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Are famiclones illegal?

Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189304)
Now, I know that Chinese famiclone consoles are copyright infringement, but if I found one from a guy making them, would it be illegal to buy it?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189305)
As far as I'm aware, they're entirely legal in the US. Other countries, couldn't say.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189306)
Unless the console actually has the name Nintendo or any registered trademarks on it and as long as the console doesn't come with copyrighted software (i.e. a multi-cartridge with actual games by Nintendo or their third party publishers), you should be fine.

If it wasn't legal, I doubt RetroUSB would get away with this:
www.retrousb.com/product_info.php?cPath ... ucts_id=78
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189307)
The Famicom was only ever protected by patent law.
The Famicom predates mask protections.
The NES's CIC was additionally protected by copyright law.
Random bits (logo, shape) are protected by trademark and/or trade dress law.
Individual games are protected by copyright law.

There's nothing about a bare famiclone that should infringe, in any way.

Now, if it's one of those ones that come with N games built in, sure, the games infringe copyright.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189308)
The clone systems themselves are fine, but you'll almost never see them without pirated games.
The only exception I've seen is when they got bundled with original games, including graphical hacks of Somari that removed any traces or Sonic or Mario from the games.

You now have "onebus" versions, which have a flash chip on there too, with pre-burned games. There's integrated CHR-RAM and integrated MMC3.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189309)
Dwedit wrote:
The clone systems themselves are fine, but you'll almost never see them without pirated games.

FC Twin and Super Retro Trio ship without a game, as do AVS and Analogue Nt Mini. Or are these rare enough to count as "almost never"?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189314)
If say the console did have so and so games built in, would it be illegal for me to buy and own it?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189315)
You can always claim ignorance, I guess.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189319)
Technically illegal since the games applies to copyright law. But I don't think you will get caught for having a bunch of old pirated games. Some people actively collects old bootlegs.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189327)
Nintendo has gone after shops offering famiclones. I saw this happen at a local mall years ago.

The Coleco Gemini is an example of a perfectly legal system clone (Atari 2600) that still had to deal with litigation and settlement.
http://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/09/busin ... atari.html

So, yeah. You can make compatible hardware. The real trouble started when companies started embedding IP into their devices via firmware/BIOs.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189342)
I remember seeing some famiclones that even didn't have "nintendo compatible" written on the box.
Others just said this on manual, while others had this printed in the box (the image is upside down, though :-) )
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189343)
Fisher wrote:
Others just said this on manual, while others had this printed in the box (the image is upside down, though :-) )

Genesis controller, SMS light gun, NES compatible?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189344)
My guess: Start does Start, A does Select, B does B, and C does A.

Later "PolyStation" famiclones would look like a PlayStation.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189345)
rainwarrior wrote:
Genesis controller, SMS light gun, NES compatible?

Don't forget Atari 7800 casing. But yeah, this was indeed the most famous Famiclone in Brazil. The Turbo Game (another very common Famiclone here) also had Genesis styled controllers, but they were upside down: http://www.memoriabit.com.br/cce-turbo-game/
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189346)
tepples wrote:
My guess: Start does Start, A does Select, B does B, and C does A.

Other images from Google suggest that Start does Select and C does Start (and B and A are apparently swapped?): http://www.nesarchive.net/v1/brasil/phantom2.jpg

It's worth noting that these companies (Gradiente and CCE) aren't just random no name pirates, they're big names in consumer electronics in Brazil. I still have a 14" CRT from CCE I use to play old consoles. Gradiente would later form Playtronic to release NES and SNES consoles officially.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189348)
O yeah, we can call it a "clone megamix"!!

Maybe Gradiente and TecToy shared plastic molds to cut costs?
Tokumaro is correct about the button's functions. :-)
I saw some blog posts teaching how to swap the A and B buttons, so they become a little more like the real thing.
Some people even say that it's even better than the real thing because it has no jailbars.
I think the guy is looking at it with "pink glasses", since it has jailbars, and very noticeable!!
The only advantages is that it can run bootleg games without moding, and didn't need transcodification to show the image in colors on Brazil back in the day. Maybe the cartridge connector was better, but I have some doubts about it.
I recently have fixed one of these on this thread and looks like Zepper is trying to fix one here too. I really hope he succeeded!!

