Appeal to game journalists – about Retro-Bit

Discussion in 'Industry News' started by LuizNai, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. LuizNai

    LuizNai Spirited Member

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    Appeal to game journalists – about Retro-Bit and about the new ‘retro emulation industry’ in general
    December 20, 2017 Daniel De Matteis


    Dear game journalists and other members of the press,

    We are beyond the point of desperation at this point, and we ask you dearly for your help in this ongoing problem. Independent entrepreneurs are playing loose and fast with the laws and licenses surrounding open source code, and we have found ourselves the victim of multiple copyright and license violations ever since Hyperkin started selling its Retron5 product back in 2014.

    Since then, there has been an explosion of these products all opting for the same approach – take from opensource code, bundle it up in numerous incompatibly licensed ways, then to add insult to injury, strike up licensing deals with established players in the games industry and make it appear as if your product is ‘legitimate’.

    Read up on our previous articles here for more information –

    CyberGadget’s RetroFreak proven to use Snes9x Next/2010 code, non-commercial code being sold

    RetroArch, Libretro core license violations by Hyperkin’s Retron5

    To recap and to also add to it a new recent example of this (as in the case of Retro-Bit) –

    2014 – Hyperkin Retron 5
    Uses Snes9x (non-commercial emulator) and Genesis Plus GX (non-commercial emulator) together with various GPL-licensed emulators. The individual source code was a direct copy of our libretro repos. This is not the issue however – the issue is quite clearly that they are selling non commercially licensed emulators which obviously, as the license entails, cannot be sold.

    Did they ever do anything about this, though? Nope. It is still being sold. They recently striked up a license with byuu to use his product Higan in the future, but this does not pertain to the Retron 5 as the hardware it is based on is obviously incapable of running Higan at fullspeed. That the same product is still being sold to this day is a clear-as-day license violation of Snes9x and multiple other parties involved. I hold copyright over portions of Snes9x these days too, and the forked emulator sourcecode that the ‘contractor’ has admitted to using (and which can be seen in the sourcecode archive they published, Snes9x 2010/Next) was all written by me. They have never bothered to rectify these issues.

    2015 – Cybergadget Retro Freak
    Cybergadget Retro Freak – uses an identical copy of Retron5’s sources. Cyber Gadget has admitted to us in e-mails that they did not write the software themselves but got it from a ‘contractor company’ (probably the same company that did the software for Hyperkin Retron5. As far as I am informed, this comes from a Hong Kong company whose identity is still unknown). So, the same problems apply here – uses Snes9x (non-commercial emulator) and Genesis Plus GX (non-commercial emulator) together with various GPL-licensed emulators.

    After waiting for over two weeks on a reply back from them, I got an e-mail back (December 18, 2017) where their anonymous developer (not them) had this to say about our grievances

    “We used two versions of Snes emulator. One was Snes9x 2010, which was in turn taken from Snes9x, which had some speed increases added. The second was Verbatim snes9x. From both of these we only use the emulators and not their core code. As far as the file msvc_compat.h Mr Matteis himself says that he took this file and pasted it into many other projects. No doubt this is how this file containing RetroArchtext appeared in the archive on Cyber’s web site. As Mr. Matteis’s name does not exist anywhere in this source code we assume Mr. Mattheis is inferring that because we have this one file containing the word RetroArch posted on the web site then we must have used other files which are authored by Mr. Matteius’s. This is not true. We do not in fact use any core files merely use the emulator code as a library.”

    Therefore, we believe we are not infringing on your copyright.

    Also, these software are “GPL”, and we believe there is no problem for us.

    This reply is obviously nonsensical, and betrays a complete lack of understanding of Snes9x’s licensing terms.

    Snes9x is not licensed as GPL. It is licensed under a non-commercial, proprietary license. The entire emulator is licensed as non-commercial. Whether you use ‘core files’ or whether you use the emulator code as a library has no bearing on it. You cannot use this in a commercial product. Their product is illegal right now as it is currently being sold, and they’d have to do a complete recall and remove the infringing SNES emulator parts in order for it to become legal.

