NES OnlineSource: Nintendo

What you need to know

  • Matthew Storman used to run a ROM website, RomUniverse.com.
  • He was caught selling Nintendo Swtich ROM files for a profit, prompting Nintendo to sue.
  • After an attempt to represent himself in court, he lost the case and was ordered to pay $2.1 million in damages.

Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Matthew Storman, the previous owner of a now-discontinued video game ROM website named RomUniverse.com in September of 2019 (via Ars Technica). Storman's website did not simply offer these copyrighted game files for download, but asked that persons pay for faster and unlimited downloads. Prior to the lawsuit, Storman allegedly earned less than $36,000 US dollars per year.

Storman chose to represent himself in court against the video game juggernaut, who was not happy with the idea of Nintendo Switch being distributed despite them still being sold and distributed by Nintendo themselves. The defendant attempted to invoke the "safe harbor" clauses in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), asserting that he should be free from persecution as he was only a "neutral service provider" that simply allowed users to freely choose whether they downloaded the files or not. However, any hope of having these protections invoked were shattered when Storman admitted to uploading the ROM files himself.

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The defendant also failed to cooperate with legal staff by refusing to disclose how many downloads were made through the ROM distribution website. Although Nintendo assumed these downloads to be in the hundreds of thousands, only 50,000 could be proved through screenshots. According to Nintendo, they lost around $20 to $60 for every illegally downloaded copy, and as such had lost between $1 and $3 million dollars over the years.

Nintendo was awarded $35,000 per item, alongside additional monies for things like infringement on copyrighted art owned by Nintendo. The total damages amounted to $1.2 million dollars, which, despite being a lot less than the initial $4.41 million that Nintendo initially sought out, was a lot more than what the currently unemployed Storman expected.

Piracy is a hot topic, especially when it comes to works that are no longer commercially available. Seeing as the defendant chose to distribute some of Nintendo's best Nintendo Switch games and profit from these downloads, however, many agree that justice was served.

What are your views on the situation? Let us know in the comments!

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