We recently reported on the Kickstarter campaign for Bitmap Books' NES/Famicom: A Visual Compendium. Part of the publisher's long-running Visual Compendium series - which has previously featured the Commodore, Amiga and ZX Spectrum - the book is intended as a celebration of Nintendo's iconic 8-bit console, a machine which changed the way the public viewed video games forever.
Packed with exclusive interviews and content, the book had a modest funding goal of £25,000 but as its campaign drew to a close it managed to reach £170,000.
However, the Kickstarter has now been halted due to an "intellectual property dispute" by Nintendo. A legal notice has been posted, which reads:
The copyrighted material includes images and fictional character depictions from Nintendo's video games, including but not limited to, U.S. Copyright Reg. Nos. PA0000273028, supp. by PA0000547457 (Super Mario Bros.); PA0000427614, supp. by PA0000547456 (Super Mario Bros. 2); PA0000563454 (Super Mario Bros. 3); PA0000356140 (The Legend of Zelda); PA0000427613 (Zelda II – Adventure of Link); PA0000254906 (VS. Excitebike); PA0000260315 (VS. Hogan's Alley); PA0000583907 (Yoshi(NES)); PA0000254151 (VS. Duck Hunt); PA0000366687 (Ice Hockey); PA0000356141 (Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!); PA0000564771 (Punch-Out!!); PA0000356142 (Metroid); and PA0000115040 (Donkey Kong). Publication of this book will further infringe these and other copyrights owned by Nintendo. This Kickstarter project makes unauthorized use of Nintendo's copyrights as noted above. The description of the book states that it is 'mainly visual', and the campaign shows pages of the book which consist simply of large screenshots copied directly from Nintendo's video games.
On the cover of the book, a clearly modified version of Nintendo's famous "seal of quality" appears, something the company feels might confuse backers:
This campaign also makes use of a mark that is confusingly similar to registered trademarks owned by Nintendo. Specifically, the project's creator is using a modified version of Nintendo's 'Official Nintendo Seal' mark (protected by U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 3114368 (Class 16), 3117154(Class 28), 3173562(Class 9), and 1570911(Classes 16 and 28)) and Nintendo's "Original Seal of Quality" mark (protected by EU Trademark Registration No. 3475977 (Classes 9, 16, 28) to promote this project.
This use of Nintendo's intellectual property may confuse Kickstarter backers into thinking this project is sponsored or licensed by Nintendo, when in fact it is not.
The book makes extensive use of in-game screenshots and game artwork, but it's certainly not the first to do so, which makes this issue a little odd - especially when you consider that the venture is all about celebrating Nintendo's past and bringing its games to a wider audience, something that you could argue is beneficial to the company.
Did you back the book? What are your thoughts on this takedown, which seems likely to have come from Nintendo? Let us know by posting a comment.
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This was always going to be difficult without Ninendo's permission or backing; especially with U.S. Copyright laws whereby they have to be seen as actively protecting their IP in almost every circumstance.
Hopefully an amicable agreement can be reached.
Don't know enough about why it was taken down to pass judgement.
It's a difficult call really, I mean magazine and gaming sites can post screenshots and commentary on games fairly freely, this doesn't seem much more than the average piece of online journalism.
On the other hand, it's a different game when it comes to retail books. You'd like to think Nintendo would want something like this out, it can mean nothing but good PR for them. But of course, it is making money off another's artwork so fairest way would be a small cut of the profit, surely?
We all know how their legal ninjas work though. Hopefully they will be able to straighten a deal out prior to a C&D.
Edit: Also, as @FX102A rightly points out, there is issue of having to be constantly, and aggressively, protecting IP just to make a point in legal terms.
Apparently he's had words with Nintendo UK and it should be up and running soon.
My heart sank a little last night when I got that email from kickstarter, really looking forward to the book.
I didn't back this, but I did back a similar book, the Nintendo 64 book, so i'm a little concerned.
Well boo-hoo. Obviously Nintendo were going to fight this, you can't just take their property and sell it yourself.
" is all about celebrating Nintendo's past " and making money with other people's work
@CB85 Erm he did get the ok with Nintendo UK before he set up the kickstarter so ya he did get permission. :/
I love how people are saying "he should have asked or have gotten permission" when he did just that. Do research people.
Did they not spot the book about SNES artwork from the same publisher a few months back? Hold on to those people as they will probably stop the sale of them soon and you will make a killing on eBay if you are that way inclined.
I wouldn't worry just yet. They should be able to negotiate something. They do have to actively protect but they can work something out that would save face.
I hate to say it but this is literally a third party taking Nintendo's artwork without permission and selling it for profit. Nintendo is completely justified here.
@HeroponRiki They got permission from Nintendo UK.
I hope this shakes out well. I love gaming history and coffee table books. I'm pretty sure that educational material fits squarely within fair use. Using images of a game's artwork when writing about those games and said artwork is well within all of our legal rights.
