Somewhat Shady Site Offering Portable Dreamcasts For $470 Each

I got an email about this.

Apparently some Japanese site is now offering to sell portable dreamcasts for just under $500.

I don't like the look of the site however.

So yeah. Like I said earlier companies can sell portable SNES and NES units legally because Nintendo let their patents expire.

But Sega never let the Dreamcast patents die out as far as I know.

So even if you happen to have a half grand sitting around I would probably pass on this deal.

It's very interesting to note that a company is trying to do this though.


BIGMercenary said...

I've heard about this. I'd rather buy my own parts are piece one together using one of Ben Heck's designs. It'd be a lot cheaper and it might actually work.

fatherkrishna said...

A few years ago, I went to enormous lengths to procure a portable Dreamcast called at treamcast. Despite it's frankly illegal manufacture, the unit worked, and still takes pride of place in my collection.

If I'd have seen this unit for sale in 2005 or 2006 then my money would be have been in the post as we speak.

It looks like a unit put together a few years back, by the legendary Ben heckendorm (I think that was his name...)

Do you ever get on the planet dc forum these days caleb?
Email me dude and let me know what's happening in your life dude. Good to see you posting here again!

Edwin Herdman said...

The following should not be construed as legal advice; please consult your lawyer. That said...

In the United States, currently patents are good for a term of twenty years. This means that from the time the patent is filed with the USPTO you have a state-granted monopoly on the use of that functional design for 20 years. Since the Famicom and NES are more than twenty years old, certain patents have expired, though that does not make Famiclones necessarily legal (see copyright and trademark). There is also a design patent, which might cover something like the look of the Dreamcast console, something non-functional about it; that term is currently 14 years. Once it was necessary to renew copyright, though no longer (and the term is very long, if you've noticed the original Mickey Mouse shorts coming out of copyright recently); then there is trademark protection.

Since things like Dreamcasts are covered by multiple patents, copyrights, and trademarks (yes, more than one in all three areas), if you infringe on just one of them you are basically afoul of the law (if you get caught, that is). There is a lot of stuff covered: The Quake III Arena disc inside last week's $5 thrift Dreamcast is practically covered with trademark notices. From the standpoint of looks, it's excessive, but it serves notice.

On the other hand, I don't see where hacking up a Dreamcast and putting its insides inside something else specifically relates to patent law, or necessarily to even trademark or copyright law.

Patent law prevents you from copying somebody else's design in your item. Trademark prevents you from using the Dreamcast logo (for example) and other Sega marks in advertising your new hacked-together Dreamcast. Copyright prevents you from using the code within the Dreamcast in ways it was not licensed to be. (All of that a bit imprecise and could lead to incorrect interpretations, I must warn you.)

A good couple points of comparison might be to somebody who chops up motorcycles or modifies cars - you may void your warranty - or perhaps to modchips, which have been squashed by courts, but I suspect that modchips run afoul of the law because they not only interface with copyrighted materials within the console, but they also allow you to circumvent copyright (protections), which is covered by the DMCA (implemented in 1998, a year before the Dreamcast, not that it matters to the coverage).

In my unconsidered, non-legal opinion, as long as all that's being done is a physical mod to the console that doesn't include modchips, I don't see how patent or any other right prevents this from being done.

In other news, I doubt this is responsible for the $785 - 23 stores "shopping results for Dreamcast" Google spits out, but...

Edwin Herdman said...

Also, the site looks like lots of homemade retrogaming sales sites I've seen - it could just be a one-man operation with good build quality (and access to molding, I suppose).

fatherkrishna said...

Wow Edwin! Thanks for that very well considered reply! Thought provoking stuff!

@BIGMercenary:So sorry dude! It ws only on re-reading your reply that I realised you'd already mentioned Ben Heck. That makes me look quite the tool, lol!

The GagaMan(n) said...

Anyone else think the Wii U Controller looks a lot like this portable Dreamcast? Haha.

Yuri said...

I can imagine that someone with the know-how and machinery required could buy old Dreamcasts for $5, portablize them, and sell them for $500. Not bad at all.