Things could have gotten very messy
Earlier this week, Nintendo hit Valve with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint over a Steam listing for the Dolphin emulator, which lets people play Wii and GameCube titles. Valve reached out to the team behind the emulator to let them know of the issue, which is why Valve yanked the listing from their digital storefront…or so we thought.
Some new information has come to light on the situation, and we now know that it was Valve who reached out to Nintendo first about the Dolphin situation, which is why Nintendo stepped in to have the listing pulled before it even released. Valve confirmed that they acted first by reaching out to Nintendo in a statement provided to The Verge.
Given Nintendo’s history of taking action against some emulators, we brought this to their attention proactively after the Dolphin team announced it was coming soon to Steam.”
The entire email exchange between Valve and Nintendo has made its way online, and it shows some more details on the DMCA as well. Reading through the finer points reveals that legally, Valve wouldn’t be able to say the issue was with the team behind Dolphin and not Valve. Sometimes you see situations where a platform-holder can’t get in trouble for content uploaded to their service, but in this particular instance, the legalese wouldn’t shield from trouble. Long story short, Nintendo could have filed a lawsuit against Valve if they saw fit to.
Now, would Nintendo have actually pursued that legal action against Valve? We’ll never know, but that’s likely why Valve reached out to Nintendo first, instead of letting this situation boil over into trouble for them.
To make things extra clear, Valve also released a full statement on the situation, which you can read below.
We operate Steam as an open platform, but that relies on creators shipping only things they have the legal right to distribute. Sometimes third parties raise legal objections to things on Steam, but Valve isn’t well positioned to judge those disputes – the parties have to go to court, or negotiate between themselves. An accusation of copyright infringement, for example, can be handled under the DMCA process, but other disputes (like trademark infringement or a breach of contract claim between a developer and a publisher) don’t have a statutory dispute resolution process, so in these cases we generally will cease distributing the material until the parties tell Valve that they have resolved their dispute.
We don’t want to ship an application we know could be taken down, because that can be disruptive to Steam users. Given Nintendo’s history of taking action against some emulators, we brought this to their attention proactively after the Dolphin team announced it was coming soon to Steam.
Based on the letter we received, Nintendo and the Dolphin team have a clear legal dispute between them, and Valve can’t sit in judgment.