Video game publishers often use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to try to stop things like fan-games, ROM hacks, Videos de Youtube, and even “obsolete titles” from being distributed on the Internet. Japanese publisher Atlus, though, is using a more expansive view of DMCA protections to try to take down a PC-based PlayStation 3 emulator merely because it enables players to run copies of Persona 5.
The battle centers on the Patreon page for RPCS3, an “early, work-in-progress” effort to create a functional PS3 emulator that currently attracts more than $3,000 a month from 677 patrons. As Reddit user ssshadow notes in a thread, Atlus issued a DMCA request to Patreon to have the page taken down. While Patreon did not agree to that request, the RPCS3 team says it removed all references to Persona 5 from the Patreon page to help “resolve the situation.”
Though Atlus reportedly acknowledged that “the PS3 emulator itself is not infringing on our copyrights and trademarks,” the publisher argued that “no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform; and [the RPCS3] developers are infringing on our IP by making such games playable.” In a followup message to Patreon, Atlus reportedly argued that “to make Persona 5 work on the emulator, the user has to circumvent our DRM protections” and points out that the non-Patreon RPCS3 page provides generalized instructions for how to “dump” a legitimate copy of the game from your PS3.
Atlus confirmed the thrust of this DMCA request in a blog post yesterday, saying the company “believe[s] that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen.”
Atlus says it recognizes player interest in a PC version of Persona 5 and the enthusiasm of the emulation community, but maintains that “when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format we do not think delivers the experience and quality we intend, it undermines our ability to do so by diverting potential support from new audiences.”
While downloading and playing copyrighted games without the maker’s consent is illegal under US law, console emulators themselves have a long history of US case-law supporting their legality. Playing personally ripped backup copies of your own legitimately purchased games is also considered legal in the US (as even the Entertainment Software Association acknowledges), though breaking any sort of DRM to make that backup could fall afoul of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions.
“We find it very interesting that Atlus would immediately try to shut down the Patreon page without any prior communication,” ssshadow writes on Reddit. That said, with the project and Patreon page still standing for the time being, he urges “everyone to be nice” regarding the incident. “RPCS3 is not designed to enable illegal activity. We do not promote piracy nor do we allow it under any circumstances… And whatever people may wish, there’s no way to stop any playable game from being executed on the emulator.”