So Why Were the Yongzh’s Emulators Pulled?

June 1, 2011
19

There was much sadness when Android developer, yongzh, had his Market account deleted and line of popular game emulators pulled from the market. Many people were troubled by this news, seeing it as Google bowing to pressure from gaming companies. We've done a little bit of digging, and it seems that this may be a much simpler case of one developer breaking the law.

After the initial shock of the *oid emulators getting pulled, and then downloading the apks from their temporary home at SlideME to install on any future phones I own, I realized something didn't add up. There are still tens, if not hundreds of emulators and ROM related apps on the Market. There were rumors swirling about that yongzh may have been banned, not because he was making emulators, but because he was violating open source licenses.

Lets start with some background on emulators. Emulators are a very cloudy subject legally. Trying to find information on the internet on the legality of emulators is actually quite difficult with conflicting reports and vaguely worded statements abounding. This is made that much worse when there are different laws for an emulator itself, and the ROM game images. We can't condone or condemn emulators, but to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing explicitly illegal about an emulator, as it is usually the ROM itself which is considered to be the intelectual property of the company.

So yongzh's apps were pulled, and as far as we can tell weren't illegal, but other emulators remain in the Market. This is what started our looking into a rumor that yongzh was removed from the Market for violating open source licenses. Reports have popped up that snesoid, the Super Nintendo emulator app, was simply a java wrapper for the open source snes9x emulator.

We contacted the founder of snes9x and found out some details. The snes9x project was started in the 90s and is published under a license, which allows it to be copied and used so long as it is not for commercial purposes. While there was discussion on the snes9x forums about reporting yongzh, or even pursuing legal action back in February, we confirmed with the project founder, that he did not personally pursue yongzh.

So where does this leave us? What we know for sure at this point is that yongzh's emulators were pulled from the market, yet apps which could not be any more legal than his in regards to emulator and ROM laws remain. Google's response to me asking for details was generic as expected:

As a matter of policy, we don't provide comment on individual apps or developers. I can confirm, though, that the apps that were removed were in violation of Android Market policies.

This does mean however, that Google had some official reason to remove the apps, or at least yongzh's account. If this was removal due to infringing video game manufacturer's intelectual property, it just would have made more sense that the companies claiming IP violation would have spent the time to apply it to other emulators. It seems most likely that either someone took it into their own hands to report yongzh's use of the open source code, or Google discovered it themselves. Should anymore information come to light we will be sure to update you. In the meantime, continue to love Android and don't panic just yet that the end of "Openness" is upon us.


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  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe it for one single second. Google isn’t the open source police. They are open source fans, sure, but they don’t pull non-malicious apps from the Market unless they’ve been sent a takedown request by a major corporation.

    The reason why Yongzh’s emulators got pulled and others were left alone is because they’re the best. They’re the most popular by a huge margin and therefore represent a threat to companies like Sega or Atari who may want to release emulated games one by one for $1.99 each.

    Google can’t be happy about this. They were forced to ban the one guy who was giving their platform a gaming edge. Android’s game selections are terrible compared to iOS or Windows Phone, but it was the only place where you could easily find and use classic game emulators and now the good ones are just gone. Do you really think they’d do that over the morality of an open source license? Not a chance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Megadethfan Connor Garcia

      Goes to google types in “snesoid”.. Downloaded!!

      Problem fixed

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Micah-Madru/100001151887665 Micah Madru

        Not really solved. He’s still supporting a project with stolen code.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oldface-K-Illah/100001574755608 Oldface K Illah

        “Good artist borrow, but great artist steal”. Who really cares where he got the “inspiration” to make these emulators anyway? Do they work?–yes!! As long as I can play all my favorite games from the past, On my Xperia Play on the go?–I really could care less how it was made or how much it costs, because you can’t put a price tag on nostalgia.

      • John Scheible

        The problem is that he was supposedly selling stolen code, he had every right to use it, just not charge people for the app

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GJUBEE4FOU6QPFLNGLRJROUZSY James

        It’s only wrong to sell it if the original license prohibits sale of modifications.  SNES9x for one doesn’t.  Blame the original devs for not being copy-left enough.

