Nintendo is Playing Risky Games With Its Cultural Legacy

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Super NES Classic fits in your hand

By now, all of you have probably heard about Nintendo’s upcoming Super NES Classic Edition, which the firm announced on June 26. It’s a tiny HDMI-capable Super NES that plays 21 built-in games and will retail for $79.99 US. And it’s due for release on September 29, 2017.

It is also, quite possibly, intended to be a huge publicity stunt.

You guys may remember the absolute fiasco that was the NES Classic Edition — Nintendo’s miniature HDMI NES with built-in games. The NES Classic edition was announced on July 16, 2016 and launched on November 11th of that year for $59.99.

Of course, when November 11th, came around, shoppers snapped up the limited supply Nintendo produced within seconds on and at other retailers, leaving many thousands of NES fans frustrated and unable to ever buy the tiny wonder console for a reasonable price.

Yes, that included me. Scalpers on eBay turned around and immediately sold the NES Classic Edition for 200% the retail price, and today they go for around $200-$300 unopened on eBay. (I did eventually buy one on eBay for around $250.)

I’m tempted to ask: Will the Super NES Classic Edition suffer the same fate? But this isn’t the right question. The question should be: Is the launch and availability of this new product going to make a mockery of Nintendo’s cultural legacy?

[ Continue reading Nintendo is Playing Risky Games With Its Cultural Legacy » ]

Kotaku’s Emulation Fear Mongering

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Ouya Console

Over at Kotaku, Tina Amini recently wrote a piece titled “Ouya Tries To Dispel Fears That The Console’s Nintendo Emulators Will Promote Piracy.” It’s not a good piece.

First of all, the author isn’t clear whose fears Ouya is trying to dispel. By my reading, it is only the author herself who “fears” what may happen if Ouya allows Nintendo emulators on its console, and only because she wants to drum up controversy for a blog post. Fear mongering bullshit.

Tina, don’t use fear over emulation or piracy as your traffic-boosting media pawn. It doesn’t help anybody.

Emulation isn’t the enemy. Piracy isn’t even the enemy. They’re bogeymen that help preserve a system where media companies overcharge and re-charge for their works over and over and over again. (I’m talking all media here, not just video games.)

The never-ending war against piracy isn’t a war against pirates. It’s a war against consumers. The content industry has dressed it up to look like a battle of good vs. evil when it’s really just a battle to keep your wallet pried open while dollars pour out.

That war has real casualties for everyone that are far worse than piracy: things like consumers’ fair-use rights over products they have rightfully purchased or licensed, free speech, security research, and our historical legacy.

Piracy, if left completely unchecked, would definitely hurt publishers. But it’s not unchecked. It’s illegal.

Let people do what they want with open platforms. Let the law be the law, and let the people decide if it’s in their best interest to respect it or break it.

You could always put people in straitjacket if you didn’t want them to break any laws, but it wouldn’t allow them to be free, would it?

DRM is a digital straitjacket, and a “walled garden” is a fancy name for a comfortable prison. If a company like Ouya is brave enough to let their console be used for whatever purpose, that should be commended, not discouraged.

P.S. Fix the DMCA

Fix the DMCA to Preseve our Cultural Heritage

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Mickey Mouse Copyright Blur

Just up on The is an op-ed I wrote that argues for repealing the anti-circumvention section of the DMCA because it threatens the preservation of our cultural heritage.

Perhaps by now you’ve heard about the campaign to repeal the anti-circumvention section (1201) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This most recent challenge to the DMCA arose from a recent decision by the Librarian of Congress to discontinue a three-year exemption that made cell phone unlocking legal.

Opponents of the DMCA anti-circumvention provision claim that the law threatens consumer control over the electronic devices we buy, and they’re right. But the stakes are much higher than that. Our cultural history is in jeopardy. If the DMCA remains unaltered, cultural scholarship will soon be conducted only at the behest of corporations, and public libraries may disappear entirely.

That’s because the DMCA attacks one of the of the fundamental pillars of human civilization: the sharing of knowledge and culture between generations. Under the DMCA, manmade mechanisms that prevent the sharing of information are backed with the force of law. And sharing is vital for the survival of information. Take that away, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Share my article. Spread the word. It’s time to fix the DMCA.

