Nintendo and Valve have worked together to remove Dolphin Emulator from Steam. The Dolphin Emulator is an emulator that is used to play Wii and GameCube games on personal computers. Nintendo had made it clear that it did not authorize the use of this emulator and therefore did not want it available on Steam. Valve, the company that owns and operates Steam, helped Nintendo kick Dolphin out. Valve brought the emulator to Nintendo’s attention and then unilaterally decided to pull the plug without giving Dolphin any warning or chance to combat the request.
Despite Valve’s assistance, Nintendo has made it clear that it is not happy with the use of emulators. In a statement to The Verge, Nintendo spokesperson Eddie Garcia said, “Using illegal emulators or illegal copies of games harms development and ultimately stifles innovation.”
Valve’s decision to remove Dolphin Emulator
Valve made the decision to remove Dolphin Emulator from Steam after receiving an email from Nintendo’s lawyers on May 26th. The email confirmed that this was not a typical DMCA takedown request and that it was threatening Valve with a lawsuit. The email explained that the Dolphin Emulator operates by incorporating cryptographic keys without Nintendo’s authorization and decrypting the ROMs at or immediately before runtime. This means that the use of the Dolphin emulator unlawfully “circumvent[s] a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under” the Copyright Act.
Valve was not willing to take the risk of distributing an application that could be taken down. Therefore, Valve removed Dolphin Emulator from Steam “unless or until both parties notify us that the dispute is resolved.” Valve is not well-positioned to judge legal disputes, and therefore, it cannot sit in judgment.
The future of Dolphin Emulator on Steam
The Dolphin Emulator team confirmed to The Verge that the emulator does ship with a common cryptographic key. Ars Technica spoke to several lawyers who think that Nintendo might have a decent case because of that. It might mean relying on very different precedent than past emulator legal battles. Nintendo is attempting to brand Dolphin as an “illegal emulator.”
Valve may not be interested in picking a fight with Nintendo on behalf of the Dolphin team. It is up to the parties involved to go to court or negotiate between themselves. Based on Valve’s statement, it appears that Valve has decided not to defend Dolphin. Therefore, it is unlikely that Dolphin Emulator will make its way back onto Steam.