Lik-Sang was an Internet mail order business based in Hong Kong. Note the word “was”; the company was forced out of business in 2006 by multiple lawsuits from Sony regarding the early selling of PSP's in the UK. However, in the early 2000’s Lik-Sang was embroiled in a legal battle with Nintendo over the selling of Game Boy Advance copy devices (similar to the GB Flash Advance Linker). These devices allowed a consumer to either copy a ROM from a PC onto a blank cartridge, or copy a legitimate game cartridge to a PC. The court ruled in Nintendo’s favor that the devices were illegal, making the analogy of going after drug traffickers instead of drug addicts to curb drug use.
But this article is primarily a statement from Alex Kampl, one of Lik-Sang’s founders, after the decision was handed down. First of all, he notes the errors in the official Nintendo press release (which can be found via link from this article), including the fact that he had filed an appeal to the case, and that it was a summary judgment, not a full trial. In addition, he notes that the Hong Kong judge in the case was not an IP specialist (apparently there is not IP specialist in the Hong Kong judicial system any longer) and seemed to misunderstand some basic concepts about video game emulation. Kampl goes on to claim that since there is not copy protection on the Game Boy Advance, this particular section of law does not apply. Kampl also describes his disappointment that Nintendo is going after hardware used extensively by hobbyists, even by certain video game companies (apparently companies purchase flash cartridges from Lik-Sang for development purposes). Kampl claims that what he is doing is perfectly legal, and that presumption of innocence seems to no longer apply to cases of video game copying (“Nintendo doesn’t need to prove you are a pirate anymore, it is assumed you all are if you have the technical means to copy”).
Kampl’s claim that the Game Boy Advance does not have copy protection is more or less false; the system does have a form of copy protection (as explained in the Customs and Border Patrol ruling on the GB Flash Advance Linker). In addition, the analogy to drug trafficking has some logic to it, since it would be impossible for Nintendo to find and prosecute all video game pirates. But Kampl’s statement that the whole case should be embarrassing for Nintendo certainly seems to have merit. The purchase by video game developers of hundreds of flash cartridges clearly shows that they have some legitimate use in game development (and could be used by consumers to produce homebrew games), and as such is does seem that Nintendo is assuming that anyone who uses this device must be guilty. In addition, these types of cases clearly build up ill will towards Nintendo within the video game community, something that the company wants to avoid. Overall, while the decision may have been correct, Nintendo’s decision to pursue this case may have been a mistake.
This is a ruling by US Customs and Border Protection in 2001 on whether or not the GB Flash Advance Linker violated the DMCA (if it did, then CBP would not allow the device the pass through customs). The GB Flash Advance Linker serves two basic purposes. The first is basically a blank Game Boy Advance cartridge on which the consumer can load data. This cartridge can then be played in a normal Game Boy Advance. While homebrew or public domain games could be loaded onto these cartridges, most often illegally downloaded ROMs were placed on them. The second, and more important, is to make a copy of a Game Boy Advance cartridge and store it on a PC. Nintendo, naturally, wanted CBP to stop this product from entering the United States. CBP noted that the DMCA prevents the importing of devices that are primarily for circumventing protection, have limited use outside of circumventing protection, and are marketed with the explicit knowledge of their circumvention capabilities. The floppy disk that comes with the device (and installs the necessary software) is simply used to provide the Nintendo boot up code, clearly signifying the intent to bypass protection. Then, the device illegally copies the cartridge data to flash, and then to a PC. Therefore, CBP decided that the GB Flash Advance Linker violates the DMCA.
The ruling makes perfect sense. Clearly the Game Boy Advance cartridge has a form of copy protection on it (although a weird one, as described in the ruling), and this device was created and sold with the intention of bypassing that protection. Obviously this violates the DMCA. The problem here is that this ruling effectively leaves no legal way to create a backup of a legitimately owned video game. If any attempt to back up the video game data breaks the DMCA, then how can backups be created? If I want a backup of my video game, to be used in the event of damage to the original, how would I go about getting it? Petition Nintendo? The other major problem with this ruling is that there do seem to be a few legitimate uses of this device, most notably concerning homebrew games. If a consumer creates his or her own video game for the Game Boy Advance, then how could they move it to a cartridge playable on the actual system? In essence, once one has created his or her own game, it is unplayable on the system that they designed it for. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way around this problem. Nintendo, in going after this device, clearly indicates that it wants complete control over how its games are used and copied. Basically, Nintendo does not want consumers to have the ability to make backup copies (which are allowed by law) or create homebrew games.