apu.c#L147

https://github.com/snes9xgit/snes9x/blob/master/snes9x.cpp#L30

Even more interesting, if you look at the Github mirror of the source, some files are identical to the Retron 5 sourcecode dump. It appears to be an exact match.

I think I speak for the team and myself that I am deeply disappointed that this abuse of non-commercial licenses has been going on since at least 2015, and that the videogames industry stoops to these lows to abuse and manhandle opensource code like this. Worse, that there are barely any investigative reporters that research where the products they cover really come from, what software they are using behind the scenes, whether or not the specific combinations in which they are put together are even legal, whether they sought approval of the rights holders behind them, etc.

Regards,
Daniel De Matteis (RetroArch/Libretro maintainer/leader, Snes9x Next/2010 core author, etc.)

Hyperkins’ Retron5 – continuing licensing problems

Yesterday, Hyperkin responded to our earlier article by acknowledging that they indeed did do what we claimed them of having done. In response, they posted a raw source code dump of the video game emulator software in question, confirming they were indeed infringing copyright and violating licenses.

http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2014/09/hyperkin_responds_to_accusations_of_infringing_on_the_rights_of_emulator_creators

http://retron5.in/node/9

However, they did not open source the code taken from the RetroArch project that is used within Hyperkin’s own frontend software.

By using RetroArch’s GPLv3 code, they are not only violating the license but breaking clauses that prohibit “Tivoization”

Today, Hyperkin posted another statement regarding the allegations of RetroArch code, admitting that code is indeed used in their product shipped in all versions of their firmware below the most recent release.

https://www.retro5.net/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=57&sid=638613d1c1de4fc414c15cc2654597e1&start=10#p267

I’d like to clarify one point regarding the allegations over at libretro.com: we are not using any of RetroArch in our “frontend” (libretron.so). While it is true that a few ASM functions from RetroArch were previously found in our frontend library, these were merely remnants of old test code which we unfortunately forgot to remove. The offending code has been removed as of the v2.0 update. We’re sorry that this code was left in the binary up until recently; it was merely an oversight on our part. Furthermore as you will see from the source release of the emulator cores, we have our own interface between the frontend and the core plugins, totally different from that used by RetroArch itself.

As our frontend does not include any code from the RetroArch frontend then it does not fall under GPLv3 as they claim, and thus is not bound by any of the anti “TIVO-ization” stuff.

We believe that previously distributed copies of Hyperkin’s firmware now fall under GPLv3 licensing and anti-tivoization terms and must be open sourced in order to adhere to the license. Also, we do not know the legality of selling a product with a firmware containing GPLv3 code in a TIVOized state, and then removing that GPLv3 code later on in a successive firmware update to effectively TIVO-ize it. That is something for FSF lawyers to ponder.

Visual evidence of RetroArch’s code in use by Hyperkin’s frontend binaries can be found here:
http://imgur.com/a/i56YF
http://www.libretro.com/index.php/retroarch-license-violations/ (see middle section titled “RetroArch”)

This can be compared against this codebase snapshot (they based the code’s inclusion on this snapshot of the code) –

https://github.com/libretro/RetroArch/tree/2be201ecf39077c864d06089a5b48aa97b170f8d

They’ve also alluded to using forced firmware updates to make sure the user cannot run original copies of the GPL software they bundle on this device, further adding to the TIVoization claims –

http://www.gamnesia.com/articles/gamnesias-exclusive-scoop-on-the-upcoming-retron-5#.VCKBh-IvBhE

Q: Assuming someone does break into it, how are you going to deal with that?
A: We do provide firmware updates through SD card support. If we start noticing people hacking and things like that—which I’m not against whatsoever; that’s the times we live in now, where if you could hack something, you’re a genius—we can release firmwares at any moment that would be required to start playing games. With that, you know, we can limit the control on that. – See more at: http://www.gamnesia.com/articles/gam…5#.VCKBh-IvBhE

There is another problem with what was stated here –

https://www.retro5.net/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=57&sid=638613d1c1de4fc414c15cc2654597e1&start=10#p267

They claim they no longer have any RetroArch code in their latest firmware and that  they have their own API that they use to dynamically link the core against their frontend (unreleased and closed-source). The problem with this is that their API appears to be not GPL-compatible.

For evidence, download the ZIP contained in here  (RetronN5Source-20140923.zip) and look at engine/retronCommon.h.

http://retron5.in/node/9

This API would need to be under a GPL-compatible license to be compatible with FCEU and VBA. Furthermore, it’s unknown what license the ‘frontend’ is licensed under, and since it’s closed-source and kept concealed, there’s no way of knowing if it infringes on the GPL license or not.

