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Official: Nintendo R4 Cards Are Illegal


Official: Nintendo R4 Cards Are Illegal

It looks like it’s the end of the line for the popular R4 cards for Nintendo DS and DSi, after a high court judge ruled that they were illegal. It is now no longer legal to import, advertise, or sell the R4 card in the UK.

The R4 cards enables many games to be stored and played directly from a card that slots into the DS hand-held, and was widely used to play pirated games.

The defendants, a Playables Limited and Wait Dat Chan, argued that the devices were legal as they permitted the use of ‘homebrew applications’, but the judge, Justice Lloyd, was not sympathetic to their claims.

“"The mere fact that the device can be used for a non-infringing purpose is not a defence," read his ruling.

Nintendo declared itself satisfied with the verdict, stating it was "pleased that the court was not persuaded by the defendant's arguments, claiming that game copiers are lawful, as they allow for the play of 'homebrew' applications.”

The writing was on the wall for the R4 cards in the UK, as the judge was following a similar ruling in the Netherlands in July.

The ruling is a timely one for Nintendo, as it preps the 3D enabled Nintendo 3DS, due for release in the UK next year.

Link: Nintendo UK


July 29, 2010, 2:59 pm

It's very Ironic, Apple lost there battle for making Jailbreaking illegal, and then in the UK this happens.

It's all a bit worrying in a way, I'm not a fan of people who pirate software, but I always worry about the consequences of these sort of actions.

Why not make knifes illegal, you can after all kill somebody with them. Oh, and lets not forget about banning cars, etc,etc.


July 29, 2010, 3:06 pm

it's not just the r4 - surely *all* flashcarts are now 'outlawed' in the uk, no? i'm not too bothered myself, very few homebrew applications for the ds took my interest.


July 29, 2010, 3:26 pm

The mere fact that *the device* can be used for a non-infringing purpose is not a defence.

wow you can replace *the device* with anything and the sentance still works, 'the internet' 'writable DVDs'.

but I cant say I'm going to loose sleep over this since I had to look up what an R4 card was.

I still find it amazing that america has just declared jailbreaking/ rooting, bypassing DRM on DVDs and blurays legal for personal use yet in the UK it is still technically illegal to rip a CD to mp3, I'm supprised how on earth VCR players were ever allowed into the UK market.


July 29, 2010, 3:29 pm

"The mere fact that the device can be used for a non-infringing purpose is not a defence," read his ruling.

Yeah and next lets ban kitchen knives as the mere fact the can prepare food doesn't stop them being used for murder. Then transit vans as they can be used for getaway vehicles. Then judges as they can wrongly remove the civil rights of terrorist suspects with no regard of evidence or due process.

I get why they want them banned, and kinda agree in principle that they are primarily for playing pirated games but statements like this and these types of laws are ludicrous. Everything can be used for illegal means in the right hands so of course having a non-infringing use should be a defense.

If you buy something you should be able to do what you want with it. If you choose to use pirated materials in doing that there are already several laws in place which can be used to to punish offenders. But just like you can upgrade pc's, fit aftermarket car parts and use elastic chords to jump off bridges why should it be illegal to modify phones and consoles to work in new and different ways.


July 29, 2010, 4:06 pm

@CraigD I came to comment on that statement too, but you've said everything I was already going to! What kind of a judge says things like that?!

I've never touched a DS in my life, but that quote infuriates me!


July 29, 2010, 4:07 pm

@ all the above comments... I could not agree more :) You guys said it all.. now there's nothing for me to write :P


July 29, 2010, 4:11 pm

So here's what's going to happen. The company that produces the R4 modifies it so that it can't be used to play Pirated games but can do some other legitimate purpose and calls it 'R4Legal'. Then 'somebody' hacks it and releases the hack onto the net. Job done.

Adam Foreman

July 29, 2010, 4:11 pm

The stupid thing is R4 or rather the makers of R4 have gone underground since 24th April 2008. Other clones have come out baring the name R4 but are not the same company and have profited off the name which has become very famous now.

AJ10 has a point, if the law states just R4's are illegal, where do the other card manufacturers stand? Are they legal by not being named in the legal case?


July 29, 2010, 4:52 pm

The mere fact that the device can be used for an infringing purpose is not an offence.


July 29, 2010, 5:29 pm

@ Ryan, my thoughts exactly!


July 29, 2010, 6:04 pm

@Adam Foreman

XD Pirating the pirates. Sort of like a tech version of The Wire's Omar.


July 29, 2010, 6:11 pm

I agree with the above comments, but just to play devil's advocate here-

Surely the difference between the R4 card and a kitchen knife/transit van/{etc.} is that the majority of R4 cards are purchased for nefarious purposes. Conversely, the majority of people who buy kitchen knives and transit vans want to chop vegetables and move sofas (though perhaps not at the same time).

Don Kanonjii

July 29, 2010, 6:19 pm

@ Ryan - Indeed. As stated before, ALMOST ANYTHING can be used for an illegal activity. I knife can be used to murder someone, a camera can be used to take indecent images, A tin of beans could be used to bludgeon someone to death...need i say more? The problem is what people decide to do with a device/item not what the device does.


July 29, 2010, 6:59 pm

@Chris: How do you know what the majority of R4 cards are purchased for?

Should we also ban high-speed internet because the RIAA says it's 'mostly' used for illegal downloading?


