News Article

UK Government Effectively Decriminalises Download Piracy, Raising Importance of System Security

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Nintendo is still battling hackers of the Wii U and 3DS

The Wii and DS were compromised for a significant period of their lifespan, with the latter being a victim of rampant game piracy with the sale and availability of R4 cards. Though there are always those that make the case for such devices as a means for obtaining backups of games already owned, in many cases the devices were used to download and play games without paying for them.

Download piracy is a significant problem, and one that Nintendo experienced with a vengeance with the DS — it's still, to this day, legally challenging retailers and manufacturers of R4 devices around the world. To date the Wii U and 3DS haven't fallen victim to the same problem, though there are attempts — so far unsuccessful — to release a mainstream product to allow people to play 3DS game ROMS off an SD card; in addition, a recent Wii U hack shows that some are making progress in breaking through the Wii U's security. Nintendo is continually releasing system updates, however, and any limited exploits discovered so far have typically been blocked off, forcing users to keep their systems offline or on an earlier version of the system firmware. That's a bigger drawback in the current generation, with online features and games more prominent than ever.

The threat remains, though, and a recent announcement by the UK government and ISP providers in the country is likely to dismay content providers, whether of games, movies, music or any other download content. There were previously announced plans to tackle download piracy by warning offenders and then, should they continue, shutting off their internet supply entirely. It was a bold plan that's now been dropped due to it being unworkable, and following talks with internet providers such as BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky, offenders will now simply be given four warnings under the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, but no further action will be taken. In place of the previous plans to pursue and block those downloading content, there will instead be this warning system and a substantial public awareness campaign — over three years — to promote legal content.

Some would argue that this makes sense, as the UK government states it'll maintain efforts to shut down and restrict providers and uploaders of stolen download content. There's a line of thought that chasing those that simply download content is a fruitless exercise and poor use of resources, and that the source should be targeted above the users.

Nevertheless, this may disappoint some content providers, and serves as a reminder for companies like Nintendo to be vigilant with its security and DRM (digital rights management).


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User Comments (47)



fluggy said:

It is fruitless. U can't stop illegal downloads. If I was a pirate who had his internet blocked.... I'd simply stroll into Starbucks n use their internet.



FuseBlues said:

"UK Government Effectively Decriminalises Download Piracy,"

Nonsense. It did nothing of the sort. What they did was (rightly) decide that the ISP wasn't responsible for the actions of their users. It was a stupid, unworkable idea made by old people who fundamentally don't understand the internet.



EverythingAmiibo said:

Please change that headline, it's the worst I've seen on Nlife so far!! They are not decriminalizing it, they never did in the first place! It's up to the creator of the content to press copyright charges, otherwise the law has never had any right to punish downloaders. And what they are doing now is actually extremely anti-piracy!



vaguerant said:

Yeah, that's an awful, click-baiting headline which Nintendo Life is usually above. Pretty disappointing, overall.



Artwark said:

Let's think of something here for a sec.

What's the point of making fines for downloading old games if they are too expensive and can't work on modern PC's to begin with?



noctowl said:

@vaguerant @PvtOttobot @cornishlee @FuseBlues

"offenders will now simply be given four warnings under the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, but no further action will be taken."

I think that proves you all wrong. If all I ever got for speeding was warnings, I'd never stop speeding. What do you think decriminalized means?



Einherjar said:

@Artwark If youre talking about Sites like, then i dont get the "dont work on modern PCs" part, since they are especially tinkered in a way to work on modern PCs, and if that doesnt help, the community is very active to help you out.
And why should value decline just because a game is old ? In case of the VC, im more than ok with paying 8€ for an SNES game that isnt dependant on a backup battery, can be played with a plenthora of available and perfect controllers and looks sharp on a modern TV.



vaguerant said:

@noctowl That's the response users will get from their Internet Service Provider. I don't know where you live, but I don't think there's any countries where ISPs are law enforcement officers. Just because ISPs aren't enacting impractical punishments doesn't mean laws aren't being broken or that stiff penalties don't exist for breaking them.