      • Jonas

        That’s 100% false. Snes9x license prohibits commercial use of the code, period.

        The guy was clearly making a LOT of money with these emulators. Maybe he was giving the source or free version to those who asked but the point remains he has made a lot of money using real emu coder’s work, because we all know that 9 people out of 10 won’t contact him and just pay those $4.99 because they think it’s cheap to play “free” games.

      • Bentobox

        First of all, he made money off free, open-source software without permission. That’s scummy.
        Second, it’s “couldn’t care less”. If you “could care less”, you do care, as it is possible to give less of your care.

      • Anonymous

        Its “DONATE” work, if you asked him for it free via e-mail, he sent it to you within 10 minutes, so all you ‘Angels’ crawl back under the rock from which you came from.

      • Bentobox

        First of all, he made money off free, open-source software without permission. That’s scummy.
        Second, it’s “couldn’t care less”. If you “could care less”, you do care, as it is possible to give less of your care.

    • Anonymous

      Because you wish that was true, doesn’t make it so. You’re just wrong.

      Good riddance to yongzh. If he was stealing my work and profiting from it, I would be trying to get him removed also. Good riddance to bad scum.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Micah-Madru/100001151887665 Micah Madru

        Yup, my feelings exactly. I even bought his gameboy emulator before I knew he was using stolen code. I uninstalled it, and reported him. I have a feeling many others have done the same.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GJUBEE4FOU6QPFLNGLRJROUZSY James

        I requested his source code for SNESoid and he provided not only the
        source code in question, but the source repository for all his
        emulators.  Open Source doesn’t mean you have to advertise the code, just that you provide it when asked.  He did that, which means that he only charged people who didn’t ask to have it for free.  Nothing wrong with that. 

      • da

        yet this does no allow you to sell the app for personal gain. Most Open source licences clearly state that if the code is used the end product should also be released with the same licence. snes9x licence says its os and free so any derivative has to be os and free. AND FREE. charging for it was the only reason he was banned. 
        i personally liked his ‘wrapper’ since it pretty much allowed me to map my hardware key unlike other apps yet he was charging for it which was wrong.

      • Timtube

        Can you send me the code or post it pubically? No? then you are a lier!

      • Anonymous

        You people know nothing. Get a hold of him, his email is easy to find, i’m sure he will be happy to give you the source, Google is fucking up here, and you all know it. quit acting so innocent. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe it for one single second. Google isn’t the open source police. They are open source fans, sure, but they don’t pull non-malicious apps from the Market unless they’ve been sent a takedown request by a major corporation.

    The reason why Yongzh’s emulators got pulled and others were left alone is because they’re the best. They’re the most popular by a huge margin and therefore represent a threat to companies like Sega or Atari who may want to release emulated games one by one for $1.99 each.

    Google can’t be happy about this. They were forced to ban the one guy who was giving their platform a gaming edge. Android’s game selections are terrible compared to iOS or Windows Phone, but it was the only place where you could easily find and use classic game emulators and now the good ones are just gone. Do you really think they’d do that over the morality of an open source license? Not a chance.

  • Inferno986return

    His emulators were good but he shouldn’t have charged for them, I hope Google allow him to reupload them for free as I did them quite a lot!

    Naughty Yongzh disbrituing that stuff, but please make more I really want to play on these emulators when I get a Honeycomb tablet!

    Though I can see why Gary Henderson is angry with Yongzh because he and his team worked hard on SNES 9X and it still is one of my favourite emulators today!

  • Anonymous

    If its breaking the law, then remove the free mp3 music apps, and all the spyware from the gapps too, motherfuckers. Google knows what we eat, think, travel, shop, hell, they probably know how many times we shit a day. these front facing cameras are probably taking pictures of us and uploading them to Google. thats why ‘my uploads’ is always running in the background. i use NOTHING on my phone that needs to upload anything. i always have sync and sometimes background data turned off  because of this, and my battery last 5x longer. i love android but Google is starting to bug the fuck out of me.