“DRM is a problem like mold is a problem, like fire is a problem. What distinguishes it, of course, is that it’s a man-made construct, which makes it seem really sad.” – Jason Scott, Archivist at The Internet Archive

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Quick, Illegal, and Wrong

Monday, December 10th, 2012

ADAPSO Anti-Piracy Advertisement - 1985Piracy is as easy as hitting the Enter key on your numeric keypad.

27 years ago, the industry group Association of Data Processing Service Organizations (ADAPSO) created this public service ad warning of the evils of software piracy. I’ve transcribed its text below — just so you don’t miss it.

It’s easy to make a copy.
It’s quick.
It’s illegal.
It’s wrong.

It’s hard to believe.

People who wouldn’t think of shoplifting a software product on their lunch hour don’t think twice about going back to the office and making several illegal copies of the same software.

Making unauthorized copies of software is a violation of U.S. Copyright Law. Yet, the problem has reached epidemic proportions because many people are unaware, or simply choose to ignore the law. The software industry is urging decision-makers and software users to take steps to stop software piracy in their organizations. In the meantime, the industry has been forced to prosecute willful copyright violators.

There are legal, moral and economic imperatives forbidding theft of copyrighted software.

There is a free pamphlet on the subject. Call or write for a copy. A copy. A copy. A copy for everyone you know.
Please ask for Priscilla.

1300 North Seventeenth Street
Arlington, Virginia 22209
(703) 522-5055

“A copy. A copy. A copy. A copy.”

It really says that. I think it’s supposed to be a joke, albeit a very bad one.

ADAPSO changed its name to Information Technology Association Of America (ITAA) in 1991, although its supposedly current website is now owned by the International Trial Attorneys Association, so who knows if it even exists today.

[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.67 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first piece of software you ever copied (or received a copy of) illegally?

See Also: Why History Needs Software Piracy (2012)
See Also: [ Retro Scan of the Week] Software Piracy (2009)
See Also: [ Retro Scan of the Week ] “What’s Wrong With Copying Software?” (2008)
See Also: Old-School PC Copy Protection Schemes (2006)
See Also: EGM Advertisement: Sell Famiclones, Go to Prison (2006)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Software Piracy

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Software Piracy - Byte - May 1981It’s the software Vikings!

Heh. And you thought digital piracy was a new problem. It’s actually as old as the PC software business itself. Some of the earliest evidence of this comes from a famous February 1976 open letter to the Homebrew Computer Club in which Bill Gates (then “General Partner” of a small company called Micro-Soft) protested the rampant “theft” of his company’s popular Altair BASIC.

Reflect on that date for a moment: February 1976 — less than a year after the Altair 8800 launched the personal computer revolution, people were already illegally copying Microsoft products with great abandon. (Some things never change.) Of course, selling pre-programmed software for personal computers was a new concept back then. And heck, personal computers were a new concept back then.

But as time passed and PCs grew in influence, the piracy problem didn’t go away. In fact, it continued as a hot-button topic throughout most of the 1980s. BYTE magazine devoted its May 1981 issue to the subject, commissioning its regular cover artist, Robert Tinney, to provide a visual hook for the monthly theme. Meditating on “software piracy,” Tinney concocted a potent and iconographic image of a fierce viking ship cutting through rough seas, its massive floppy disk sail standing at full mast. To this day, the image (seen above) remains Tinney’s most famous illustration from the BYTE years.

If his prints of this image hadn’t sold out long ago, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

[ From BYTE, May 1981 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Do you pirate commercial software? Why or why not?

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

EGM Advertisement: Sell Famiclones, Go to Prison

Friday, February 17th, 2006
EGM Piracy Ad

I found this interesting ad in the March 2006 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly today. It says that as part of Yonathan Cohen’s restitution for selling “the POWER PLAYER” Famicom clone, he had to publish this advertisement warning others about “the dangers and penalties associated with violating the copyrights laws.” According to the ad, the Power Player console contains “over 40 copyrighted games belonging to Nintendo of America.” Sweet! Ahem. I mean…Let that be a lesson to ya, Yonathan, and let this be a dire warning to any other scallywag who be sellin’ the POWER PLAYERS on the open market! Heed ye not the old pirate’s warning and Nintendo will relentlessly hunt you down until all of your pathetic, filthy kind are eradicated from the face of the earth. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. But Nintendo’s not. They will kill you.