Nintendo sends DMCA takedowns on custom Steam icons

Mario looks off screen while wearing a dark blue business suit.

Image: nintendo

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Nintendo is using its army of lawyers and chests of cash to go after people who happen to be some of the biggest fans of its games and franchises. Yeah, you probably did, huh? This time around, Nintendo is looking for people to create and host custom artwork for the icons used in the Steam Libraries. Evidently, this is a good use of his time and resources…

Nintendo and its lawyers have pretty much become a meme at this point, with people quick to point out that any game or fan mod that uses Nintendo characters is likely days away from being legally struck down by the big Japanese publisher. We’ve asked Nintendo to calm downbut what do you expect from a company that works with the feds to send people to jail for years on ROMs? And now Nintendo is looking for people to create and share custom artwork for Steam because some of it features its characters.

As reported by Ars Technique yesterdayNintendo has sent some DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) requests to SteamGrid DB (SGDB). This is a community site that hosts custom user-created images that are used by some players on Steam instead of the official graphics. It is also used by gamers who have non-Steam games integrated into their Steam library, allowing them to create a great looking and unique digital vault of all their various games. The problem Nintendo has with SGDB is that some of the thousands of images on the site are for various Nintendo games that people can emulate and those users can integrate into their Steam libraries, using SGDB to provide them with nice looking icons.

Now, to be clear: SteamGridDB does not host, share, or link to any emulation software or ROMs. These are just beautiful images and icons that players can freely download and share. Ars Technique he even spoke to some of the folks behind the SGDB website and they told the outlet that they “don’t support piracy.” But since there is a Link or Mario in some of them, Nintendo’s lawyers came and filed the site’s DMCA takedown requests, which Ars Technique has seen and verified.

A screenshot shows some of the artwork that has been removed by Nintendo.

In its DMCA takedown request, dated Oct. 27, Nintendo’s legal team says some images showing Nintendo characters or intellectual property could “likely cause consumer confusion.” Not wanting to fight Nintendo in court, the SGDB administrators complied with the takedown orders and now dozens of SGDB images have been replaced with blank images with text explaining that the original asset has been removed due to a DMCA takedown request. Weirdly, Nintendo only targets certain artwork and images, mostly those that use real sprites or official artwork, but for now they allow other fan art to remain active.

When these things happen with Nintendo, there will generally be a few who will point it out legally Nintendo is right. Or that they have to or they could lose their legal claim on their own characters. (That’s actually not how it works, and it’s confusing trademark laws with copyright laws, all of which are more complicated and nuanced than the random internet folks might lead you to believe.)

But the reality is that Nintendo doesn’t have to. Time and time again, we’ve seen other publishers and companies not go nuclear with players on fan games or emulators or custom art. Meanwhile, earlier this year, Nintendo went after a person who scanned and uploaded an old out-of-print super mario 64 strategic guide. The company could have let it stay online, letting their biggest fans enjoy their fair share of Mario history. No! Like some of these great pieces of custom art on SGDB, they’re all gone now.

Nintendo should probably spend less time using its lawyers and money going after them dedicated enthusiasts and archivists And instead start dealing his your employees better And also stop breaking the union.

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