More commercial pirating

Melissa and I were at the Mall in Lafayette last night. One of the booths in the aisle between stores was selling a really interesting product. Where by interesting, I mean illegal. It was a controller that was shaped just like an N64. It plugged into a wall transformer for power and had RCA connectors on it for audio/video data to the TV. I had about 150 games built into it.

The really suprising this was that the games built into it were things like Super Mario Brothers 1, Contra 1 and 2, Marble Madness, etc. As far as I could tell, these were copies of the original, not knock-offs.

So, being curious, I asked him some questions about it. One of the questions I asked was whether nintendo endorsed the product. He assured me that they did. The box for the product (cheap cardboard box with clear plastic areas to see the device) didn’t have any company logo or information on it at all, let alone a nintendo endorsement. The booth didn’t bear a company name of any sort. The product didn’t even have a name. It was just boxed.

The guy was able to answer all the technical questions that I had about it to my satisfaction, which leads me to believe that he was not just a salesman for the product. Not sure if he helped design it, but I wouldn’t be suprised.

Just now I called the police in Lafayette and filed a report. It took the telephone clerk a while to figure out what sort of activity I was trying to report. It’s not your normal sort of crime I suppose. Unlike the last bootleg activity I last blogged about though, I was actually witness to this activity. Someone tried to sell *me* the copyrighted material, instead of just me hearing about this activity. That’s why I reported it this time, and did not report it last time.

As for the Nintendo endorsement, I think we can all agree that Nintendo would never agree to sell 150+ of their most popular NES titles for such a low price on a system that they’re making no profit from. Worse yet, it’s directly competing with GBA titles that Nintendo is selling for $30 per game. Lastly, I suspect Nintendo doesn’t directly control the IP for each of those games. Third parties like Konami and Capcom own a good deal of those games.

I had no idea that commercial bootleg ventures were this rampant… I’ve run into two of them in the last two weeks. Is it just strange coincidence, or is it really this bad?

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32 Comments.

  1. We saw the same thng when we were in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. If it were any more shady it would be the dark side of the moon.

  2. It’s surprising how many “common folk” don’t think twice about this stuff. Everyone thinks that techies are the one overwhelmingly responsible for piracy…but I’ve talked to so many people who have just the barest knowledge of computers…enough to turn it on and install spyware…and they act surprised when you imply that maybe using their new CD burner to grind out copies of software and music for all their friends might not be a good idea, or not good to brag about openly. They own the CD burner and the CDs and the original stuff…what’s the problem? This is just the same way: they bought it from the guy in the mall, what could be the problem? I’ll pick up one for each tv in the house! If anything, most of the geeks I know are more likely to buy originals and pay attention to copyrights.

  3. By the way…that’s incredibly smart of them to not give this thing a name. I am only able to dig up two mentions of this thing, one saying they were at a mall, and the other saying they were at a carnival, and both of them just mentioned in passing and not considering the legality of it.

  4. very similar to that thing, only this one resebled a n N64 controller on the front. It had a battery pack just like that. I forgot to mention that the demo unit the guy was using has some sort of 80+ pin centronics connector on it. When I asked the guy about the connector, he side-stepped by assuring me that the unit he wanted to sell me did not have that.

    Some sort of programming adapter I assume. Not sure. I wouldn’t think it would be for actual NES carts?

  5. I’ve seen those for sale at the Lexington mall. I figured they wouldn’t be selling them so blatantly if it was piracy, but maybe they figured out how to slip in under the radar screen. I was really surprised that I could play the actual Contra and Super Mario Brothers on it. The best I could figure is that they’re licensed.

    However, what if they were uploading ROM images from old NES cartridges and had exactly one cartridge per unit sold, then destroyed the cartridge? I mean, maybe they found some kind of legal loophole somewhere…but still, the thing has 150 games on it, and I’d think you couldn’t obtain that many old cartridges for

  6. Our intrepid supersleuth has dug around on the Internet a bit and come up with this. From what I can gather, copying the NES is a pretty big industry in Asia, and it looks like some of those devices have made their way over here.

  7. great link, click on the second little guy in the top row of icons to get a huge list of these things. i think i saw the one you were talking about with a big cartridge slot.

  8. You would have loved/hated to see everything for sale in Chinatown area of Bangkok, Thailand. It was pretty crazy. Especially the area of PS2 merchants who were literally ‘fixing’ PS2 boxes with a magnifying glass, a toothbrush for cleaning, and a soldering iron.

