Creator Of ‘Hardest Super Mario World Level Ever’ Says Copyright Crackdown Gutted His YouTube Channel

Creator Of ‘Hardest Super Mario World Level Ever’ Says Copyright Crackdown Gutted His YouTube Channel

Some of the most impressive Super Mario creations took years to make — and now they’re gone, at least on YouTube.

Earlier this month, speedrunner Alex “PangaeaPanga” Tan tweeted that his YouTube channel had been “wrecked.” Taking a closer look, I noted that even the popular video titled Item Abuse 3 — which was billed as the “hardest Super Mario World level ever” — was taken down from the service after accruing over a million views. Tan says there’s a reason for that: Nintendo is becoming more aggressive on YouTube when it comes to tool-assisted speedruns (or, in other words, playthroughs of Mario games that utilise emulators.)

Creator Of ‘Hardest Super Mario World Level Ever’ Says Copyright Crackdown Gutted His YouTube Channel

Tan says that he was sent the following email by Nintendo:

We wish to inform you that the videos in question infringe Nintendo’s copyrights. As the owner of the copyright in the games: Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World, and Pokémon, Nintendo has the exclusive right to perform the games publicly or to make derivative works based on the games. By making a derivative work using Nintendo’s IP, and then displaying Nintendo’s IP on your YouTube channel, you have violated Nintendo’s exclusive rights.

Nintendo understands that its fans are the reason for its success, and we are always happy to see people share their passion for Nintendo’s games. At the same time, Nintendo’s intellectual property constitutes its most valuable assets, and the unauthorised use of these assets jeopardizes Nintendo’s rights. Because of this, we ask that you please remove the video in question from your channel, and confirm that you will not post any videos using unauthorised software or copies of games, distribute or continue work on the modification, or take any other steps that would infringe Nintendo’s rights.

Nintendo encourages fan engagement on YouTube through the Nintendo Creators Program. Under the program, participants are granted a licence to use Nintendo’s characters, games, and other intellectual property, subject to the Code of Conduct included with the agreement. However, please note that this Code of Conduct prohibits you, among other things, from posting any content using unauthorised software or copies of games. This includes videos featuring tool-assisted speedruns, which require making a copy of a game’s ROM file, and running the copied ROM through an emulator. If you are interested in learning more about the Nintendo Creators Program, please see:

Thank you for your understanding.


Nintendo Anti-Piracy Team

“I’m not actually 100% disappearing from the scene,” Tan told me over email, “but this whole situation does hinder my ability to be involved. It just hurts to see how two very active communities that I participate in, the hacking community (SMWCentral, a site dedicated to SMW hacking) and TASing community (TASVideos, a site dedicated to TASes) are being targeted.

“It is also sad to see how these works that I have made throughout my childhood (including the Item Abuse series) are now being removed from YouTube (80% of my videos were removed), and that goes for people from these communities, not just me.”

To wit, other Super Mario fans on TAS forums are noting that some of their favourite Super Mario speedrun videos around the web are disappearing, too. We’ve reached out to Nintendo to ask about the situation regarding tool-assisted Super Mario videos online, and will update this post should we hear anything back. In the past, Nintendo’s approach YouTube has been criticised by prominent YouTubers such as Pewdiepie for not being mutually beneficial enough.

This new wrinkle is tricky because, well, Nintendo is within their full right to take down videos of this nature, especially if they involve games that were never purchased. At the same time, players like Tan have devoted years to showing off what makes classic Nintendo games great, sometimes even raising money for charity at speedrunning events. Entire communities have formed around tool-assisted speedruns, and video is one of the major ways these communities show off their work.

“Yes I respect Nintendo, and yes I still plan on playing Mario Maker and making ridiculously hard levels there,” Tan said. “But it is a shame that if us content creators do want to showcase and display our levels to the public, then we are restricted to do it on Super Mario Maker instead of the way we have always done.”


  • People need to realise that quite often they are infringing on the rights of game developers by posting videos on YouTube. It may be popular, it may promote the game, hell it may even earn the developer more money but in the end if you don’t have their permission then your videos are living on borrowed time. Just be grateful that Nintendo isn’t claiming or suing for the money earned through ad revenue on the videos.

