This guest article is a courtesy cross-post from the social media of the Wolk & Levine law firm. It is by associate attorney Adam Gertz, with contributions from law clerk Diana Aramyan and managing partner Sarah R. Wolk.

If you’re a fan of classic video games, you have probably heard of ROMs (read only memory). A ROM also is a digital image of a video game or other software that a player can display and manipulate via other software known as “emulators.” For example, a player can download emulator software onto her device and then download a ROM of the Super Nintendo title “Super Mario RPG,” and play the game to her heart’s content.

The ROMs are a popular and prized way for some fans to access classic video games that may have slid off the market, according to media coverage of the controversy.

However, no one pays for these ROMs and the ROM websites make the software available without the publisher or other copyright owner’s permission.

Nintendo, one of the largest video game publishers in the world, recently took notice of these ROM’s and filed a lawsuit (tip of the hat to TorrentFreak for posting it online) for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition against two of the most popular ROM websites: LoveRetro and LoveRoms. Both sites have since shut down.

However, a simple Google search will uncover dozens more ROM websites that remain active.

Nintendo asked for compensatory and incidental damages, as well as statutory damages, which can total up to $150,000 per infringement for each copyright violation and $2,000,000 per infringement for each trademark violation. The lawsuit is still in its nascent stages, however, if successful, it could herald a major change in the internet landscape, as online media coverage shows (see here and here and here)

 

Photo credit: Defunct LoveRetro web site, as shown in filing in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.