Nintendo is right. Clear cut. "Free Advertisement"? And the seal is "clearly modified"? Yeah... no.
I backed this. My question is, how did they manage to put out the Artcade and the Famicom book???
I hope they work it out. This does not hurt Nintendo one bit. If Nintendo is opposed, then put out your own damn book! This book celebrates the NES, it serves to increase nostalgia & further Nintendo sales.
Nintendo is simply too boneheaded for its own good sometimes.
@SilentHunter382 Probably a matter of Nintendo US/Jp not knowing what Nintendo UK agreed to, i hope it gets sorted out, i backed the project and the book looks pretty good to me...
@CTMike While it might be viewed as free advertising, this is not journalism. This is selling someone else's intellectual property. You make money on ads? Fine. You make money by selling something you don't own? Not that fine.
Selling blown up screenshots in book form is copyright infringement. In this case it's blatant infringement because the copyrighted images are being sold, there's little to no text or commentry it couldn't remotely be considered even fair use.
I think the only way this would work without Nintendo's intervention is if they made the project specifically a critical review of each game and downsized the screenshots. Or include a substantial amount of history of the series(e.g. Hardcore Gaming 101 articles) so it's "educational".
Or if it was free, but recent times has shown some people giving Nintendo "Free Advertising" or 'Celebrating' Nintendo seem to all want to get money for doing it and for some reason their enthusiasm for Nintendo ends where their ability to make money of it does.
I backed this book and find all this very sad indeed.
Keep us updated. I'm curious to know what happens next
So did this project actually finish before Nintendo shut it down?Were funds collected? The last archived page before the shutdown:
What about the Famicom and SNES books released previously? Will Nintendo sue this poor publisher into oblivion?
Knowing a bit about copyright (in the UK at least), it seems likely that the Super Famicom Box Art book escaped the Big Red Nintendo Legal Hammer Of Doom because:
(a) it comprised photos of boxes from the author's (i.e. Stuart Brett's aka Super Famicom Guy's) personal collection; and
(b) reviewed the artwork on those boxes.
That said, I went and got a second copy, just in case - been meaning to get it for a friend anyway.
Oh and I'm giving the Super Famicom Box Art book a fulsome review (from Western and Japanese perspectives) in the next issue of HyperPlay RPG fanzine. Just, you know, by the way
(Fanzines available at hyperplayrpg.com)
@kincl4 Parodying the official seal probably did not go over well either. Too many homebrew authors and repro makers misuse the seal as it is, either copying it in whole or simply changing the text inside the seal. I am generally against this practice, but I collect homebrew and other unofficial items, so I accept this if the author chooses to include it in the packaging.
This being a commercial production and not something made in someone's garage, the campaign starter should have known better. Does anyone have a mirror to the campaign video? I would like to see it. Archive.org shows the kickstarter page but only images and text.
@Hamster_Overlord All good points. We covered repro goods in HyperPlay RPG fanzine #1 and made the point that we prefer seals that don't ape the Nintendo one too closely. The last thing we want is fake boxes etc being sold as originals to unsuspecting buyers - that's naughty naughty, and we don't like it.
@kincl4 I think it may well be an issue some years from now. The current trend with homebrews is to make them distinctive, but hacks and repros generally try to emulate the styling of the original carts. So someone has a hack or reproduction like Return to Dinosaur Land or Zelda BS, and suppose twenty years from now a deceased collector's loot gets unloaded at a thrift store. It's not unlikely that newbie collectors might see the seal and mistaken a repro for a period release, and question why Mario is walking around with his #### hanging out or other weirdness.
The general consensus is to make stuff look as close to original as possible, and assuming the game never existed at retail then this will be common knowledge to any collector looking to buy the item. This lies under a false pretense assuming that all collectors are as knowledgeable as the person creating the hack, repro, or bootleg. I think the homebrews or repro makers should feel free to place their own branding logo on the carts, but not use the official Nintendo seal or brand if it's not an official period release.
We seem to have an accord! And we're the same age according to your profile...
Reckon you'd like our fanzine - we cover retro RPGs, and Nintendo generally. It was well reviewed on Nintendo Life:
Anyway, no more plugs, promise!
@SilentHunter382 If he "got permission", then why did Nintendo have it taken down? What you're saying obviously makes no sense.
@-DEMISE- You do know that Nintendo of US or JP could have taken it down as there have bee cases where one is ok and the others are not (mostly japan are the ones not ok with these situations).
This appears to have been done by NOA, as it was sent by a US law firm on behalf of Nintendo, so it's safe to assume that it was NOA that signed off on it. But that's irrelevant anyway, as all of Nintendo's regional subsidiaries have to act in accordance to Nintendo HQ's wishes, so if one arm files a copyright claim, you can bet that HQ was aware and approved the claim. Likewise, if this company really did get approval from one of Nintendo's subsidiaries, be it Nintendo UK or whatever, then there's no way they could have given that approval without first getting the green light from Japan.
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