Eurogamer article on non-commercial license violations of emulators

We thank Eurogamer dearly for being one of the last bastions of journalism in the games industry and for breaking this story into the mainstream.
We want to especially thank Damien McFerran for covering this story in the first place and Byuu for participating in this story as well.

We encourage everybody to read this story –

The retro gaming industry could be killing video game preservation

We hope that the parties involved will feel more compelled now to treat this scene’s authors with the respect they deserve.

Out of the three parties involved, RetroBit so far has been willing to work with us in trying to remedy the problems with the launched product so far and come to a workable agreement between us and them. We applaud this and we hope that we will be able to resolve the issues in an amicable fashion.

We hope that this and other coverage of this ongoing problem will spell the end for the continued abuse of non-commercially licensed console emulators that continue to be sold on hardware devices like this, and that we can reach amicable solutions in the future with these companies when issues like these happen instead of us continuing to be ignored, and worst, even threatened to be sued unless we remove all articles mentioning their continued license violations. We will not be browbeaten here or cajoled and silenced, what is right is right, and this abuse has to end. We are completely 100% in the right in this situation.

Public Service Announcement – misuse of RetroArch

It is that time of the week / month again, where another entrepreneur tries pushing his luck and trying to get away with murder.

This time, a certain individual going by the name of Richard R. MacInnis (from Volocian Studios) contacted us on our Discord channel. He reached out to me and he wanted to know how we would get him to do cross-promotion/marketing for his product, which appears to be some Android-based game console again, SYNC. Out of his own volition he made a Patreon pledge and said that he wanted to support the community, yadda yadda, and that he would do everything by the book to avoid any copyright infringement of noncommercial licenses.

He pledged to our Patreon. Almost immediately after pledging, he asked us –

‘Now the million dollar question: would the libretro community be open to business sponsorship or cross promotion?’

I told him that he perhaps expected a bit too much for his Patreon pledge, since almost nobody before this asked us any similar favors in return for a pledge, and that even if we were to do this, it would need to be discusssed first with other teammembers.

The next day, an associate of mine happens to learn this same individual took the liberty (after I told him we were still not OK with any cross-promotion whatsoever) to go to our Libretro forums, and advertise his product. This associate of mine then happened to catch the following tidbit –

‘Our custom addon, the “Indie Retro Games Library” (IRGL), gives users easy access to the thousands of ROMS available from the Internet Archive, launching the appropriate emulator (mostly in RetroArch) after the ROM has been downloaded.’

We were shocked at this and did not expect such a brazen move. This drags us into a legal quagmire and taints our project negatively from a legal perspective, by a self-serving entrepreneur. No thanks. No Patreon pledge is worth that.

This is reckless, irresponsible and very legally dangerous all at the same time. Needless to say, as soon as we learned of this, my associate immediately removed his forum thread. After I got informed of this, I immediately revoked his Patreon pledge and blocked him from our Discord community.

We have since added a disclaimer to our Patreon pledge that hopefully prevents something like this happening in the future.

The person has now angrily resorted to dishing out ultimatums that he wants to fork our Libretro/RetroArch projects and that he will create a nonprofit organization around it, that he still is going to do what he wants to do (even though I told him that he is getting our project involved in piracy/illegal affairs that we do not want to be involved with

He also thinks that he can entice Kodi to his side by trying to buy them a trademark. We would sincerely advise Kodi to steer clear of this character as long as he is intent on selling a box that has a built-in ROM downloader.

By doing so, he is making himself into a target for watchdogs like the ESA. They have already acted before, and these companies are completely in their right to take down this kind of infringing material –

https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-brein-target-seller-of-pirate-retro-gaming-system-170610/

We at Libretro will not have anything to do with any kind of piracy, or the promotion/facilitation thereof. The person in question says that he will have his users sign an EULA before using the “Indie Retro Games Library” where they will be legally held liable in case it is not permissible to download this material.

What he fails to understand after informing him several times of this, is the following:

The Internet Archive exemptions only allow them to privately break DRM for archival, not distribution. With all the attention these IA roms are going to get from boxes like this, it’s likely to be all taken down.

We do not support or condone in any way the unlicensed distribution of copyrighted ROMs elsewhere on the internet.

Stuff like this is once again harming the emulation scene/community, for selfish/petty short-term gain by unwitting entrepreneurs who act parasitical and hostile towards the projects that they intend to leverage. This same person thinks any Android game developer will flock to his products; which self-respecting Android game developer wants to be associated to a proprietor of a retro game console box with a ROM downloader builtin? As if any indie game developer wants to be associated to such obvious copyright infringement.

We would like the community and the games industry to know, it is not our fault that this kind of misuse continues to happen to this day. We try to steer our project in a positive direction and not do active harm to an industry at large, RetroArch for instance is not even an emulator and was never intended to be a one-stop shop for emulation. It saddens us greatly that this abuse continues to this day and that with every day, these entrepreneurs continue to grow bolder and more vulgar by the passing minute.

We respectfully ask this person to stop including a ROM downloader service in conjunction with RetroArch on his products. Additionally, we do not want him using RetroArch at all anymore in any shape or fashion, not even a fork of it, since it is not intended to be a gateway to piracy, and certainly not to self-enrich some fly-by-night entrepreneur in the process. He knows full well what the issue here is – the ROM downloader. We have told him that if he were to drop this, it would remove our current objections with what he is trying to do. He refuses to do this. This is unacceptable and unconscionable. Our project will not be dragged into a legal quagmire by some self-serving entrepreneur only in it for himself, and who does not care what the repercussions of his actions might be to a scene and community at large.

It is unfortunate that open source continues to be the unwitting target in an entertainment field not known to handle open source with any grace or dignity, but we seem to keep running into similar issues as the Kodi project in that regard.

We are getting this statement out there since said person wants to run derogatory articles on us. And yes, my patience is severely tested by characters like this, I will make no bones that I was not nice to him after it transpired that he wanted to drag the good name of the RetroArch/Libretro project in a legal quagmire. I take a no-prisoners approach to such obvious wrongdoing.

To any users out there – be very wary of agreeing to any EULAs when it comes to any kind of retro game console products you can buy – chances are that the party in question you are buying it from is passing on the legal responsibilities to you, the user, knowing full well the legal quagmire involved.

We have also warned the Kodi project about this. This stuff is intensely damaging to both the Kodi project and ourselves, especially in light of the upcoming RetroPlayer that is about to appear in Kodi.

We don’t need even more demagoguery articles to be ran like this in British tabloids –

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/907779/Kodi-add-ons-warning-TVaddons-Kodi-18-Leia-retro-gaming-ROMs-online-piracy-illegal

Now the claims being cited here against emulators are not true. However, that you have fly-by-night entrepreneurs trying to push the boundaries of what is legally acceptable (and this certainly isn’t) will give good, morally upstanding open source projects like Kodi and RetroArch/Libretro a collective black eye, and it will only strengthen the arguments against open source emulation.

Regards,
Daniel De Matteis.

P.S. We have updated the Patreon terms in light of this. We have added the following disclaimer –

Libretro as an entity and project does not promote or endorse willful copyright infringement. We do not accept any money from organizations and/or companies known to be engaged in and profiting from copyright infringement, and/or the facilitation thereof. Pledgers who are guilty of engaging in this will see their pledges removed, as Libretro cannot be seen to be associated to anything illegitimate.