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Dolphin Emulator Team Nixes Steam Launch After Nintendo Intervenes

The team behind the Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin has indefinitely postponed its launch on Steam after Nintendo issued a cease-and-desist.


The beloved Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin was set to launch on Steam earlier this month, but Nintendo had other plans. The team behind the project announced that its Steam launch is "indefinitely postponed" after Valve removed the listing due to a Nintendo C&D that cites the DMCA.

The legal notice from Nintendo (as reviewed by PC Gamer) claims that the emulator violates Nintendo's intellectual property rights. It specifically claims that Dolphin uses "cryptographic keys without Nintendo's authorization" and "decrypts ROMs at or immediately before runtime." This wording specifically appeals to one aspect of the DMCA, which states that circumventing a technological measure that controls access is illegal.

"This emulator illegally circumvents Nintendo's protection measures and runs illegal copies of games," a Nintendo representative told Kotaku via email. "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."

It's worth noting that this is not a standard DMCA notice--rather, Nintendo sent a letter informing Valve of its intention to file such if Dolphin's listing was not removed. The DMCA allows the alleged infringing party to file a counter-notice if it believes that it did not violate the law, and then Nintendo would then have two weeks to sue.

If such a legal battle were to materialize, it would likely have far-reaching implications for emulation in general, as the legality of these programs is disputed by many. Previous lawsuits filed against commercial emulators like Bleem were largely unsuccessful and contribute to the public perception that emulators are legal to use, but the topic is far from settled.

At this juncture, it's unclear how Dolphin's team will respond to this notice, or if they will further push the issue of the Steam page. In the short term, Dolphin remains available to download via the usual channels.

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