NVIDIA deny the use of their NVIDIA Capture API on what they deem professional cards, such as the Quadro, Tesla and GRID models. This API allows extremely high performance video output capture from a computer that is performed in the video card's hardware.

Due to this limitation other vendors that produce capture software such as Fraps and Open Broadcast Studio (OBS) are unable to use this API, which would seems fair since this restriction is supposed to apply to the class of card.

However NVIDIA also distribute the program "ShadowPlay" with the NVIDIA drivers which is a competing video capture application.

The ShadowPlay program uses the NVIDIA Capture API on the non professional consumer grade cards as it is exempt from this artificial restriction.

While I personally feel this is completely immoral, is it illegal? Antitrust?

  • What jurisdiction? United States?
    – mikeazo
    Dec 11, 2017 at 15:39
  • I would say so, their HQ is in Santa Clara, California, U.S.
    – Geoffrey
    Dec 11, 2017 at 15:40
  • HQ is not the only jurisdiction which would be applicable. Big companies face antitrust probes and lawsuits in countries in which they do business but are not headquartered in.
    – mikeazo
    Dec 11, 2017 at 15:43
  • Personally I am in Australia, but this affects people world wide. I am writing open source software that makes use of the API for people around the globe.
    – Geoffrey
    Dec 11, 2017 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


NVIDIA Capture software is a program which is protected by copyright. That means that it cannot be used at all except with permission of the software creator. The rights-holder is allowed to set whatever conditions it wants in the permission agreement (the above-linked license). They can let you use it if you pay, or for free; they can let you use it only on certain products, or with no restrictions. The license specifically allows you to

install, use and reproduce the software delivered by NVIDIA, make modifications and create derivative works of sample source code software delivered by NVIDIA and use documentation delivered by NVIDIA, provided that the software is executed only in NVIDIA GRID, Tesla or Quadro 2000+ hardware products that you separately obtain from NVIDIA or its affiliates, all to develop, test and service your products (each, a “Customer Product”) that are interoperable with NVIDIA GRID, Tesla or Quadro 2000+ hardware products

So they have commercially created software that enhances the operation of their hardware product, and only allow the software to be used on their hardware.

This may be legal under current anti-trust law. The statutory language is not clear, and legality is determined via case law. The way to determine if it is currently illegal is to inspect the record of similar cases, especially US v. Microsoft, pertaining to the relationship between the OS and their browser. It is possible that a court would find NVIDIA to be in an analogous dominant position. The Microsoft battle was not subjected to an ultimate court finding after an initial finding against the company, and was settled without establishing a distinguishing precedent, after the company prevailed on the highest appeal. That appeal did not bring forward any legal principles that would tend to render NVIDIA's policy illegal, but one can always pour over this case to see if there is anything applicable, if one decides to pursue NVIDIA on similar grounds.

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