    Unless you have the specific written authorization from a game developer to record and post videos of their game you need to be aware that the videos can be axed at any stage and your YouTube account can be banned.

    • It’s not so much the use of the videos themselves in this case, it’s the fact that these videos are made using illegal copies of the game.

      To be honest, I more or less agree with Nintendo on this stance. Everyone should know by now that ROMs are a copyright infringement, especially hacking them, so it shouldn’t really be any surprise when companies start cracking down on their use, especially in a public space like youtube. Yes, it sucks for the content creators, but they would have known something like this was bound to happen sooner or later.

      • Everyone should know by now that ROMs are a copyright infringement, especially hacking themI will never understand this. If I bought a lawnmower, pulled it apart and converted it into a go-kart, nobody is going to come around and slap me with a C&D for doing so. Why should it be any different if the same thing were done to a game?

        This whole thing just stinks like bullshit.

        • This is not what they are doing, they are not buying a Nintendo breaking it down and creating something else. They are downloading a free emulator or purchasing it from someone that is not Nintendo and then doing the same with the games, why should Nintendo allow this at all?

          • I think the difference is that when you buy a lawnmower, you own the physical components of it and you can do whatever the hell you like with it. Same way if you buy a game console, you can rip it apart and build something else out of the various components (memory, CPU, hard drive etc) if you have the necessary skills.

            When it comes to software, you don’t actually own the software, you’re just buying a licence to use it. And that licence comes encumbered with certain terms and conditions. If you bought a Super Mario World cartridge for your SNES then you own the physical cartridge that the game is stored on, but you don’t own the actual game itself.

            Likewise in the example I gave above re game consoles – you can rip your console apart and use the physical components however you wish, but you only have a licence for the firmware (since that’s software) so you don’t have the right to take that and use it in some other device, nor can you make some derivative work from it (e.g. modify it to play pirated / homebrew software).

            Personally, I think in a case like this Nintendo are going over the top a bit since I doubt this is really having much of an impact on them financially. But I guess they’re within their rights to do it.

          • Yeah, it’s like stealing the lawnmower and rebuilding it and hoping that the company whos mower you stole will be happy enough with the free publicity.

        • **Usual I am not a lawyer disclaimer**
          A mower is not a collection of copyrighted parts though. If you started promoting your go kart as a Makita Kart or included some kind of copyrighted mechanical system in your go kart then you would most likely find yourself on the wrong side of the law (Especially if you’re using their brand name without permission).

          The difference here is that Super Mario World, Mario, and the characters and sprites within the game are copyrighted works by Nintendo and cannot be used or reproduced without their permission, especially on systems other than the ones they were licensed for. The same thing would happen if you invented a new game that used a Monopoly board or released a new doll made from Barbie parts.

          • Still doesn’t make sense to me. How can anyone have control over someone else’s own original interpretation of an existing work? There’s a version of Maple Leaf Rag I’ve heard that was done by Jelly Roll Morton, from memory it went something like him saying “well if I played it, it’d go something like this”, then he played a song that was obviously Maple Leaf Rag, but distinctly in the style of his own music rather than Joplin’s. And that’s a perfectly valid thing to exist, so I don’t see how the same can’t apply here. I can’t recall it specifically but I know I watched the Item Abuse 3 video at some point ages ago, and it was obviously unlike any of Nintendo’s own level designs, and was pretty distinct in being this guy’s own creation.

            Ok sure, maybe I don’t understand laws at all. But if the law is stifling creativity like that, then the law must be wrong and should be changed.

          • It is full of patented parts though, and you need a licence to reproduce a patent, so actually it technically is a collection of copyrighted parts

      • Everyone should know by now that ROMs are a copyright infringement[…] Okay, I own an original cart for ‘x’ game. Therefore I possess the ability to play ‘x’ game. If I choose to play that game on my computer using a ROM, am I doing anything wrong? What difference does it make. I’ve paid money to the Dev for the right to play their game.

