Jaleco Borrows PocketNES Emulator Source Code

For their newest Gameboy Advance game, Jaleco Entertainment quietly borrowed the source code for an open-source Nintendo emulator. While the emulation community was outraged, the emulator’s programmer felt a bit differently.

Like the recent Classic NES Series, Jaleco Entertainment’s Jajamaru Jr. for the Gameboy Advance is a nostalgic reissue for the Japanese market In addition to one new game, the cartridge includes five different emulated classic NES/Famicom titles from Jaleco’s library: Ninja Jajamaru, Jajamaru’s Great Adventure, Exerion, City Connection, and Formation Z.

Instead of writing their own emulator, Jaleco used PocketNES, the best NES emulator for the GBA. After analyzing the game’s binary, it was obvious the code was borrowed without credit or payment. Emulation fans were upset, with cries of copyright infringement.

Loopy, the programmer behind PocketNES, responded to the incident:

Yes, PocketNES is public domain… I wanted it to be public domain. This “Jaleco incident”, in fact, is the very reason I wanted to make it FREE (as in public domain) rather than “GPL free” (strings attached). I’m not a fan of the GPL, I think it’s selfish.

Let someone take an idea, do something cool with it, and not have to hesitate because of legal nitpickings. If a company can take something that I made, and turn it into a product that other people enjoy, I’m all the happier for it. Why should I care if someone else profits off of something I made? It’s already free.

Demanding that someone pay homage to my work is just ego-stroking, and I’m not into that. Sure, as a courtesy it would have been nice for Jaleco to tell me “hey, thanks for the source”, and they didn’t, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it, because I didn’t write PocketNES so people would pat me on the back.

I wrote it so people could have fun playing old games. And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Mission accomplished.

For me, his message embodies the spirit of the open-source movement.

22 thoughts on “Jaleco Borrows PocketNES Emulator Source Code

  1. Interesting situation, that… I know the feeling (having your code used without so much as a “thanks” email) — but I agree with his take on the end result.

    This is why “open source” means more than just the GPL.

  2. I’m of two minds on this one. Open-source / public-domain or not, the code was still taken without consent: it was stolen. The fact it was then used to make money just worsens their situation. Jaleco did the wrong thing.

    But on the other hand, if I ever wrote something as great as that, I’d be honoured it found its way into a commercial product.

    I guess, all in all, I agree with Loopy. An email from Jaleco would have been professional (and make for a great ‘testimonial’ on the PocketNES website). All in all though, a class act by PocketNES.

    I’m not a big fan of the GPL. I prefer the somewhat more lax licences such as the Creative Commons.

  3. True, if it is public domain you don’t legally *need* to ask. I didn’t say it clearly, but I wasn’t referring to the legality of the situation, just the ethical aspect.

  4. Basically what this amounts to is that Loopy just performed work for Jaleco Entertainment without being paid. He says he doesn’t care, but you can’t tell me that he isn’t hurting a little from the thousands of dollars of Jaleco profits that he will never see any of. Kids, if you are going to spend time to write something you feel is good enough to release to the world, at least add a commercial use license to go along with it. You might not think your time is worth much when you apply it towards your hobby, but it is. That money he didn’t get would have been useful in the future for his retirement, even if he only received a few hundred bucks right now.

  5. Jaleco did absolutely nothing wrong. Learn what public domain means before you shoot your mouth off.

  6. It pains me to see proponents of open source complain about code being used without credit or payment. Neither of these things are required for PD source and generaly when a person releases source code they do so for one of two reasons: They either want people to know what they can do, or they smiply think thier code will be an aid to other people. The purpose of releaseing code into PD is to share knowlege or accomplishment with the understanding that there is no obligation to its source. The purpose of GPL is to ensure credit for the source is allways directed at its source. Credit, although not monitary, is a form of payment as it is undeniably a valuable thing. People often confuse the term PD source with GPL when in fact the GPL is a commercial lisence. My point simply is that if you want credit, protect your source; if you do not require it then release into the PD either way dont complain about the travisty of someone elses work being used as the author intended.

  7. that’s just plain stupid – it was never “stolen”. jaleco could’ve done more by acknowledging loopy, but calling it stolen is just idiotic, since it was public domain.

  8. The author of the software comes out and says “I put this in the PUBLIC DOMAIN so things like this WOULD HAPPEN.” and some other dipshit thinks that using that code is stealing. FUCKING MORON! Learn what public domain means, dumbass. No consent is needed, because no ownership is claimed.

  9. Loopy, through his enlightened use of PD, has gained far more karma/kudos/recognition because of this “Jaleco incident” than if he had used a GPL/BSD licence. As at least a few other people on this thread have mentioned, his attitude is inspiring, and I only hope I could do the same as he did if I was in that situation.

  10. Hey anon commenter:

    Why are you bitching about people being mad at Jaleco here? None of the comments on this page have trashed jaleco at all.

  11. I think it’s great that PocketNES was released in a commerical product, and believe that if Loopy is alright with what happened, then all is well. Think it WOULD, however, have been nice for Jaleco to at the very least credit him somewhere in the code for all of his hard work. He certainly deserves it.

  12. It’s quite an idiot this Loopy. Instead of a community enjoying of his work he gains a company doing their own business without giving back. The point is not of someone else raising money on your work, nor the fact they didn’t notify, the point is that using public domain this company is not obliged to preserve the same kind of liberty granted by the original author. If you don’t like GPL there’s a number of alternatives, but usually PD is the worst way to go.

    Consider that Jaleco is exactly the same kind of company of those that try to bring emulation projects in courts.

  13. Actually, if Loopy didn’t place PocketNES in the public domain then Jaleco may not have used it. They might have developed there own emulator because they didn’t want to be bothered with a GPL or other attached license. The PocketNES and Loopy are now getting the recognition they deserve even thou Jaleco didn’t officially recognize Loopy’s accomplishment.

    Everyone knows if Loopy sold the emulator to Jaleco he would be getting backlash from the emulator scene calling him a sellout instead of the kudos he is getting now.

  14. I don’t like it when people describe GPL as with strings attached. The only restrictions that GPL imposes is that you MAY NOT attach any strings! (Describing that as “with strings attached” is kind of stretching the truth.)

    What do people have against GPL? The GPL is an ingenious invention, using the copyright law against the bad uses of itself. Another good reason to use it is that it is already lawyer-speak. No one in their right mind would like to write a license and make sure it is compatible with the legal systems of the world. FSF has done that for us, and we’re allowed to take advantage of it.

  15. From the source code:

    “Here is the entire source code to PocketNES. You are free to do anything you want with it (excluding the miniLZO library, which is distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL)). I only ask that if you do use any of it in your own project, you give me some credit for it.”

    1) If he put his work in the public domain, and said “you are free to do anything you want with it” then, well, you are free to do anything you want with it.

    2) If he wanted to be guaranteed credit, then he would (or should) not have said “I only ask that if you do use any of it in your own project, you give me some credit for it.”

    If you have a problem with the fact that somebody else used this code in another closed commercial project without a credit, then you have a problem with the original coder’s stated wishes.

    -Scott

  16. I think the issue is a moral one. By Jaleco not giving credit to Loopy it shows lack of character and suggests Jaleco was trying to hide the fact they are profiting legally, but not morally off of someone else’s hard work.

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