  9. Don’t you have better things to do that call the cops and rat people out. It aint your business

  10. Actually, it is his business. To be more precise, it’s his field of study and work, even if it isn’t the vocation he has chosen.

    I suppose that if you saw someone stealing from a jewelry store, you wouldn’t tell the owner? Or if you saw someone being raped in an alley, you would just mind your own business. Whatever happened to civic duty, coward?

  11. If I saw a 20 year old drinking a beer at a party, I wouldn’t be telling anyone. If I saw one of my coworkers smoking pot, pretty much not my business. Someone offers to sell me pot, “no thanks, man”. Haven’t called the cops. I see someone speeding on the highway. No cops. I’m at someone’s home and see that they have bootleg DVDs. No cops. I go somplace and see some people playing emulated NES games on their computer. No cops. I see a T-shirt standing selling a Calvin & Hobbes T-shirt. No cops.

    I see someone driving wrecklessly enough that I’m seriously afraid someone will be hurt. Cops. I’m in a business and see someone shoplifting, I’ll let the owner know. Someone’s being raped, hell yes I go try to do something about it.

    The comparison of copyright infringement to theft is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons, but understandable.

    Please don’t compare copyright infringement to rape and expect anyone to take you seriously.

  12. Very well, you can have your relativism when it comes to lawbreaking. Every analogy breaks down at some point, that one just happens to fail sooner than most.

    Yes, copyright infringement is a pretty murky area both morally and legally, as has been discussed multiple times in our blog forae (forums? fora?); but in this case it is pretty clear cut, IMHO. Calling the cops is, at any rate, quicker and easier than trying to get in touch with someone at Nintendo.

  13. HOw can you report someone selling things illegal and not report a relative who is buying things illegally. To me this sounds like a double standard. Maybe I should direct your information to the police and have all of it investigated…Your relative knows its illegal to buy illegal movies.

  14. Allow me the honor of being the first to say *zing*

  15. Jacob,

    I’m vaguely offended that you would equate my dislike of being a tattle-tale with moral relativism.

    Let’s examine the analogy that I found disquieting:

    1. Copyright infringement. A law is clearly being broken. The victim is a multinational megacorporation. The morality/immorality of the act itself (apart from the legality) is questionable.

    2. Rape. A law is clearly being broken. The victim is a human being who is being hurt in a concrete way in the present tense. Rape is a human travesty, one of the most heinous immoral acts that one person can commit against another.

    Surely you can understand why a direct analogy between the two doesn’t simply break down as “every analogy [does] at some point”. Such a comparison is preposterous at even the shallowest level.

  16. Hmm, what’s next? Have you ever been in a car with a friend who was speeding? Did you report them? Isn’t that like sitting idly by while scores of people are torn down in baseless acts of genocide? Hmm, I guess that analogy has some faults in it, but that’s ok, all of them do.

    … I feel dirty for simply typing something like that, and sad that you don’t seem to recognize why.

  17. Sue Lynn, I have the sneaking suspicion that you’re the same person, who is neither Sue nor Lynn.

    How about you try again?

  18. No, sometimes I don’t have anything better to do than to “rat people out to the cops”. What’s your point?

    Double standard? Yes. I freely admit it. Doesn’t hurt a bit that she buys all those movies when they are available for sale, and that she probably owns literally hundreds of movies.

    Whitcha huh? Speeding == genocide, now? What?

    … I feel dirty for simply typing something like that, and sad that you don’t seem to recognize why.

    Oh really? If you have something to say, oh purveyor of anonymity, email me at dave circleyatsymbol notblog.com. I’d be glad to post your own thoughts on the subject on the front page.

  19. right or wrong, i look at it from a “How would I feel as the victim in that situation” view.

    Someone is selling my property, I’m pissed.

    Someone is speeding, smoking pot, selling pot-what do I care? UNLESS its in my car or was my pot that they stole from me, then I would report them. Who is the victim in speeding? the highway? the state?(And do say the person I hit when I lost control, thats crap)

    Someone is raping me, not good at all.

    Someone is buying my property which was stolen, I’d be upset at the seller, and a little upset at the buyer, but i’d also think the buyer has good taste and wouldn’t care that much about them.

    Not saying its right or wrong, and it will probably breakdown somewhere and you’ll point it out, but its early so i’m posting my thoughts without really thinking.

  20. I feel stupid for not fully comprehending the genocide post. Can someone explain it to me?

  21. Call it a guess, but I think Lynn was taking issue with Jacob’s analogy that Ryan also took issue with. Nothing more nothing less.