        • Exactly, you’ve paid money to *play* the game. That’s what your license enables you to do. You haven’t paid money to make an illegal copy, hack it, and show yourself playing that illegal hacked copy on youtube through the use of an emulator (ie, it’s not on the original hardware the game was intended to be played on, or an officially supported platform such as Virtual Console). That’s a breach of license agreement and therefore a copyright infringement.

          So, to answer this question:

          If I choose to play that game on my computer using a ROM, am I doing anything wrong?

          Yes, you are.

    • Unless you have the specific written authorization from a game developer to record and post videos of their game you need to be aware that the videos can be axed at any stage and your YouTube account can be banned.

      I want to see this tested in a court. Because copyright law allows exemption and protection for transformative works, and I think that a large number of claimed-against videos should actually be protected.

      Time and time again it has been proven that just because a company’s lawyers assert that something is true does not actually MAKE it true.
      The lawyers will CONTINUE to assert that even in a court, until a judge tells them that they are wrong. That’s how the system works.

      Nintendo can claim these videos as infringements of copyright, but I STRONGLY suspect that they’re trying to have their say and not contest it in front of an arbitrator who will decide if they’re correctly interpreting copyright law.

      I’ve not seen one instance of this kind of law being tested in court because there have always been settlements. Either rights-holders have retracted their claims, or platform-holders have removed the claimed works independently, making the decisions themselves instead of letting the courts set a precedent.

      This bullshit is contestable and needs to be settled once and for all to set definitions that allow content-creators who transform copyrighted materials (as is their right) to not be intimidated into submission by exploitative rights-holders who claim more rights than they actually have.

      • Piracy? A rom hacking tool to create levels? And now that Super Mario Maker is getting released? And you think a judge would green flag that?

        • I’m not talking about obvious piracy shit, I’m talking about the very, very broad text that I quoted. Let me quote again:

          Unless you have the specific written authorization from a game developer to record and post videos of their game you need to be aware that the videos can be axed at any stage and your YouTube account can be banned.

          Observe no mention of piracy. Currently, the quoted text is the (incorrect) assumption of far too many people. There are people who genuinely believe that line of text, on its own, and some of them appear to be policy-makers at Nintendo.

          ANY reading of copyright law’s exemptions and protections for transformative works makes it very clear that actually, written authorization is NOT required to demonstrate video of a game being played, depending on how that footage is used.

          We need a definitive ruling so that the makers of let’s plays and reviewers can all have clearly defined for them the boundaries of what is or isn’t sufficiently transformative to qualify for protection from infringement claims, or ludicrous revenue ‘sharing’ (extortion) programs like Nintendo’s.

      • Came to say this, you were more eloquent. Google and/or Twitch needs to take Nintendo to court, they make so much money on the backs of people posting these videos that they should get a definitive ruling instead of capitualating in a way that costs them nothing despite having profited off that content.

    • Yeah not gonna be grateful. We all know that and articles like this are totally meant to remind us how dumb that all is. Please tell me you don’t condone this being remaining how it is in the future.

  • The custom level community for SMW is pretty much entirely based around emulation and ripped ROMs. It’s hard to imagine Nintendo reacting any differently to the way they have here. This stuff is pretty much why Mario Maker was even created, to give people ways to make custom levels that doesn’t rely on illegal methods.

    • The problem is the in-game ‘physics’ of Mario Maker are not the same as the original games. I won’t bore you with the minutia, but the Venn diagrom of players who enjoy ROM Hacks and those who enjoy Mario Maker is not a circle.

  • I didn’t know anything about these ‘tools’ when I first watched that video (which is still amazing), but as soon as I found out that in order to complete it they were skipping frames and pause time and whatever other shenanigans … whats the point. Given, its near impossible to complete the course minus the tools, but isn’t that why the guy created it? To make a level nearly impossible to finish, and then actually finish it within the games original parameters?

    The creation of the level itself is awesome though, and I look forward to seeing what he can make on Maker.