To use your analogy, this would be like if it was suggested that General Motors suspend your license if they detect your car speeding. It's still illegal to speed, and if the cops catch you doing it, you're still going to get in trouble. But General Motors aren't the police, and it's not their job to ensure that their customers are upholding the law.

What happened here is a ridiculous system was put forward and found not to be sensible. It's 100% unrelated to the legality of copyright infringement. Nothing has gotten any more or less illegal. Nothing has been decriminalized. If you really need someone to spell it out, here's Merriam-Webster: "decriminalize; verb: to make (something that is illegal) legal by changing the law". Just to be clear, that hasn't happened.



FuseBlues said:

@noctowl Per your analogy - it's more like getting warnings from your car manufacturer. The police will still prosecute you if they catch you.

EDIT: Aaaaand I just posted pretty much the same thing as the @vaguerant :/



SpookyMeths said:

Attacking people who illegally download content is not the way to combat piracy anyway. You combat piracy by providing a better service to the widest user base possible at a great price. Netflix and Steam know it. Nintendo needs to hurry up and figure out this whole internet thing.



DualWielding said:


Exactly people used to say you could not compete against pirates because you could not compete with free, but steam managed to do exactly that, their prices are low enough that most people now prefer to use steam for sake of convenience instead of pirating



Jazzer94 said:

Provide a good service at a reasonable price and you will reduce piracy, it will always to an extent but can definitely be reduced.



PatHawks said:

Just wanted to echo what has been said already: the headline is nonsense.

There is nothing preventing Nintendo (or anybody else) from going after pirates, the new rules just mean that ISPs won't be doing it by default. That is all.



Artwark said:

@Einherjar Only few PC games get emulated in modern PC's. BUG! for example is something that can't be played on modern PC's.

Also since technology has been advancing throughout the years, why is it soo difficult to port old games fast? Really I can understand Mother 3 can't come since its timing wasn't right at the time, but come on, lots of classics are still pending and its much harder to get old games from consoles these days.



TheWPCTraveler said:

I really think a slow internet connection is a HUGE deterrent to piracy.

As a side note, you can't pirate what isn't being distributed in your country. So downloading Mother or Mother 3, for instance, is not what I'd consider as piracy. However, if I download EarthBound, it's technically illegal since Nintendo still distributes the software. (All three cases are piracy in Japan, though



WiiLovePeace said:

It's not the downloaders they should be going after, but the uploaders who put that content up there in the first place. I'm not picking a side of the debate though, too complicated for me.



smikey said:

Trying to get the service providers to do anything in the first place was always going to be a waste of time.
They've made them all block certain websites but you can still access every single one of them in less than 10 seconds without downloading any extra software or paying a penny so it's never going to stop anyone.

Bigger fines / tougher penalties for the up loaders is about the only chance they've got but even then most of them won't care some people in the world will always want something for free and others will always want the popularity of providing it.



Einherjar said:

@Artwark For older PC games, the answer is quite simple: Its the hardware.
Emulating PC hardware is a much bigger task than emulating console hardware. And even that can be daunting. Even the N64, a system often laughed about when it comes to processing power, isnt emulated perfectly yet.

Also, with PC games, you have so much more sources for errors. No two PCs are alike. So its much harder to tinker with a game to run on basicly every system. Its much easier with modern games, since hardware components get more and more streamlined. They implemented and use a lot more "standarts" and it basicly boils down to how well your hardware can handle these standarts instead of if it can handle them at all.

Porting older console games to the VC is a whole different story. First things first: Emulation in general is not as easy as many people make it out to be. Especially not if you aim for pretty much perfect emulation, like Nintendo does with its VC games. Why is there no further GBA Support for the 3DS ? Because emulation turned out to be not so easy on the system.
Also, its most often a copyright problem.
So even though these game were made for a Nintendo system, it doesnt mean that every piece of it is owned by Nintendo. As soon as a third party is involved, say, an external translation team, graphics artists etc, you need them to approve a rerelease and also pay them royalties.
Then its just a cost/income thing. Does it make enough money to justify the costs ? And most of the time, considering the pricetag for VC games, the answer is no. Which is also why i find it hilarious that people still think the prices on VC games are too high.



