Nintendo has successfully sued a ROM site owner to the tune of $2.1 million after the now-unemployed operator of the closed waerz distribution site tried and failed to defend himself.
Nintendo Continue to Prove That It Means Business
Nintendo first filed a lawsuit against Matthew Storman back in September 2019. The Los Angeles resident was the operator of the ROM site, RomUniverse.com. Nintendo claims that Storman has unlawfully offered downloads of copyrighted game files. This included Nintendo Switch ROMs, among many others.
As per Nintendo, Storman's site had, at the time, established itself as one of the "most visited and notorious online hubs for pirated Nintendo video games".
As part of the trial, Storman admitted that the majority of his $36,000 a year income came from the money he made from the ROM site. This included the money that he made specifically for selling premium membership accounts for $30 a year. This membership gave privileged users unlimited and faster download speeds.
In September 2020, when Storman had signed an agreement with Nintendo to take down the ROM site, Storman claimed that he was still getting $800 a month from operating the site. However, things haven't gone well for Storman since. Court documents showed that Storman's income is now mostly compromised of "unemployment and food stamps."
Storman attempted to defend himself from Nintendo's accusations by invoking the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), otherwise known as "safe harbor" protections. Storman argued that he was merely a neutral party that provided service by sharing user files. Storman also was quick to point out that he had complied with Nintendo's initial requests, via DMCA, to take down content in the past.
Unfortunately, this wasn't enough. The final coffin came from Storman himself when he later admitted that he was responsible for uploading some of copyrighted ROM files. In doing so, Storman effectively testified against himself and it meant that he could no longer defend himself using the "safe harbor" claim.
Another failed attempt to use the "first sale doctrine" proved unsuccessful as well. The site was proven to have distributed copies of copyrighted content that personally did not belong to Storman.
What drew Nintendo's ire even more, was Storman's failure to provide any data on how many times users had downloaded the pirated video games. Storman claims that he no longer had access to the said data. However, Nintendo alleges that Storman had destroyed it on purpose.
What's the Result of the Nintendo vs Storman Trial?
According to Nintendo, each download on RomUniverse cost the company between $20 and $60. This meant that Nintendo had lost up to $3 million in revenue as a result of Storman's operation of RomUniverse.
The judge of the trial ruled that this was a case of infringement and found in Nintendo's favor. However, the judge did lower Nintendo's initial ask. After seeking $4.41 million in copyright damages, the judge decided to lower the amount to "just" $1.715 million. The judge claimed that the amount was enough to "compensate the Plaintiff for its lost revenue and deter the Defendant who is currently unemployed and has already shut down the website."
Pushing Nintendo's settlement amount to $2 million was the additional $400,000 the company will receive as compensation for RomUniverse using box art that is trademarked by Nintendo.
Luckily for Storman, Nintendo probably isn't expecting to receive a single cent from him. Rather, the main purpose of the judgment is to help Nintendo uphold its copyright and intellectual property rights. This should make it easier for Nintendo to take down other ROM sites in the future.