  22. When someone tries to sell you something that is illegal, it’s your business. End of story there.

    Anonymous posting on a web-log is very cowardly. If you don’t have the guts to just say what you want to say (like everyone else has, thus far) and be up-front and frank about it, then you really have no reason to be here. Being under anonymity alone is offensive. If you want to be taken seriously on a matter you obviously care so much about, please cut the crap (pardon my french) or go horn in elsewhere.

    If you want to have the whole thing investigated. Knock yourself out. Please.

  23. Clearly “Not telling.” was someone who didn’t want to identify him/herself, but it’s not terribly clear what makes you think Sue and Lynn are not what they seem much less the same person. Sue threatened you and seemed to have difficulty grasping the proper use of punctuation. Lynn had no such problems. I mean, maybe they had the same IP address or something, which I guess might be pretty damning, but it seems like if you don’t want random people posting on your blog you should require usernames and passwords or something.

    In any case, I waited a long time to post to this thread because I had no desire to get into a moral debate. Dave did what he thought was right, and there is honor in that. I wouldn’t have done the same, but I was pretty sure that Dave didn’t really want to debate whether turning them in was the right thing to do, so I didn’t. My intention when I did finally post was in no way to belittle or question his personal choices. However, I won’t apologize for holding a different view or expressing it, since presumably harvesting some different viewpoints was Dave’s intention in posting his anecdote to an open forum in the first place.

    I was provoked into joining the discussion by the comparison of copyright infringement to rape, which I could not overlook. Since I know people personally who have been in date-rape situations, I take rape very seriously. Since nobody else seems to take issue with the analogy, I will just move on.

    I feel like the reason Jacob would make this analogy tethers down to the belief that to God all sin is equally abhorrent. I’m certainly not going to argue with that. But it’s one thing to believe that God takes all sin equally seriously and quite another to believe that we as humans should take all (manmade)law-breaking equally seriously.

    I’m done.

  24. I was addressing Not Tellin’ or whomever. Random people are more than welcome to post here.

    Good post Ryan.

  25. Ryan,

    You’re correct in your assesment that I was looking for others’ responses to my actions when I posted my experience. I was intrigued by your response, it was thought provoking.

    You’re also right in that Lynn had no ill will towards me, I was mistaken in that. She and I had a very amicable (sp?) conversation about it via email.

    As a side note, Melissa and I were at the mall again tonight, and the booth is still there, so my actions apparently had no effect on the situation, in case anyone was worried that my actions may have deprived them of eight bit ecstacy. (:

  26. Dave and Mel smell like poop!

    Notice the non-anonymous tag.

  27. Nice, coming from the guy who gave me nightmares after I dreamed of him pooping all over my bedroom floor.

  28. Ryan, sorry I didn’t make it clear that I was abandoning the rape analogy. You’re right, it isn’t the same thing. And yes, that is exactly what I meant with the relativism comment — breaking the law is breaking the law, period. Yes, in our society some laws aren’t (or can’t be) universally enforced, unlike God’s laws (the breaking of which *always* has consequences). I guess what it comes down to is whether or not you feel a civic duty to help enforce the laws of the land, since the executive branch of the government can’t do it with the manpower it has. Where do you draw the line between being responsible and being a snitch? Some of us draw it closer than others.

    I guess I don’t have the libertarian leanings that some people in this forum do. I would report it if my next door neighbor was smoking or selling pot, or if I saw someone driving recklessly and (this is a judgment call) endangering other people’s lives. Why? Because I don’t want my kids to be around people who want to fry their brains.

    Sue/Lynn/Coward, I don’t have anything to say to you that hasn’t already been said. Reveal yourself or remain reviled. Have a nice day.

  29. Lynn is actually lynn, she’s the one that emailed me. She’s not actually pseudonyming, even though the email addy looks that way. (:

  30. Whew. I’m glad I don’t have such a cool email address that I’m thought to be a bot. 🙂

  31. I’ve got 150 movies on SVCD for sale if anyone is interested!

    Just kidding, I haven’t been around lately and somehow after reading the post I knew it would explode into an argument/ discussion. My ideas on the matter a far different from Dave’s, as I am sure he is well aware, though I respect his right to do whatever it is he wants to do.

    As for the one known only as “coward,” what more could anyone expect? It could affect his/her credibility in the future. Without knowing who they are you can only pass judgment on their idea and not on them personally. I mean, after all, everyone knows how judgmental everyone here is.

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