Nintendo uses the DMCA to get rid of Steam “icons” made by fans

Nintendo uses the DMCA to get rid of Steam "icons" made by fans

SteamGridDB (SGDB) is a website that stores user-created icons and graphics used to represent titles on Steam’s front-end interface. Nintendo has filed multiple DMCA takedown attempts against SGDB.

The number of photos in SGDB’s collection has increased by the hundreds of thousands, representing tens of thousands of titles, since the database’s inception in 2015. Many “external games,” or emulated versions of games, can have their own graphics made for them, and Steam supports this.

To clarify, SteamGridDB does not store ROM files or emulators, the latter of which has gotten other sites into legal issues with Nintendo. An unidentified SGDB administrator told Ars, “We don’t support piracy in any manner.” As the site’s creator put it, “the website is merely a free repository where anyone may share settings to modify their game launchers.”

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Nintendo claims that some of the content on SGDB “displays Nintendo’s trademarks and other intellectual property (including characters) which is likely to lead to consumer misunderstanding” in a series of DMCA demands from October 27 that were obtained by Ars Technica. So, many pictures on SGDB have been swapped out for blank ones with the words “this asset has been removed in response to a DMCA takedown notice” written across them (you can see some of the specific images that were removed in this Internet Archive snapshot from April and compare it to how the listing currently looks).

This is exactly what Nintendo fans

SGDB’s administrator stated that they were “not startled at all” by Nintendo’s DMCA requests and that they had “received some in the past from other publishers and complied accordingly.” When prompted, however, the site’s administrator could only recall a handful of other DMCA takedown requests since the site’s inception in 2015.

As of this writing, Nintendo has only sent DMCA takedown notices for images from five Switch games posted on SGDB: Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, Splatoon 3, Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Although some graphics for previous Nintendo games and other Switch games on the site have the same characters, those games remain unaffected.

Nintendo uses the DMCA to get rid of Steam icons made by fans
Nintendo uses the DMCA to get rid of Steam icons made by fans

The SGDB administrator informed Ars that they had “no solid notion” as to why Nintendo’s requirements had been so specific. I have no clue what goes on in their legal department.

Images that “straight out used sprites and materials from [Nintendo’s] IP” were the target of the DMCA requests, even for the Switch games in issue, as stated by the SGDB administrator. So far, Nintendo’s requests haven’t seemed to apply to “totally unique creations” or “pure fan art,” even if they feature depictions of Nintendo’s original characters.

No one seems to know if a different legal norm would apply to those kinds of photos. The administrator has stated, “If an IP holder requests to remove original inventions, then I will figure out the best method to address that when it happens.” “Since the site contains nothing but fan art, we welcome any concerns or questions from publishers. Discussion is the greatest method to figure out what to do.”

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A few months after using similar requests against YouTube videos demonstrating how to install Switch emulators on the Steam Deck, Nintendo has begun using SGDB to remove such content. The business had previously utilized DMCA requests on a wide variety of media, including fan games, hacking videos for current Game & Watch, and Minecraft maps based on Mario.

Internet Archive’s Jason Scott told Ars in 2018 that Nintendo “ranks up there with Monsanto, coal industries, and the mob” in terms of firms who “ruthlessly” strive to dominate their own narrative at the expense of research and reference. Old video games are certain to evoke nostalgic feelings from their fans, but terror shouldn’t be one of them.

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