Nintendo sends DMCA takedowns via custom Steam icons

Mario stares off the screen while wearing a dark blue suit.

Image: Nintendo

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Nintendo uses its army of lawyers and coffers go after people who seem to be some of the biggest fans of its games and franchises. Yes, you probably have, right? This time, Nintendo is going after people who create and host custom artwork for icons used in Steam Libraries. Apparently this is a good use of his time and resources…

Nintendo and its lawyers have practically become a meme at this point, with people quick to point out that any fangame or mod that uses Nintendo characters is probably just a few days away from being legally knocked down by the major Japanese publisher. We asked Nintendo to chillbut what do you expect from a company that works with the FBI to send people to jail been talking about ROMs for years? And now Nintendo is chasing people who create and share custom artwork for Steam because some of it features its characters.

As reported by Ars Technica yesterdayNintendo has sent a number of DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) requests SteamGridDB (SGDB). This is a community site that hosts custom user-created graphics used by some players on Steam instead of official graphics. It is also used by players who have integrated non-Steam games into their Steam library, allowing them to create a nice, all-encompassing digital repository 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 mimic, and these users can integrate into their Steam libraries, using SGDB to give them fancy icons .

To be clear, SteamGridDB does not host, share or link to any emulation software or ROMs. These are just pretty images and icons that players can download and share for free. Ars Technica even spoke to some of the people behind the SGDB website and they told the outlet that they “don’t support piracy”. But because there’s a Link of Mario in some of them, Nintendo’s lawyers have arrived and sent the site DMCA takedowns, which Ars Technica seen and verified.

A screenshot shows some of the artwork removed by Nintendo.

In the DMCA takedowns, which were dated Oct. 27, Nintendo’s legal team alleges that some images featuring Nintendo characters or intellectual property are “likely to cause consumer confusion.” Not wanting to take Nintendo to court, SGDB administrators complied with the takedown orders and now dozens of SGDB images have been swapped and replaced with blank images with text explaining that the original item was removed due to a DMCA takedown request. Oddly enough, Nintendo only focuses on some art and graphics, mainly those that use actual sprites or official artwork, but allow other fan art for now.

Usually when things like this happen to Nintendo there will be some who will point it out legal Nintendo is right. Or that they have to do this or they could lose their legal claim to their own characters. (This isn’t how this works, by the way, and it confuses trademark laws with copyright laws, all of which are more complicated and nuanced than random internet people would have you 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 on players over fan games or emulators, or custom art. Meanwhile, earlier this year, Nintendo went after a person who scanned and uploaded an old copy Super Mario 64 strategy guide. The company could have left that online so their biggest fans can enjoy a cool bit Mario history. No! It, like some of this cool artwork on SGDB, is all gone now.

Nintendo should probably spend less time using its lawyers and money to go after dedicated fans and archivists and instead of start treating to be own employees better and also stop union abuse.

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