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Persona 5 emulator targeted by Atlus DMCA takedown notice

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Atlus USA has moved to quash the emulation of Persona 5 using the open source PS3 emulator RPCS3. According to a member of the RPCS3 team writing on reddit, the publisher filed a DMCA takedown request direct to Patreon, requesting that the dev team's whole funding page be taken down.

According to the RPCS3 statement, Atlus offered the following reasoning to Patreon: "The PS3 emulator itself is not infringing on our copyrights and trademarks," it wrote, "however, no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform; and [the RPCS3] developers are infringing on our IP by making such games playable”.

When Patreon refused on the grounds that the Patreon page doesn't infringe on Atlus's IP – and that emulators fall under fair use to boot – Atlus reportedly responded as follows:

"We kindly ask that you remove both for this reason – to make Persona 5 work on the emulator, the user has to circumvent our DRM protections." The company then provided a link to a section of the Patreon account offering instructions on how to dump the Persona 5 software from a disc or PSN download. 

Requesting the removal of a Patreon page to combat an emulator is strange, and the crowdfunding company clearly agreed. But as a safety measure, RPCS3 has removed all reference to Persona 5 on both its Patreon and official webpages. 

"We find it very interesting that Atlus would immediately try to shut down the Patreon page without any prior communication," the RPCS3 statement reads. "Their primary reason given being: 'no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform [PC]' is quite peculiar indeed."

They continued: "Why Atlus would choose this time to target this project will probably never be known. We choose not to speculate about the reasons at this time and hope for there to be open communication with Atlus. We firmly believe we operate within a legal framework and will continue to work on RPCS3, undeterred."

The RPCS3 statement goes on to assure that both RPCS3 and its Patreon are safe for now. The emulator itself is open-source, and given users can make their own software dumps from legally obtained PS3 copies of the game, emulation of the game is unlikely to ever be erased entirely.

When I reached out to Atlus for comment, they pointed me towards this statement addressing the issue.

"We believe that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen. We understand that many Persona fans would love to see a PC version. And while we don’t have anything to announce today, we are listening! For now, the best way to experience Persona 5 is on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3."

Alluding to the action it took against RPCS3, the statement adds: "Unfortunately, when our content is illegally circumvented and potentially made available for free, in a format we do not think delivers the experience and quality we intend, it undermines our ability to do so by diverting potential support from new audiences." You can read the full statement over here.

In our direct communication with Atlus, the company's position was made clearer: "it isn’t the emulator itself we object to, it is the use of Persona 5, including methods of circumvention, that we took issue with," Atlus USA's Jacob Nahin wrote.

"That said, no further action is planned at the moment."

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.