July 29, 2010, 7:20 pm

Horse bolted springs to mind, the British judiciary and the leeches that live off it, still put profit before the good of mankind. Awaits 26 months R4 sentence VS 10 months for gang rape case...


July 29, 2010, 7:41 pm

Ok put all ideas of legal and not legal out of your mind for a moment.

What would you rather, a bunch of little grey boxes that have to carried around, can be lost, damaged, and must be swapped around if you want to play something else and increase the cost your game.

Or would you rather have a copy of all the games you legally own on one cartridge, along with some ebooks, maybe a movie or a bit of music, and all your little grey boxes you legally own are nice and safe in their drawer at home, and playing something else just requires a reset.

Not only is that judges decision overlooking the legal uses but also nintendo are overlooking the fact that R4 gave DS owners more practicality then they did. I mean seriously Nintendo are missing a trick here, as a device like the R4 and an app store to buy games from like apples would probably be a good way of clawing back some of the market share lost to iphone and ipad. Well I have an R4 already so I suppose not a big deal for me, well except for the offensive implication by a certain judge that because I own one I'm obviously a dirty software pirate...


July 29, 2010, 7:53 pm


As I said I agree with the principle of what you're saying the issue here though isn't just the ruling it's the closing statement that a non-infringing purpose isn't a defence.

There are lots of things for sale that could be interpreted as enabling an illegal activity for their primary purpose but the british judicial system used to be based on innocent until proven guilty. Just because something can, and admittedly in this case probably will, be misused doesn't mean it always will.

Where there is no inherent health & safety issue from the goods and there is no direct profit to illegal organisations I fail to see what grounds they have for making them illegal.

It would be like banning the sale of syringes or pipes as they facilitate using drugs. or banning tom-toms from warning of speed cameras as it encourages drivers to speed. or loads of similar analogies that could go on forever.

The cards enable video playback, mp3 playback, ebook reading and various other things threw homebrew software which nintendo could support but don't which would invalidate the legitimate argument.

Across technology devices there's a worrying trend towards erroding consumer rights through unreasonable terms and conditions preventing free use of what you purchase but in this case as well nintendo are barking because they implemented a flawed security system with no way to close it.

ok 1 more analogy, If I left my door open and someone stole my stuff I'd expect the police to try their best to catch the thief as they broke the law, however I wouldn't expect my insurance company to let me off the hook and pay out.

PaulW 1

July 29, 2010, 8:32 pm

I think the article is a little sloppy, and this has given rise to some concern. As the article noted, Floyd J (not Lloyd J) did say:

"The mere fact that the device can be used for a non-infringing purpose is not a defence ..."

But the article failed to record the rest of the judges sentence:

"... provided one of the conditions in section 296ZD(1)(b) (considered below) is satisfied."

The these conditions set out in section 296ZD(1)(b) are that the devices or services in question:

(i) are promoted, advertised or marketed for the purpose of the circumvention of, or

(ii) have only a limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent, or

(iii) are primarily designed, produced, adapted or performed for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of,

the copyright protection.

For those interested, judgment here: http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/...


July 29, 2010, 8:42 pm

@Ryan: You can't compare an R4 card to high speed internet - one has a very specific set of uses while the other's uses are virtually infinite. I'm just trying to point out that everybody - including this judge - knows what these cards are frequently used for. They were designed to circumvent measures that Nintendo had in place to thwart such efforts. I've known a few students who've owned similar devices and none of them were using it to run homebrew software.

I'm not saying that justifies this decision. It's still a bit harsh and many legit users like apoc286 will be wrongly persecuted by it.

@apoc286: Fair point. What you describe sounds like what Sony have tried to do with the PSP Go.


July 29, 2010, 8:49 pm

@Ryan and @apoc286:

Couldn't agree more - especially after having had one of my 'little grey boxes' (a rare jRPG) damaged on a recent trip.


July 29, 2010, 8:57 pm

Unfortunately for disgruntled posters out here devils advocate Chris has a good point. The reason that cans of beans are not illegal is that sane people prefer to eat their contents rather than bludgeon someone to death with the casing. Therefore they present little or no threat to anyone or anything.

It is illegal however to own a sherman tank. You could argue you want one for the completely innocent job of "digging" a new swimming pool, but lets face it you probably want to cause some mayhem if you are considering a purchase.

This is probably a short sighted judgement that will be easily circumvented made by someone out of touch with the industry, but the premise that it's based on is sound.


July 29, 2010, 9:37 pm

@purephase: its not illegal to own a sherman tank, with the right modifications it could even be made road legal aswell


July 29, 2010, 9:47 pm

@CraigD: While I agree with what you're saying, there's no getting away from the primary reason that these things have sold in numbers:


The same can't be said of many of the examples that you listed.

As for the closing statement, it does sound ludicrous, but PaulW has accurately pointed out that it was somewhat taken out of context.

"Across technology devices there's a worrying trend towards erroding consumer rights through unreasonable terms and conditions"

I completely agree, and I think this story is one such example, albeit a mild one.


July 29, 2010, 9:51 pm

@Jay: You're right:


However, let's assume that purephase was referring to fully armed, working and completely illegal tank in order to make his point.


July 29, 2010, 10:12 pm


I love your work, but you guys need a better comments moderation system ;)

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