It was told that Gradiente had an contract with Atari, and sold the old VCS here with the brand Polyvox.
They were intending to release the 7800 too, but since it has not a stunning succes as the NES, they decided to use the already made molds and clone a NES instead.

I also remember calling the CCE controllers the "Batman controllers".
Sometime later the console was shipped with a Batman cartridge with it. :P

AFAIK all these "heavyweight" manufacturers release their clones because of the market reserve politics, that basically forbid importings and such.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189361)
Haha I bet if you threw the controller like a batarang it would come back to you!
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189372)
Still broken. :cry: The guy doesn't seem to be good at it. I sent to him the schematics, including the board pics without chips.
Nothing yet.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189374)
lidnariq wrote:
The Famicom was only ever protected by patent law.
The Famicom predates mask protections.
The NES's CIC was additionally protected by copyright law.
Random bits (logo, shape) are protected by trademark and/or trade dress law.
Individual games are protected by copyright law.

There's nothing about a bare famiclone that should infringe, in any way.

Now, if it's one of those ones that come with N games built in, sure, the games infringe copyright.


Did Ricoh take advantage of the fact that mask protections did not exist prior to 1984 to effectively steal the 6502?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189381)
Pokun wrote:
Haha I bet if you threw the controller like a batarang it would come back to you!

Yeah!! :lol:
Zepper wrote:
Still broken. :cry:

I feel sorry for that...
I prefer to think that the guy may not be used to work with such old tech stuff and is having some dificulties.
I hope the guy succed!! He probably will learn his way through the schematics. :-)
I strongly hope so!!
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189444)
Well... I'll do a related question. Is this cartridge "illegal"? ;)
Attachment:
ssprint.jpg
ssprint.jpg [ 101.05 KiB | Viewed 3319 times ]

It's a Phantom System cartridge. Yup, a few others remove copyright notices, like Ghostbusters II - they removed the "activision" word from the credits. Other carts are entirely fine with no mods.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189450)
zeroone wrote:
Did Ricoh take advantage of the fact that mask protections did not exist prior to 1984 to effectively steal the 6502?

I would say yes. The only protected part was the decimal mode, which was covered by a patent; they disabled it by cutting some conductors in the die, effectively sidestepping any legal trouble.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189472)
Zepper wrote:
Is this cartridge "illegal"? ;)

Oh yeah!!
The old Brazilian's law protected bootlegs!!
I also would like to know if they're completelly illegal, given the older scenario.

NintendoAge has some scans of brazilian bootlegs.
They sure were the most affordable things back in the day. :P

I also had a fight with one of these bootlegs when I tried to do my translated Legend of Zelda repro.
I ended giving up of the bootleg and got a Famicom original instead. :evil:
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189475)
Jarhmander wrote:
zeroone wrote:
Did Ricoh take advantage of the fact that mask protections did not exist prior to 1984 to effectively steal the 6502?

I would say yes. The only protected part was the decimal mode, which was covered by a patent; they disabled it by cutting some conductors in the die, effectively sidestepping any legal trouble.


I still don't understand why Commodore didn't sue the hell out of Ricoh and Nintendo, especially considering that the NES was released in the US in 1985. As soon as mask protections became a thing, why didn't they immediately apply that to all their chip technologies and start demanding royalties.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189478)
zeroone wrote:
why didn't they immediately apply that to all their chip technologies and start demanding royalties.

Can you enforce laws retroactively like that?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189482)
tokumaru wrote:
zeroone wrote:
why didn't they immediately apply that to all their chip technologies and start demanding royalties.

Can you enforce laws retroactively like that?


I think I found the answer in the details of the law. From what I can make out, the law was only applicable to mask work that was first commercially exploited on or after July 1, 1983. Anything prior was potentially still up for grabs.

It's really difficult to believe that Nintendo's entire empire originated off a piece of stolen technology.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189483)
Didn't a similar thing also happened to Hollywood?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189488)
zeroone wrote:
From what I can make out, the law was only applicable to mask work that was first commercially exploited on or after July 1, 1983.

