Dolphin Emulator Steam Launch “Indefinitely Postponed” Following Legal Threat from Nintendo

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Dolphin Emulator Steam Launch “Indefinitely Postponed” Following Legal Threat from Nintendo

The team behind Dolphin, an emulator that runs Gamecube and Wii games on PC, announced this weekend that they would be indefinitely postponing their planned release of the emulator on Steam after Nintendo threatened Valve with legal action.

Valve removed the Steam page for Dolphin, which had opened in March, from its storefront after receiving a letter from Nintendo lawyers threatening to file a DMCA Cease & Desist request. The letter, reviewed by PC Gamer, specifically claims that Dolphin circumvents their copyright protection measures through its decryption.

A spokesperson for Nintendo clarified the company’s position in a statement provided to Kotaku.

“Nintendo is committed to protecting the hard work and creativity of video game engineers and developers,” the statement reads. “This emulator illegally circumvents Nintendo’s protection measures and runs illegal copies of games. Using illegal emulators or illegal copies of games harms development and ultimately stifles innovation. Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of other companies, and in turn expects others to do the same.”

Nintendo is not directly claiming that emulation is illegal or violates their copyright—this would be largely unsupported by legal precedent. Rather, they argue that the encryption of their ROMs is protected by anti-circumvention measures of the DMCA and that Dolphin’s decryption therefore violates this protection.

Nintendo has not taken any actual legal action against the emulator. IP and technology law lawyer Kellen Voyer told PC Gamer that their letter to Valve was not a direct takedown request but rather a “warning shot.”

“Here, there is no allegation that Valve is currently hosting anything that infringes Nintendo’s copyright or, more broadly, violates the DMCA,” Voyer said. “Rather, Nintendo is sending clear notice to Valve that it considers Dolphin to violate the DMCA and should it be released on Steam, Nintendo will likely take further action.”

Valve chose to comply with Nintendo’s request of its own accord, and the Dolphin team said that they are currently exploring their options for the future. Access to Dolphin through other means, such as GitHub, has not been challenged as of yet, and the presence of other emulators such as RetroArch on Steam could mean that a Steam release could still be possible in some shape or form.

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