AugustusOxy said:

Piracy wasn't a big issue when games were better value for their buck. In other words, twenty years ago almost every game you played had massive after stories and were filled with (at the time) massive amounts of content based on the limitations of the hardware at the time.

Compared to super mario world, there hasn't been a mario game nearly as big since (mario 64 doesn't even have the same level of replayability or after game).

So in other words, if you want people to start buying your product more, you should probably make your product worth buying. Five hour game campaigns are the reason no one forks up real cash for games anymore.



Commie said:

Every time a piracy thing comes up, there is a stupidity outburst here. You people really need to read some books. Piracy (overall, not just download) is a far complexer problem, and not always necessarily bad. Dumbing it down to a moral debate (and a bad one) or some kind of hurting the developers/Nintendo argument is an insult to intelligence.



Hyperstar96 said:

"there are attempts — so far unsuccessful — to release a mainstream product to allow people to play 3DS game ROMS off an SD card"

3DS piracy has been possible for a while now, albeit not on current firmware. Gateway 3DS supports every 3DS ROM to date, and it's been around since August 2013.



Ralizah said:

Worst headline I've seen here since the one that equated Senran Kagura with child pornography.

Software pirates can and will find workarounds if you try gimping their internet, and doing so will only anger them and make the problem worse.

Piracy is largely about cost and convenience. All one needs to do to cut down on piracy is to make it more convenient to legally buy content than to pirate it. Nintendo has been doing a pretty good job of that by making it a pain in the butt to play pirated games on the 3DS. Also, it's on the right track by cracking down on those R4-type cards.



DarkKirby said:

What, and you thought S.O.P.A. was a brilliant and sensible idea too?

You want to stop piracy, make your product fair and more convenient to buy than to pirate. It's the success story of Steam.

If your product is fair (that means stopping crap like region locking and not having dual audio to save money) and as easy to purchase as possible, and somebody still pirates it, guess what, that person likely wouldn't have purchased the game in the 1st place.



Action51 said:

@DarkKirby - "You want to stop piracy, make your product fair and more convenient to buy than to pirate. It's the success story of Steam."

How do I even respond to's the most entitled, naive mindset imaginable.

If a company doesn't want their trademarks ripped off, they should make ideas and products so ugly and unworkable that no one wants to steal them?

If I don't want my car stolen I should get a cheap clunker and fail to maintain it so no one wants the hassle of stealing it?

The success of Steam also has to do with creating a community for online play, peer reviews, convenient updates and system spec guides in a one stop shop. The reason they can offer things so cheap is because of volume, low overhead, and "evergreen" revenue. They were able to build this based on the success and reputation of their software and modding community.

Yes...Steam has made it so many would-be pirates just give it up for the convenience, but I think you've completely misplaced the cause and effect situations here...a true pirate won't pay a penny for anything.



FuseBlues said:

@Action51 "If a company doesn't want their trademarks ripped off, they should make ideas and products so ugly and unworkable that no one wants to steal them?"

That is almost exactly the opposite of what @DarkKirby said. The key issue is that piracy is, for the most part, a service issue. It's been demonstrated by business models such as Steam and iTunes - especially where the music industry responded (eventually) effectively to Napster with quick, convenient and user-friendly digital music.

Of course there are always people who will pirate stuff - just as there are always people who will steal from shops or mug people. However, for the most part it's about adapting a business model to make paying the easier and more worthwhile thing to do.

See a more erudite version here:



SCAR said:

Well, there is always the option of just banning whoever's NNID for using illegal software. Microsoft does that with the Xbox systems. The same goes for cheating. They can leave their console offline to avoid security checks, but that's not really worth doing for a majority of people, or the possibility that the games just don't work.

The whole pirating thing just seems stupid in most cases.



Action51 said:

@FuseBlues - Napster's original practices got shut down due to legal reasons.

I think the point both you and @DarkKirby aren't getting is that you are not entitled to free content just because it's easier to steal digitally and you believe it's overpriced. Just apply that logic to a physical release...if I think the latest Super Mario Bros. game is too expensive, should Nintendo sell it for $20 retail or expect me to shoplift a copy from Gamestop?

How does that work?