According to Wikipedia, the Famicom was released on July 15, 1983... Maybe what they considered commercialization in this case was Ricoh selling the chips to Nintendo then?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189491)
The 6502 was brand new in 1975, though.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189493)
Oh, so that's the date for the original work being copied? So, after July 1st, 1983 I could still deliberately clone and sell chips made prior to that?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189494)
That's how I'd understand that language. The 6502's masks were new in 1975-1978, so a derivative work (the 2A03) designed in 1982ish wouldn't be relevant... BUT because the "commercial exploitation" of the NES postdates the mask protection law, it "should" have had mask exclusivity until 1993ish or so.

I am not a lawyer, so take that with an enormous grain of salt.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189499)
zeroone wrote:
I still don't understand why Commodore didn't sue the hell out of Ricoh and Nintendo

According this "Iwata Asks" interview Ricoh had a license:

Quote:
But Ricoh wanted us to use the 6502, which they had the license for.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189502)
cyc wrote:
According this "Iwata Asks" interview Ricoh had a license:


Then, that begs the question, why did they have to disable decimal mode?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189503)
If they did have a license, it might have been for a reduced functionality subset so as not to compete with the first-party 6502.

On the other hand, there's an anecdote in On the Edge that MOS was surprised to discover that the 2A03's CPU core was a 6502 with the patented parts scratched off.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189557)
Real question i want to know:
"Who first engineered hybrid NTSC/PAL ("Dendy timings") famiclones,
and which CPU and PPU models was really first on this timings..."
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#189965)
Eugene.S wrote:
Real question i want to know:
"Who first engineered hybrid NTSC/PAL ("Dendy timings") famiclones,
and which CPU and PPU models was really first on this timings..."

Real good question!!

How could they have cloned the chips??
Microfilming/photographing it??
Was this kind of technology available back in the day??
Reverse engeneering?
How would they got the duty cycles wrong on the APU??
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190004)
My simple guess is that Chinese engineers made their own CPU and PPU trying to match the original ones by reverse engineering them, but they made mistakes with things like rectangle duty cycle. The chips used in Dendy was made for PAL countries, but they included some characteristics of the NTSC chips to maintain compatibility with NTSC games, as most games in these markets were either bootlegs of licensed Japanese games, or unlicensed Taiwanese originals.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190018)
Would this be cost effective??
How much time a group of experienced engineers could do it back in the day?
Maybe the "plans" (I don't know exactly how to say that) for the chip or part of them have leaked. Who knows??
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190032)
Wouldn't they probably have gotten many more things wrong than just the audio duty cycles if they were doing this through reverse engineering?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190038)
I'd presume they're using a direct copy of the 6502 mask, so probably the CPU by itself is pretty accurate? (Do famiclones typically have a decimal mode?)

It's plausible that there's lots of inaccuracies with the APU/PPU implementations that just haven't been thoroughly investigated. We've spent a lot of time testing dark areas of the authentic NES, but nowhere close to that attention has been spent on clones. That's a whole lot of leeway to do things differently that wouldn't make a noticeable difference in all existing games, or even just almost all.

E.g. when I started looking closely at the MMC5, I couldn't find any documentation that precisely described how its length counter was different than the 2A03's, or whether any sweep functionality existed, etc. No existing games used it so it didn't matter unless you actually wanted to go looking for it. Almost all emulators don't have a correct implementation of this stuff, but it completely doesn't matter because there's no ROMs that rely on it.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190043)
Yeah I think they got more things than the duty cycle wrong.
I'm no expert on Famiclonese but I also heard that there are clones with a working decimal mode. There are even clones (by Waixing I think) that only plays its own cartridges, and clones that are more personal computers than game consoles, but are using Famiclone hardware because it's cheap to make and it has tons of compatible games and programs available already.


Fisher wrote:
Would this be cost effective??
How much time a group of experienced engineers could do it back in the day?

Cheaper than designing your own system. Plus it already had games.
China had and still has lots of engineers. There are technical universities founded only for the reason of mass producing more engineers to quickly build things like railroads.

I mean even Japanese Ricoh ripped off the MOS 6502. Unless they really had a legal licence, but I doubt that considering they chopped off the decimal circuitry.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190047)
Pokun wrote:
Unless [Ricoh] really had a legal licence, but I doubt that considering they chopped off the decimal circuitry.
The decimal circuitry may have been tied to per-unit royalties, while the license may have (foolishly, in hindsight) not considered that Ricoh could have elided the patent-protected portion of the circuitry.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#190050)
What kind of tests should I try?
Maybe I should start with these test ROMs??
I don't promise much, since all I have is a flash ROM and a UxROM socketed board.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216933)
Eugene.S wrote:
Real question i want to know:
"Who first engineered hybrid NTSC/PAL ("Dendy timings") famiclones,
and which CPU and PPU models was really first on this timings..."


