Video game publishers often use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to prevent things like fan games, ROM hacks, YouTube videos, and even “outdated titles” from being distributed on the Internet. However, Japanese publisher Atlus is using a more comprehensive look at DMCA protections to attempt to remove a PC-based PlayStation 3 emulator just because it allows players to make 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 draws more than $3,000 a month from 677 customers. As Reddit user ssshadow points out in a thread, Atlus sent a DMCA request to Patreon to remove the page. While Patreon did not agree to that request, the RPCS3 team says it has removed all references to Persona 5 from the Patreon page to help “resolve the situation”.
While Atlus reportedly acknowledged that “the PS3 emulator itself does not infringe our copyrights and trademarks,” the publisher argued that “no version of the P5 game must be playable on this platform; and [the RPCS3] developers are infringing our IP by making such games playable.” In a follow-up message to Patreon, Atlus claimed that “in order to Persona 5 to work on the emulator, the user must bypass our DRM protections” and points out that the non-Patreon RPCS3 page provides general instructions for “dumping” 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 experience our titles best (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they were developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or any other issues that can pop up in emulation that we haven’t personally overseen.”
Atlus says it has boosted player interest in a PC version of Persona 5 and the enthusiasm of the emulation community, stating that “when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format that we believe will not deliver the experience and quality we envision, our ability to doing so is undermined by potential support from a new audience.”
While downloading and playing copyrighted games without the consent of the creator 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 recognizes), although breaking any form of DRM to create that backup can go against the grain. comply with the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.
“We find it very interesting that Atlus would immediately attempt to close the Patreon page without any prior communication,” writes ssshadow on Reddit. That said, with the project and the Patreon page still in existence for now, he urges “everyone to be nice” regarding the incident. “RPCS3 is not designed to facilitate illegal activity. We do not promote piracy or allow it under any circumstances… And whatever people want, there is no way to prevent a playable game from running on the emulator.”