  • Right, so Nintendo are complaining because people are using copies of products that they no longer sell, on platforms they never marketed to, to create their own custom content which they are then are posting playthroughs of those creations that people would have to go somewhere else to download and even then would need their own copy of said product that Nintendo no longer sells to play… and somehow Nintendo have the moral high ground here?

    If Nintendo seriously thinks that people posting playthrough of custom levels from games that are years old are actually taking away from the sales of your current products that they’re trying to sell – then my suggestion would be that they stop making shitty new products and actually release some legitimately good products that people will pay money for.

    Nintendo are just the bullies of YouTube, and basically acting like gigantic dicks.

    • I don’t know if they no longer sell them – aren’t a lot of those old games available on their virtual console?

      • Yes, you can buy them and you will be able to buy Super Mario Maker in a few days. And theft is theft, they might not take pirates to court, but they will take down their videos.
        Imagine if someone stole your car and then uploaded videos of it on YouTube.

        • Theft is theft, ‘piracy’ is copyright infringement, and copyright infringement is not theft.

          Don’t conflate copyright infringement with theft, they’re entirely different in terms of mechanics, impact, and legality, and mixing the two up makes anyone who does it look like an idiot.

        • A more appropriate analogy would be someone taking a car from a car manufacturer, driving it around doing awesome looking stunts, and then dropping it back to the car dealership.

          Car companies tend to *like* that sort of behaviour, not issue YouTube complaints to have the videos/channels pulled. Most companies tend to like what is effectively free advertising.

          What Nintendo *could* have done is used this kind of material as a springboard to go “hey, everyone can do this now with Super Mario Maker on Wii! Everyone can make far better and more fun creations!”

          Instead of seeing YouTube as potential advertising, they see it as potentially taking away sales from their game. To follow on from my previous comment, if people would rather enjoy watching other people play your game than to buy and play your game itself – you need to make a better game.

      • True but that makes a) a monopoly and b) a disconnect between perceived works of the product. I mean before virtual console it was pretty clear that nobody considered these old games worth money anymore.

          • Ehhh maybe I use the wrong word. I get what you mean but what I was trying to say is that precedent was set. Super Mario World was has been sold out of many vendors in past so having a single outlet now is a step down and I think Nintendo can be criticised for it.

  • As a hypothetical, if I designed some hardware that had a SNES compatible cartridge slot, and allowed memory mapped access to the ROM contents, and modified a SNES emulator to run the game directly out of that memory region, would Nintendo have anything to complain about?

    That is, if I removed the need to do any format shifting would they still have anything to complain about apart from not liking what I’m doing?

    • You wouldn’t be able to program the hardware to respond to the correct API calls without reverse engineering the operating system and/or cartridge contents, or by using the developer API documentation and breaking its terms of use, all of which are prohibited.

      • You’re not looking at a full operating system on systems of this vintage. You’re looking at something closer to an old style PC BIOS, with the game having unfettered access to the hardware. For the sake of it, lets say that my custom hardware also provides memory mapped access to the contents of a standard SNES BIOS ROM chip.

        The rest is just hardware, and reverse engineering for the purpose of compatibility is legal in the jurisdiction where YouTube is run from. Some parts like the CPU are readily documented, removing the need for reverse engineering.

        • There’s still a hardware abstraction layer in the machine, effectively an operating system when you include the bootloader, so that there’s as much space available on the cartridges for game assets as possible. You can’t reverse engineer that legally.

          As far as I know there’s no no compatibility exemption in US law. There’s an interoperability exemption (which I assume you’re referring to) but it’s been ruled in court that EULAs can override that provision in the law and prevent you from reverse engineering a program for any reason.

          • I’m not sure what part of the cartridge you think needs reverse engineering. The way the software is generally accessed on the cartridges of systems of this age is by dedicating some of the contacts on the slot to memory address lines and some others as data lines. These hook up to the ROM chip so a particular set of values on the address lines will cause a particular word of memory to be returned on the data lines. This would usually be hooked up directly to the CPU’s memory bus so the program code would just appear at a particular location in the address space. The ROM chip holding the BIOS code will be hooked up in a similar fashion.

