Former RomUniverse owner receives a knockout punch from a court order in a Nintendo lawsuit.
For many, older NES titles are nostalgic time machines that take us back to our early days of gaming. Unfortunately their age doesn’t mean we’re entitled to take what we want, and doing so can lead to costly legal consequences. A California court has ordered the owner of the previously well-known website RomUniverse to destroy any copies of Nintendo games and other IP obtained and distributed illegally.
In 2019, Nintendo of America sued Matthew Storman, the owner and former operator of RomUniverse, for more than $150,000 per copyright infringement and $2 million per trademark infringement. A judge decided in Nintendo’s favour in May 2021, awarded the firm $2.1 million based on filed trademark infringement charges.
In the aftermath of the decision, Nintendo sought a permanent injunction against Storman and RomUniverse. Storman has previously claimed that Nintendo suffered no actual damages and called into question the timeliness of the company’s original game copyrights.
The initial injunction request was denied by the court, stating that the company failed to show it suffered irreparable harm based on Storman’s actions. However, a judge later revisited and issued the injunction, having determined Storman clearly demonstrated a continued threat of infringement. The injunction states that Storman (or any person working with Storman) are prohibited from any activities related to copying, distributing, selling, performing, displaying, playing, or otherwise using any Nintendo copyrighted work.
ROMs are copies of an original game that are transferred from game cartridges (or other media) and moved to a computer or other system. Once moved, the ROM can be accessed using specific emulation techniques and software to run the game as if it were being run on the original game system.
Misuse of a company’s intellectual property without licence or authorisation can lead to litigation and other legal action. Sites like RomUniverse gave users access to hundreds, if not thousands, of illegally distributed ROMs.
Following Nintendo’s lawsuit, RomUniverse.com was taken offline in late 2019. However, this was not the first time Nintendo sought damages from a ROM distribution site; in November 2018, the firm was awarded $12 million in a separate settlement with former ROM sites LoveRoms.com and LoveRetro.co.