This is nothing new either. For decades in the United States (where we don't have a TV tax) people steal cable and "premium channels" (like HBO and porn) through splicers and other means.

The internet is a wonderful and open place where content is offered both free and paid. Just because the means of obtaining intellectual and copyrighted content is easier does not mean it's free because you feel entitled, and it certainly doesn't mean someone didn't work hard and invest a lot of their time and resources into developing it.



R-L-A-George said:

@FuseBlues I knew what you were referring to. I read the headline like they were talking about Eshop. Flashcarts are still pretty illegal there.



FuseBlues said:

@Action51 "I think the point both you and @DarkKirby aren't getting is that you are not entitled to free content just because it's easier to steal digitally and you believe it's overpriced."

I suspect we're actually talking about slightly different things here. I don't think either of us was suggesting it is either ethical or legal that people breach copyright. However, one needs to look at what works in deterring piracy, and as an industry what is the most effective way of tackling it. And piracy to a large degree is demonstrably a service issue, and when attempts have been made through punitive means, they have usually failed.

The most effective way of tackling the problem (and, yes, it is a problem) has been overwhelmingly shown to be by changing a business model. It's not a question of morality - it's a question looking objectively at how the business can survive and thrive.



AshFoxX said:

This is probably the first time that the comments to a NL article made more sense than the article itself.

Thanks for clearing it all up, guys!



Manaphy2007 said:

as for wii and ds, i only download to either see what the game is like besides using youtube as a source, and i either keep the rom/iso until i buy the game, then delete or if its more rarer to find a replacement then i keep as a back up or i keep the back up and buy the game, unless its harder to find games or too expensive. i actually have more retail games for ds and wii than back ups so that is a good thing. also no one can stop piracy no matter what they try and reasons for piracy vary, in my case its good piracy whereas some do not intend to support the devs. if people wanna pirate then they better support the devs buy buying the game (even if you wait til he price goes down, do it) so dont be way too cheap if you cant afford a game that you like go for $10 online or a a pawn shop. im neither for nor against piracy as i tend to buy games more than i pirate.



Action51 said:

@FuseBlues - I still don't buy that, and my original point's ridiculous to think that because it's easier to steal something, that we should expect the developers to sell their product at or near losses to avoid the inevitable theft and be happy they can squeak out a few pennies from honest folks.

Again, take the idea of a patent...the reason we don't have rampant theft of patents is because we have proper enforcement capability and avenues. It's not a perfect system (AKA Phillips vs Nintendo) but otherwise we'd would expect any idea or process to be ripped off immediately as it went to market, and by your logic the only recourse is: "oh well, shouldn't have made such a great idea that people would want to copy"...




@AugustusOxy Many of those old games can be beaten in hours or minutes. Games back then weren't big because they were simple. The difficulty of them made us repeat levels, thus hindering our process and making our play time much longer than it'd be if we always succeeded. Nintendo's games have good length to them. The lack of difficulty in some of them just makes you think otherwise.



Artwark said:

@Einherjar While I can agree that emulation is not easy, that doesn't mean that GBA on 3DS can't be done. Seriously though, the fact that the XL screen is stretched out just shows that GBA games can be done the same way. Nobody is going to like to only play portable games on a big screen unless it comes to those who haven't played GBA games to begin with.



maceng said:

I've already seen a SD card for playing 3DS games. I won't cite the name or give the link, but is already a commercial product.



Sionyn said:

ever borrowed a book ? CD ? Game ? used the library ?

Your no better than anyone who share files over the internet,
Understand that the argument of copyright monopolies is a lossed sale, however that presumes a file share would buy the anything see the fallacy of the copyright monopoly ?

Imagen the same for M&M suing anybody who shared their M&M. Copyright monopolies fear the loss of control and will do anything to stop it, including allowing PRIVATE BUSINESS to make laws that benefit them selves only, hell bent hampering human progress for their antiquated business models.

would you let a washingline installer sue whitegood manufactures for making his services redundant with better technology ????

In fact people who share files over the internet SPEND MORE than those who don't a uk government white paper found.

also piracy is pillaging ships on the high seas not sharing or copying information.

Check out the evil origins of copyright

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