    I have given them a reasonable amount of time to rectify their obvious mistakes and missteps. Will they choose to do the right thing though? Probably not. bearoso from snes9x meanwhile has taken it upon himself to try to get the product removed from Amazon, however, Amazon has been pushing back –

    https://github.com/snes9xgit/snes9x/issues/264

    2016 – NostalGames RetroPac (defunct)
    Here we had two college students who took it upon themselves to set up a crowdfunding campaign with Kissbank in France to try to setup a business around their ‘Retropac’ product. This product turned out to be just a derivative of Lakka, our turnkey RetroArch based solution.

    The problem with this was that Lakka is non-commercial and comes bundled with various non-commercially licensed emulators, hence it cannot be sold. They did not care about this, and decided to carry on anyway.

    We managed to successfully shut down their crowdfunding campaign, and that appeared to have been the end of this venture.

    Unfortunately, we did not dedicate an article to this, so you will have to make do with our Twitter posts instead –

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sp6i85

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sp6i89

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sp6i8j

    2017 – TekSyndicate Notice Me Sen-Pi
    A popular Youtuber who goes by the name of TekSyndicate wanted to start selling a product based on Lakka. He was quite audacious about this and made a blog post about it full of hubris as to why he should be able to do this.

    You can read our statement on this here –

    https://www.patreon.com/posts/important-on-tek-15592064

    https://www.reddit.com/r/RetroArch/comments/7fx7bw/important_statement_on_tek_syndicate_sen_pi_and/

    We contacted Amazon and we were able to get this product taken down. Tek Syndicate has agreed to no longer bundle Lakka with his hardware device, and now resorts to a Do It Yourself video which explains to people how to install it on the hardware.

    2017 – Retro-Bit Super Retro Cade
    The latest situation.

    Just recently, we have been contacted by Retro-Bit. To be more precise, one of our team members Andres Suarez was contacted in the past.

    This is the latest e-mail we have received back from Retro-Bit – just mere weeks before they started selling their latest product Super Retrocade

    I hope all is well. A quick E-Introduction, I am the marketing manager for Innex and our house brand Retro-Bit. In the past you were in contact with Andres Quiros regarding the possibly usage of Retroarch for our plug and play consoles with the caveat that when using “open source” software we would need to give credit then share any updates done to t he original code back to the community in the event they want to build upon it.

    Since then, Andres had left the company and we recently released the Super Retro-Cade which I believe operates off Retroarch. We would like to provide the rightful credit to Retroarch and disclose the emulator and request the source code. They can retrieve it through a customer service page on Retro-bit with proof of purchase and waiver of liability forms.

    As I mentioned in my previous email, our former Product Development Manager (Andres Q.) left the company in the middle of development, leaving Ron (copied) and myself to finish the product with a very aggressive timeline to launch. We were not aware of this situation, but want to work with you to find a successful solution.

    We are a small company that competes directly with Hyperkin and like you, we want to expand the retro gaming to its fullest potential and support the community.

    So, all we know in this instance is that they are using RetroArch. As long as sourcecode is being provided and as long as the license is being followed (GPLv3, that means no TIVOization), that would be no issue. HOWEVER, and here is where it gets troubling – they do not know themselves what emulators it uses. So, again, which contractor company was responsible for this cobbled together software again? Why does this keep happening? How come none of the licensees (Capcom/Data East/etc) were aware of this?

    Here is where this gets troubling – it is yet again a cheap ARM SoC (System on a Chip). They admit to us over e-mail it is using RetroArch. But they cannot tell us which cores are being used because they “do not know”. ALL of the emulator cores available through RetroArch which provide SNES, arcade and Genesis emulation and which could conceivably run on this hardware, are all distinctly non-commercial. We are talking about Snes9x here for SNES emulation, Final Burn Alpha or older versions of MAME (MAME 2000/2003/etc) for arcade, and Genesis Plus GX for Genesis. They cannot be sold, period. So, again, we have the very same issue here as we have had with Hyperkin and Cybergadget. But instead of waiting until they have determined with us that this is not an issue, they start selling it anyway.

    We are beyond demoralized and pissed off at this point. Ever since the NES/SNES Mini, this kind of activity has been going on and has been accelerating. Entrepreneurs and certain publishers are having dollar signs in their eyes. Games are being played with us and other members of the emulation scene by various parties (in this blog post I have probably left out a fair few other companies as well), and we are simply getting sick and tired of this abuse. This is hugely demoralizing and demotivating and makes us almost unwilling anymore to continue with it.