            There should be no need to reverse engineer any of this code: I’m suggesting a piece of hardware that would simply make these chips accessible on a standard PC memory bus (compare how the memory on a discrete graphics card can be mapped into the CPU’s address space). At that point, you just need an interoperable replacement for the non-software components, which is what the emulator provides.

          • Alright, I haven’t explained it very well, I’m in a bit of a hurry to get out the door at the moment. Replace anywhere I said OS with firmware, which is hopefully more understandable for the age of the SNES. It includes a bootloader and some specialised abstraction particularly for graphics and audio processing.

            Firmware is software for the purposes of reverse engineering, as are instruction sets. You can’t develop hardware that can interpret the correct ASM instructions without knowing what each instruction means, and you can’t know that without either reverse engineering the cartridge (to see the context under which the instruction was sent) or the firmware (to see the way the instruction is processed on the receiving end).

            If you’re interested in how this works specifically with the SNES, the snes9x emulator is open source on github. There’s also a good resource here for documentation that people have found over the years either from leaked documentation or reverse engineering.

          • Read what I said again. I am aware that there is some software stored on the console itself: that’s the BIOS chip I referred to. I’m suggesting that if you extract that chip from the console you could make it available in the same way as the cartridge’s ROM chips.

            You are incorrect about having to reverse engineer the _software_ in order to interpret it. All you need is an interoperable replacement for the _hardware_. With that, you can treat the software (whether it is part of the firmware or part of the game code) as a black box: you don’t need to understand what the code does: you just run it the same way the real CPU would execute it.

            The CPU architecture used in this particular console is not unique, and the web site you linked to has a PDF manual describing everything you’d need to do to write a something that can interpret the machine code in the same way as the real CPU.

          • I don’t know how to make this clearer. You can’t write one side of a two-sided exchange between software without reverse engineering one side of the conversation, having access to its source or intercepting communication between the two, all of which are illegal. The website I linked to has documentation explaining how to do things because people reverse engineered the software. I said exactly that in the same sentence I gave you the link.

            You cannot do what you suggested without reverse engineering the software. Everything we currently have on the SNES system we have from reverse engineering the software, having access to source code, or having access to original documentation.

          • @zombiejesus: the PDF manual on the site is copyrighted by the company that designed the CPU (which is used in more than just the SNES). They made that information public because they wanted people to be able to write software to run on the architecture. A detailed manual like this also happens to be exactly the information you’d need to simulate the CPU. You can’t seriously believe that the people working on the emulators deduced the instruction set architecture by staring at the machine code of games?

            Anyway, getting back to my original point: with an appropriate controller hardware, the original ROM chips could be hooked up to the memory bus of a PC allowing an emulator to run the game in place. If Nintendo’s primary concern about emulator assisted speed runs is that people are using ROM dumps then something like this would surely satisfy their concerns, right?

          • There’s more to the instruction set than the CPU. Yes, a lot of the detail we know about the way the SNES works is from reverse engineering the cartridges. No, it wouldn’t satisfy their concerns for the reasons I’ve already given. I’m not really keen to keep going in circles on this.

  • If Nintendo isn’t making money from your videos, then you’re not making money from your videos. Thats it.

  • For the #butlicence crowd

    Just because it may be a law, that doesn’t mean it’s “right”. The point is the law needs to be changed in order to accomodate this sort of creativity. Use common sense and stop blindly thinking a law iis synonomous with ethical.

    It’s legal for the ACB to ban media which isn’t illegal, i.e South Park – is that the ethical thing to do? No. We say stuff it and download the uncensored version.

    Is it right that in certain countries, women can’t drive or leave home without a man present? No.

    ISIS says Allah allows them to kill anyone different from themselves, so is that fine too?

    CHANGE THE LAW! Blind obedience is stupidity.

  • So, I know nothing about gaming, aside from it making my kid happy. I’m only posting to brag. My 8 year old daugher, beat the whole game in just a few months, with no cheats (unless she figured them out herself), no tools, none of that stuff, with a legit cartridge. Take that youtubers! My kid rocks. Legally.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!