A core being exposed to the frontend through an API like this constitutes a combined work, because it is not a ‘well-separated work’ as per the terms stated here –

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLInProprietarySystem

The core doesn’t do anything without the frontend, and the frontend links to this core dynamically through dynamic linking. The core is reliant on the frontend to do the audio/video/input processing, without which nothing would be displayed on the screen, no input would be received by the core, and no audio samples would get output.

Therefore, we believe that their latest acknowledgements raises even more questions as to the level of compliance they’ve demonstrated so far with the GPL license. It raises therefore even more questions than it solves, further adding to the already quite considerable list of problems with this device.

Non-commercial cores – SNES9x Next

And of course, the fact that the two non-commercial cores are still being shipped with the device is another problem altogether. The license for SNES9x states specifically:

https://github.com/snes9xgit/snes9x/blob/master/docs/snes9x-license.txt

Permission to use, copy, modify and/or distribute Snes9x in both binary
and source form, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted without
fee, providing that this license information and copyright notice appear
with all copies and any derived work.
This software is provided ‘as-is’, without any express or implied
warranty. In no event shall the authors be held liable for any damages
arising from the use of this software or it’s derivatives.
Snes9x is freeware for PERSONAL USE only. Commercial users should
seek permission of the copyright holders first. Commercial use includes,
but is not limited to, charging money for Snes9x or software derived from
Snes9x, including Snes9x or derivatives in commercial game bundles, and/or
using Snes9x as a promotion for your commercial product.
The copyright holders request that bug fixes and improvements to the code
should be forwarded to them so everyone can benefit from the modifications
in future versions.
Super NES and Super Nintendo Entertainment System are trademarks of
Nintendo Co., Limited and its subsidiary companies.

 

“Commercial users should seek permission of the copyright holders first” – refer to Hyperkin’s Retron5 licensing software page here –

http://retron5.in/node/9

They used the SNES9x Next fork specifically. This is a fork that I created specifically to serve as a libretro core. My list of contributions extends to the following:

– Added game-specific speedhacks to make them fullspeed for low-power systems like the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation3. This includes games like Final Fantasy III/VI, Star Fox, Star Fox 2, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, and numerous other cores which were previously too slow on such devices.

– Added SuperFX overclocking code to make it possible to run SuperFX games at faster rates.

– Converted the entire codebase from C++ to C89.

– Wrote the libretro API integration parts together with Themaister/Hans-Kristian Arntzen. (NOTE: Libretro is licensed under the MIT license)

As you can guess, they have never sought my permission to use this in their commercial product. And they will never get it either. They are expressly forbidden by me (one of the copyright holders) to use this version of SNES9x in their commercial product. I’m still awaiting a response from the rest of the upstream SNES9x devs but I can’t expect their reaction will be that much different.

I will be taking steps of my own accord to ensure that this situation will be rectified.

Non-commercial cores – Genesis Plus GX

The Genesis Plus GX developers have been made aware of the facts as well and they can make their own moves as to how to deal with this.

On SNES9x Next however, I have considerable copyright claims and therefore I am in an ideal position to clamp down on this misuse of its code.

Last parting message

This can be read from Hyperkins’ response to our earlier article on Nintendolife.com

It has always been our intention to release the relevant source code for the open source emulators used within RetroN 5. We have not been as quick as we could have been, since we have been busy improving the RetroN 5 user experience. The relevant source code has now been released. From this point forward we will not only keep our copy of this code updated for those who wish to obtain the latest version, but also submit patches for any fixes that we implement back to the original projects so that the entire community may benefit. Hyperkin will continue to endeavor to fulfill the licenses of any project used within RetroN 5 and any other software we write.

If Hyperkin is indeed serious about this, they will save my time and the time of the Genesis Plus GX developers by pre-emptively (and immediately) stripping the non-commercially licensed SNES and Genesis cores from their product. We’d rather be busy doing actual development that users benefit from and that benefits the community instead of having to go to the trouble of sending a bunch of Cease & Desist notices.

Also, let it be known that as of this moment I have contacted the FSF regarding the GPL violation matters because there remains too many unanswered and unsolved problems for us to be thoroughly satisfied. Our beef is not with the product – if Hyperkins’ Retron5 was put out in a honest way and in a way that wouldn’t infringe upon the licenses of these emulators, they would be legally allowed to use it in this way. As it stands, they did not do their homework before putting this product out and their actions so far reek of negligence, irresponsibility and a calculated move to reap the rewards of copyleft code without having to honor the license’s terms.