Interesting document:
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=17257#p216827
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinod ... intendo%20

Quote:
After discussions held with UMC we are able to provide to
you the following information as requested by you. The
picture processing unit was designed by UMC and its original
purpose was to produce and generate a video output signal
for Pal system TV's. The PPU in question was designed in
1987 and manufactured commercially a short time later. As
you are aware through your technical training it is more
difficult to copy an original layout than to produce an
original integrated circuit. The PPU was designed with aid
of CAD tools using existing functional blocks available in
its library. There are many types of PPU's available on the
market and we would be surprised if not all but most carry
some kind of resemblance due to their design characteristics
and their end result in terms of functionality. This
similarity can be noticed with a large number of integrated
circuits available on the market today.
The two devices cannot be directly replaced for each other.
Hence the two devices are not functionally compatible. The
UA-6538 can process the cartridges designed for NTSC TV
systems whereas the RP2007-0 cannot do this due to its
inferior design. The interrupt signal timing between these
two devices are quite different from each other. This can
be tested by measuring on the TV game module (pin 19 on
PPU). The DRAM refresh circuits on the RP2007-0 for data
retention are not necessary for UA 6538, and please note
most importantly that the control timing and data retention
method for these two devices are totally different
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216937)
Back then no CPU was copyrightable. You could not copyright a CPU, or an instruction set. See the Z80 and 8080 or the NEC V20. However the way MOS did the BCD conversion was unique and patented. It gave MOS an edge. So while Ricoh had the rights to make 6502s, you only needed the license so you could reproduce the BCD circuit. So Ricoh said if you don't take the BCD then we don't have to pay the royalty to MOS and you save money on the chip. I also feel that it would have partly been some spite of Yamauchi - hes not a man to let a slight go unanswered.

I feel a big error on the NES was zero ROM. If they had some boot software on the device ( as they corrected on the GB) that would have eventually become protected allowing them to go after clones. Of cause you can still clean room etc but it makes it a lot harder. The Commodore VIC-20/C64 and C128 are anomalies - there are NO clones. The most successful 8bit computers and not a single clone. I mean if you are going to waste your time cloning an Apple II, a ZX Spectrum etc you would think they would put the effort into the most popular computers of all time. The did make clones of the 1541 disk drive however.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216938)
Game Boy boot ROM is easy to HLE though. Only by the GBA era did it actually contain program-visible functionality other than initial register state.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216949)
Keyman Electronics Co wrote:
As
you are aware through your technical training it is more
difficult to copy an original layout than to produce an
original integrated circuit.
They don't say "we didn't copy it". And given the layout we can see in the decapped UA6538 I have to say I'd be skeptical that it's not a copy.

But maybe the UA6541 was a proper original clone, and when they had bugs they gave up and went back to cribbing the design in the 6538.

Quote:
The DRAM refresh circuits on the RP2007-0 for data
retention are not necessary for UA 6538, and please note
most importantly that the control timing and data retention
method for these two devices are totally different
Huh! I wonder what they changed there. They're certainly still using DRAM.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216950)
Which reminds me of something I have always wondered: why have expensive SRAM in both CPU RAM and PPU nametable RAM, but DRAM for something as crucial as the tiny 256 bytes of OAM? DRAM is usually described as the choice for higher-capacity memory, yet in the NES, it's the opposite.

I must say that I am having trouble understanding what that court document means in terms of outcome. Did Nintendo or Centronics win in the end?
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216954)
There were followups, which are much less interesting to read.
December 1991
December 1992
October 1994
Summary
Comments from both parties (Centronics, 1992 and Nintendo, 1994)

In short, Nintendo won as usual.
Re: Are famiclones illegal?
by on (#216968)
1'st link is very interesting.
Seems UMC make it's own PPU better than RP2C07
I still waiting for RP2C07 and UA6527P decapsulation.
NOAC UM6561 series (used in later Dendy/PAL famiclones ~1994~) will be interesting too
Quote:
In short, Nintendo won as usual

Nintendo won Centronics, but not UMC, right?