If one took a broad overview of the entire history of video gaming, few would dare to argue Nintendo’s legend status over the past several decades.
The Japanese company’s games, both old and new, are renowned for their brilliance and enduring characters. Arguably the most iconic is Mario, who first made his appearance as the hero in the timeless 1981 release Donkey Kong.
Even today, dangerously close to 40 years on, countless players still enjoy this and other classics on emulators and similar tools but Nintendo’s tolerance is becoming increasingly fragile. Over the past couple of years, as players toil in the shadows to defeat Kong, Nintendo has become a litigation machine throwing takedown notices and even lawsuits (1,2,3) at sites and alleged infringers.
The company’s latest effort came on Friday when it sent a copyright complaint to development platform Github. The target was a remake of Donkey Kong built with React Native, the open-source mobile application framework created by Facebook.
Created by developer ‘bberak’, this React Native version of Donkey Kong isn’t an emulation, it was created from the ground up for iOS and Android and documented in a detailed post on Hackernoon in April 2018.
Perhaps a little unusually, given the risks associated with stepping on Nintendo’s toes lately, the original repo – which was now been taken down – basically acknowledges that parts of the project may infringe copyright. The game’s code may have been created independently but the visual and audio assets are undoubtedly Nintendo’s. And the repo happily pointed to the company behind the project too.
“Copyright Notice: All content, artwork, sounds, characters and graphics are the property of Nintendo of America Inc, its affiliates and/or subsidiaries,” the repo read.
“Get in Touch: We are Neap – a development and design team in Sydney. We love building stuff and meeting new people, so get in touch with us at https://neap.co.”
The Neap website reveals that ‘bberak’ is Boris Berak, co-founder and Technical Director of the Australia-based company. TF contacted them for comment but at the time of publication, we hadn’t received a response.
In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to use Donkey Kong as a technical demo since Nintendo has already shown an aversion to such projects in the past. Back in June 2017, the company targeted a Donkey Kong remake for Roku, also hosted on Github. Interestingly, the complaint filed Friday appears to have an artifact from that two-year-old notice.
Stating the content being targeted most recently, Nintendo states: “Nintendo’s Donkey Kong video game, covered by U.S. Copyright Reg. No. PA0000115040 (supplemented by PA0000547470). The reported repository contains a recreation of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong video game for Roku, which was created and published without Nintendo’s authorization.”
The text is an exact match with that in the earlier complaint, even going as far as referencing Roku, which appears to be an error. Nevertheless, those details are irrelevant to the claim and won’t be good grounds for a counter-notice.
As Nintendo’s notice points out, at least another 30 developers forked this Donkey Kong variant on Github, so all those repositories have been taken down too. They could probably be restored if Berak removed all the original Donkey Kong references, graphics, and sound, but that seems unlikely.