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Piracy is a major issue facing video game publishers including Nintendo. Piracy is especially common on the internet. Several devices are produced illegally that infringe on Nintendo's intellectual properties.
Identifying a counterfeit product
The following are ways to identify whether a game is counterfeit or not.
- Nintendo does not distribute video games through the internet unless it was designed for WiiWare, the Virtual Console or DSiWare.
- Occasionally consoles and games purchased online on auction sites or message boards may be counterfeits.
- Nintendo of America warns to be on alert when purchasing Nintendo products on Asian-based websites.
- If a brand new product is offered well below the suggested retailer price, then there is a high possibility that the game is counterfeit.
- Nintendo places a Nintendo Seal of Quality that can be used to determine whether or not a product is a counterfeit. If the seal is completely absent, Nintendo confidently states that, without a doubt, the product is a counterfeit.
- If a product a person purchases online comes without packaging, it is likely counterfeit.
Piracy by country
The following are countries and their relation to Nintendo in regards to piracy. It should be noted that every year, Nintendo of America sends a letter to the United States Trade Representative, urging them to add certain countries on a watch list that highlight those that don't properly protect a company's intellectual property. Occasionally they'll also request the removal of countries, as they did in 2009 with Korea.
Nintendo has expressed their happiness that the Brazilian government has increased the number of seizures at the country's borders, airports and ports. However, Nintendo has regularly suggested that Brazil remain on the United States Trade Representative's country watch list. They claim that the border between Paraguay and Brazil is a major area where illegal Nintendo products are traded, and that internet piracy is constantly increasing. While the enforcement against piracy in increasing, it is still "weak".
In 2009 Nintendo claimed that soft modding had become an "emerging trend" in Brazil. Soft modding allowed a person to download software to modify hardware instead of using a chip. Nintendo has also noted that they have found Nintendo DS hardware bundled with DS cards that have 40 to 50 games already downloaded to it, for a price of USD $69.
In 2009 alone, 33 enforcement actions resulted in the seizure of 9,476 Nintendo video games. In 2008, around 10,000 were seized by the government.
In 2009, Nintendo of America did not file comments regarding piracy in Canada to the United States Trade Representative in a letter urging the United States to highlight countries that "do not provide adequate protection of copyrights and trademarks". While this is the case, it did note that it would like to support the suggestion by the IIPA to add Canada to the list due to the "lack of a WIPO Treaties compliant law". Nintendo of America noted that they highly encourage Canada to consider passing a law and to also address the ISP issues.
Peoples' Republic of China
Nintendo of America has recommended that China remain on the watch list. Nintendo has stated that China is the "Hub of production for infringing Nintendo video game products". In a list of suggestions of what China should do, they noted that Chinese customs must stop the shipment of video game copiers from being exported from China. They also explained that help from the government is needed to shut down several websites that sell copyrighted Nintendo products, as the number of such sites increases every year.
Nintendo has stated that in 2009, China showed its ability to protect a company's IP rights by taking four criminal actions that year. Nintendo has stated that China's cooperation with them in 2009 had greatly increased over the prior year, with 176 raids (21 of which were in factories) being conducted in 2009 alone.
Nintendo of America expressed its displeasure with the fact that many counterfeiters go uncharged in China after a raid has taken placed. It gave examples that on June 26, 2009, 24,600 illegal video game copiers were confiscated and on August 7, 2009, 30,000 counterfeit Wii discs were confiscated, yet in both cases no one was arrested.
It should be noted that Nintendo was the first major console manufacturer to break into the Chinese market with their GameCube product (titled iQue Player in China). In a statement, Nintendo said that they had wished to "see the market grow bigger than Japan, the United States or Europe". Nintendo was at first reluctant to release the system in China specifically because of the threat of piracy, but when they released the iQue Player they had hoped to combat it.
- On March 15, 2008, Guangzhou Yuexio Public Security Bereau officers raided an electronic stores where they found around 2,000 counterfeit Game Boy cartridges, all of which were seized by the government. Following this raid, Nintendo discovered that a husband and wife were the suppliers of the counterfeit software, and on December 20, 2008 the husband and the manager were arrested, with the wife escaping. Both the manager of the store and the supplier (husband) were arrested and sent to jail. The manager had to pay a fine of RMB 10,000 and spend one year in jail, while the supplier of the products was force to pay RMB 100,000 and spend three years in jail.
- A Shenzhen-based factory was raided on May 22, 2009. Authorities found that the factory was illegally producing Wii Nunchuk devices (interestingly in a report filed by Nintendo, they incorrectly labeled the product "nunchuck"). 2,900 Nunchuks were seized by the government.
- Another Shenzhen-based factory was raided on October 13, 2009 where authorities seized 2,612 counterfeit Wii Remotes and 6,750 counterfeit Nunchuk devices.
- A Guanzhou-based factory was raided on December 2, 2009. Authorities seized 691 counterfeit DS Lite systems, 20,950 counterfeit DS Lite shells, and 558 Wii Remotes and Wii Nunchuks. All together the value of the seizure was placed at $58,506.
- Two raids were conducted against Shenzhen-based factories on December 10, 2009 that resulted in the seizure of 57,269 counterfeit Nintendo products.
Republic of Korea
Nintendo of America was "pleased" with the United States Government's choice to remove Korea from the watch list. They did, however, mention that while they support the decision, there are still several issues that must be addressed with Korea. They explained that they are very pleased with the Korean government's high attention to online piracy, especially since South Korea has one of the highest broadband penetrations in the world, which gives rise to a higher possibility of internet piracy. In 2009, 85,000 Nintendo products on the internet were found and taken down in South Korea.
In 2007, a mere 3,851 game copiers were seized in Korea, in 2008 a large 131,636 were seized, and in 2009, 84,855 were seized.
Nintendo of America is greatly dissatisfied by the extremely high amount of piracy in Mexico, Nintendo's largest Latin American market. They explain that Mexican citizen's social acceptance of piracy is highly unfortunate, and that something absolutely needs to be done. In 2009 Nintendo of America recommended that the US government make Mexico a high priority on the watch list. Nintendo notes that while in 2009 the Mexican police successfully raided markets in Mexico City and Guadalajara, it was hardly enough.