The owner of a closed down ROM distribution website was ordered to pay Nintendo $2.1 million dollars in damages.
Back in September 2019, a lawsuit has been filed by Nintendo against Matthew Storman over his site RomUniverse.com, which provided illegal “Nintendo Switch Scene Roms” and some other copyrighted gaming files.
According to Nintendo, RomUniverse was one of the most popular online hubs to download pirated Nintendo games from in over 10 years.
Storman admits that the site contributed a huge part of his $30,000 to $36,000 annual income. The bulk of it came from “premium unlimited accounts” which cost $30/year, so users get faster download speeds and no bandwidth limits.
When Nintendo and Storman signed an agreement to shut down the site in September 2020, he revealed that he’s getting around $800/month from RomUniverse. Court documents show that Storman’s main income is currently from “unemployment and food stamps.”
Storman argued that he was only a neutral service provider with the purpose of sharing files, invoking the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Furthermore, he mentioned that he cooperated in previous DMCA takedown requests from Nintendo.
But Storman’s admission that he’s the one who uploaded Nintendo’s copyrighted ROMs negated any “safe harbor” claims. His “first sale doctrine” defense, which attempted to defend him on the grounds that the website was distributing copies of his personal property, also failed.
When asked to provide a copy of the communication with other website administrators and downloads data of the pirated games, Storman didn’t cooperate. He reasoned out that the data was irretrievable, but Nintendo alleged that he destroyed it to cover his tracks.
Nintendo claimed that RomUniverse had distributed “hundreds of thousands” of copyrighted games. However, a screenshot from the site provided evidence that lowered it to 50,000. According to Nintendo, each pirated copy cost anywhere from $20 to $60, so the company lost an estimated $1 to $3 million in revenue.