Copyright Showdown: Has Nintendo Gone Too Far?

Nintendo copyright book

It’s no secret that Nintendo of America is very protective of their copyright. The Nintendo Seal of Approval during the NES days ensured that only Nintendo could decide who could make games on their console and those who didn’t play by the rules could pound sand. Fast forward to the Internet age and it seems Nintendo still keeps a very tight grip on who gets to play around with their intellectual property.

Nintendo has a hair trigger when it comes to issuing copyright take down notices. YouTube and Twitch are barren when it comes to Lets Plays of popular Nintendo titles and there’s not too many fan service videos highlighting features of games because Nintendo just won’t allow it. They’ve loosened up a little bit, but only if you provide them with a cut of the revenue. Popular YouTubers have decided that there are more than enough video games to talk about.

But now it seems that Nintendo has decided to focus on the rising popularity of Kickstarter projects that use their continent to sell copies. Most books have gone under the radar, but the NES/Famicom visual compendium Kickstarter project was pulled just 24 hours before it completed its 30 day run. As a backer I was surprised to receive an email from Kickstarter stating that Nintendo had filed a takedown notice and Kickstarter had suspended the campaign because of multiple alleged infringements. You can find the notice here 

Why has Nintendo taken down this project and not others?

This is one of the most popular projects that Nintendo has issued a takedown notice for. While there are some similar projects that have been funded and sold, you have to compare the NES/Famicom Visual Compendium vs the projects that were allowed. Sam Dyer, the face for Bitmap books claims that his project would fall under Fair Use and Nintendo has no claim to take down the project. When you look at other Nintendo themed books, most are either reviews like Pat the NES Punk’s project and thus social commentary on a specified IP.

Sam’s book is essentially a picture book with full color images and artwork directly lifted from the games and almost nothing more. While it looks amazing (I backed it) it still draws into question what is considered Fair Use and what isn’t. What makes it a grey area is that Sam’s book isn’t the first of its kind. In fact, The Complete NES Collector’s book finished its Kickstarter campaign last year and has a similar style to the book that was taken down. One noticeable difference between the two projects is money; The Complete NES Collector’s Book finished with 24 thousand dollars vs Sam Dyer’s 220 thousand dollars for the project.

What happens to the NES/Famicom Visual Compendium now?

As of the writing of this article, the project is still suspended and details are scarce. Bitmap Books has 30 days from the original takedown notice to dispute Nintendo’s claims and they intend to do so. While they did secure an OK from Nintendo of UK, they still have to get Nintendo of America to give them the go ahead. Sam Dyer hasn’t been too exact on what he intends to do to get Nintendo to let him publish the book, but assures users that he’s doing everything he can to get it going. The last message to Kickstarter backers was 7/08/2016 stating that he’s still in talks and will update when there’s a resolution. Hopefully we’ll hear something within the week or at least before the timer runs out on Kickstarter’s dispute statute.

Is Nintendo being too harsh here?

Takedown notices are not uncommon. Many people feel that Nintendo is being a bit overzealous and I disagree. Nintendo has every right to decide where their property gets to be seen. If Nintendo is inconsistent, I have yet to see overwhelming evidence that suggests otherwise. What I do see is that there are a lot of fans that feel entitled to this content from other people because they think it’s good. If this book was trash, no one would have batted an eye when Nintendo slapped it down, but since it’s high quality content that people actually want to buy, they’re upset because Nintendo is apparently denying them that privilege.

Nintendo works really hard to develop quality content and I feel that if Nintendo gave into every whim and fancy of Nintendo fans out there, the brand would be diluted. Product tie ins and official merchandise are carefully chosen by Nintendo to ensure that it doesn’t wind up in the bargain bin. I’ve touched on this before; Nintendo is a lot like Disney in the fact that they are very careful that their brand is not viewed in a negative light. And also like Disney, they’re not too keen when people try to make money off of them.

I really hope that Nintendo makes a deal with Sam Dyer and Bitmap Books so that this book comes to light. This is an impressive endeavor that will probably be the best Nintendo showcase on the market today. If Nintendo were to ever slap their seal of approval on a book, they would be wise to use this one to set the standard.