Home / Technology / ROM page owner earned $ 30,000 a year – now owes Nintendo $ 2.1 million

ROM page owner earned $ 30,000 a year – now owes Nintendo $ 2.1 million

The artist's perception of Nintendo's reaction to the summary judgment.
Enlarge / The artist’s perception of Nintendo’s reaction to the summary judgment.

The now unemployed owner of a closed ROM distribution site has been ordered to pay $ 2.1 million in compensation to Nintendo after trying and failing to defend himself in the case.

In September 201

9, Nintendo sued Los Angeles resident Matthew Storman over its operation of RomUniverse.com, which offered prominent downloads of “Nintendo Switch Scene Roms” and other copyrighted game files. At the time, Nintendo said the site had been “among the most visited and infamous electronic hubs for pirated Nintendo video games” for “over a decade.”

Storman has admitted that the site in 2019 accounted for most of his revenue from $ 30,000 to $ 36,000 a year. This included direct revenue from the sale of “premium unlimited accounts” for $ 30 per year which gave users faster downloads and no limits. When Storman signed a September 2020 agreement with Nintendo to shut down the site, he said he raised $ 800 a month from the site. According to court documents, Storman’s income now comes mainly from “unemployment and food stamps.”

In a termination proposal, Storman called for the protection of “Safe Harbor” in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and argued that he was only a neutral service provider for users who shared files. He also pointed out that he had previously accepted Nintendo’s DMCA removal requests.

During a sale, however, Nintendo made Storman admit that he himself had uploaded Nintendo’s copyrighted ROM files, and canceled any attempt at a “safe harbor” claim. Another attempt at Storman’s defense based on the “first sale doctrine” failed either, as the site distributed copies instead of Storman’s personal property.

Storman also outraged Nintendo and the court for disobeying an order to provide “communication with the site administrators” and “data showing the number of times each of the pirated video games was downloaded.” In September 2020, Storman said the data was no longer available, leading Nintendo to claim that he had “destroyed it.”

While Nintendo originally claimed that RomUniverse was responsible for “hundreds of thousands” of copyrighted downloads, this number was lowered to 50,000 based on evidence taken from screenshots of the site. Nintendo claimed that each download cost between $ 20 and $ 60 (the average cost of new games they sell), and that it had lost between $ 1 million and $ 3 million in revenue.

By giving a summary judgment for Nintendo (as noted by Torrent Freak), the judge suggested that this was a clear case of infringement, one in which “there is no real question of substantive fact that Plaintiff owns the copyrighted works and defendant copied While Nintendo was seeking $ 4.41 million in copyright damage – or $ 90,000 each for 49 games – the judge lowered the amount to $ 1,715 million ($ 30,000 per work). This amount should be sufficient to “compensate the plaintiff for lost income and deter defendants who are currently unemployed and have already closed the site,” the judge wrote.

The judge also awarded an additional $ 400,000 for RomUniverse’s use of Nintendo’s trademarked boxing art, down from a massive $ 11.2 million. But Storman avoided a permanent order for “future violation”, with the judge indicating that there was no “irreparable damage” given the financial damage and the fact that the site was already closed.

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