    Stuff like this is hugely damaging to the goodwill of the open source community. If open source authors continue to find their licenses and rights trampled upon by a couple of entrepreneurs with the sole intent just to make money and these same entrepreneurs and their business partners don’t care about doing due diligence and making sure they are in the clear, developers are going to stop contributing to open source projects altogether. The knowledge economy dies in doing so, leaving us all with yet more products cobbled together from various disparate sources with no greater aspirations beyond just making a buck.


    Text continues here: https://www.libretro.com/index.php/...-the-new-retro-emulation-industry-in-general/
     
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  2. Marmotta

    Marmotta Dauntless Member

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    Having read similar stories to these before, my instant reaction is that the guys behind RetroArch go out of their way to be overly protective of the non-commercial nature of their software, even when third parties attempt to comply with the licence. Ultimately, what difference does it make if the end user or a third party installs it, as long as they're credited? I understand them being annoyed with larger companies like Retro Bit or Hyperkin using the software without a single credit, but the other examples don't seem to be doing much wrong.
     
  3. hking0036

    hking0036 Member

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    I might be incorrect here, but isn't retroarch just a front-end? The actual 'cores' are the emulators being written by other people? The people behind retroarch seem very aggressive, and I suppose I can see why, if you put effort in and people take it and run with it for profit. That said, retroarch is licensed under GPLv3, so they don't really have a leg to stand on here. If they wanted it to be non-commercial, they should have specified from the get-go. As for the individual emulators, I don't know. It's one thing to violate a license agreement that's explicitly stated - in that case it's easy to sympathize with the dev who is being more or less ripped off without and means to get back. However, if it's just the retroarch frontend it's hard for me to feel sympathy for them since they're the ones that decided it in the first place.

    Edit: in going over this with more detail, it seems to be a problem with the SNES9x core in particular (for the Retron 5 and the Game Freak), which is licensed as non-commercial and that's where the problem lies. Retro-bit's admission that they "don't know what emulators they're using" is pretty troubling. It's still a little weird to me that Retro Arch are the ones being so aggressive over this rather than the writers of the emulators themselves, but perhaps they're a part of retroarch? This whole thing is confusing. Their Lakka OS in particular doesn't seem to be bound by any license, and I don't know what that means for commercialization - they say it comes pre-bundled with commercial emulators, but if someone were to strip those out and install a barebones version would that be fair play? The method they state companies are using to get around it in including instructions to install the emulators seems like a minor roadblock, but I suppose that's technically a way to get around it.

    All said, if we're being honest I think a plea to 'game journalists' isn't necessarily helpful unless they're outright promoting them already because most of the purchasers of these seem uninformed in general. Admittedly, I don't follow any gaming news sites directly but I get the feeling most people in the market for these aren't exactly in the loop to begin with either.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  4. Marmotta

    Marmotta Dauntless Member

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    I think if you were to draw a Venn diagram of the emulator developers and RetroArch developers, there would be a fairly large overlap, in particular for the Genesis and SNES, and I don't think it's a coincidence that these are the ones that they mention time and again.

    I just don't really get why they are so vehemently against the commercialisation of it; if they feel that they don't want a hardware manufacturer profiting off the back of it (which I can understand), why not request a small licensing fee which I'm sure most would be prepared to pay, instead of trying to take down these projects outright?
     
  5. hking0036

    hking0036 Member

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    This makes more sense, thanks.

    In the case of SNES9x they could presumably relicense their software (although I think this is a huge hassle), but I can get how they feel: These people didn't contribute at all and are now trying to squeeze cash out of people who weren't able to get an SNES mini (according to that post anyhow). SNES9x is a project of 18-19 years now. I am confused like you say why they don't just charge a licensing fee and then get money off of it. It must be either hard to relicense, or they just have a mindset it should stay non-commercial which although noble is going to be hard for them.
     
  6. Bad_Ad84

    Bad_Ad84 The Tick

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    Why would it "be hard for them". Copyright law is pretty clear, they can tell people they can't sell their work.

    The companies selling these emulators are breaking the law, they ONLY reason the are getting away with it is the developers don't have the money to fight.
     
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  7. hking0036

    hking0036 Member

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    The fact that they have to hound people to get their products off the market is enough. Any number of chinese clones of these are presumably already out and you can't exactly tell them to cut it out. It sucks that they don't have the money to get back at the companies but that's exactly what makes it hard for them. As for the licensing stuff, the only example I know is firefox which if I recall was a bumpy ride, there's a lot of weird with "license compatibility" and I just don't know how much of a process that is.
     
  8. Bad_Ad84

    Bad_Ad84 The Tick

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    Yes, but just because other people use it without permission doesn't make it right.

    You are seemingly complaining that the people who's work is being used illegally are trying to fight back and asking journalists to cover it, like they are in the wrong.

    They wrote the code, they don't want it used commercially which is well within their right.

    Pretty simple really.


    This isn't a "hack all the xboxes, yolo" type forum. People around here actually tend to care about the creators and want to preserve things. If companies steal the work of emulator writers, maybe they wont do it anymore. Which would be bad for everyone who isn't the companies profiting off their work.
     
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  9. hking0036

    hking0036 Member

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    That's not what I'm trying to say, I'm just saying I don't know what they should really do. I don't think an appeal to games journalists is a great method, because it seems like the people in the market for these emulator boxes aren't in the loop to begin with. It sucks to see people get screwed over like this, I just wish there was a better solution. It seems they've managed to get some of them taken off the market at least.
     
  10. Bad_Ad84

    Bad_Ad84 The Tick

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    Companies don't like bad press. I don't believe the idea is to get journalists to reach all the people buying these emulator boxes and get them to not buy them.

    It's getting bad press for the companies stealing the work to think actually, maybe they should play by the rules.
     
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  11. hking0036

    hking0036 Member

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    That's a fair evaluation. Hopefully something actually comes of this. When the RetroN 5 came out Hyperkin seemed to get away with it, but with the NES/SNES classic bandwagon there's a lot more people hopping on here, so hopefully they can jump on some of them. Hyperkin in particular seems to get away with more than they should.

    I'm sorry if I'm not conveying myself well here. I don't think that this is at all okay, I'm just trying to get a grasp on the situation. I saw retroarch lashing out which was confusing because the frontend is licensed under GPL, but looking further I saw it's a problem with the cores which is 100% not okay.
     
  12. retro

    retro Resigned from mod duty 15 March 2018

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    You get major issues when the big players contribute to copyright infringement.

    What's the deal with the Mega Drive console with 100-odd games you can get in major chains in the UK and US? It seems to be licensed... but is there an emulator being used incorrectly in there? Likewise, the newer versions of the Atari Flashback. I think both are by AtGames.

    I've got a LOT of sponsored adverts on Facebook for shitty Raspberry Pi clone "consoles" in a knock-off mini NES case, with many games installed. Facebook don't seem to give a damn - they just want their money. Much like Amazon, I guess. The Retron is even sold in GAME and GameStop. That's a different thing, though... I don't get why Facebook would allow adverts for what are basically pirate devices.

    As for copyright, whilst it can be confusing, it's pretty simple here. The emulators are distributed for personal use only. If anyone wants to put them in a commercial product, they need permission. The copyright holder would either agree to a licence, or say no - they have every right to do the latter. Considering emulation is a legal minefield in itself, I think I would want to avoid my emulator appearing in a commercial product. Even ignoring that, if you're going to make something commercial, then you start thinking about your time being worth it. And, if you haven't noticed, the Snes9X website has ads and RetroArch have a donation button on theirs... they make money out of it!

    If I had spent years making something that I allowed people to use for free (but had ads or donations giving me some pocket money from it)... damn right I'd be considering what my time already spent on the project is worth when someone wants to come along and use my code to make a profit! Without my code, they'd have no product UNLESS they hired a developer or, more likely, a whole team of developers. A developer should be on around £30-50k. On a £50 Retron HD, for example, I highly doubt you'd get any more than £1 per unit... if that. That's a lot of units that need to be sold for you to be paid for your time.
     
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  13. Johnny

    Johnny Gran Turismo Freak and Site Supporter 2013,2015

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    Everything i was going to say was already said (brilliantly) by both Bad_Ad84 and retro.
     
  14. karsten

    karsten Member of The Cult Of Kefka

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    All emu nowadays should have avery clear license stating that any personal use is free, but any hardware/resell use must go for a very big fee. That would discourage companies to try and go "freebies" like they are now.

    Somehow it's their fault with these gpl licenses... I mean they are ok, but not up to date for the current state of things that are not as simple as before.
     

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