Nintendo Lawsuit Accuses Switch Emulator Yuzu Of Piracy At A Colossal Scale

hero zelda totk linkzelda
As the latest salvo in its seemingly never-ending war against emulation, the producer of the third-best-selling video game console of all time, Nintendo, has filed a lawsuit against the creators of the Yuzu emulator for Nintendo Switch. The suit, filed in Rhode Island, alleges that Yuzu developers Tropic Haze are liable for "facilitating piracy at a colossal scale."

Specifically, Nintendo's suit says that the developers of Yuzu Emulator are responsible for over a million individual instances of piracy of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom that took place in the weeks before the game's release. Nintendo holds Tropic Haze liable for the piracy because it offers a conveniently-accessible and easy-to-understand guide on dumping your own games from your Nintendo Switch.

nintendo lawsuit yuzu piracy colossal scale
A snippet from Nintendo's filing, which can be found here. Thanks to Stephen Totilo for pointing it out.

To be clear, we're not lawyers here at HotHardware. However, from our reading of the suit, and based on our layman's understanding of both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (under which this case is filed) as well as successive copyright precedent in the United States, Nintendo's complaint doesn't seem to have much merit. Nintendo alleges that Yuzu breaks the law by teaching users how to dump their games; this is explicitly permitted by the DMCA itself.

There are other allegations in the filing, some of which are perhaps more reasonable than others. Nintendo alleges that the act of dumping decryption keys from the console is itself a violation of the DMCA, and by extension, claims that this includes the act of using said decryption keys outside of their intended context. Indeed, the argument that Yuzu developers and users are violating the law by "breaking" the games' encryption doesn't hold water, so the company is trying to attack the idea that you're allowed to have the keys themselves.

switch homebrew interface
There are many homebrew apps for the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo alleges that "there is no legal way to use Yuzu," which isn't correct at all. Even if you agree that dumping the decryption keys and using them to play retail Switch games is illegal—something that does not hold up well under examination of precedent—Yuzu can be used to play unencrypted software, including homebrew Switch games, which exist.

Regardless of whether Nintendo's complaint has any real legal merit, though, the short-term goal is likely to simply intimidate and destroy the developers' ability to continue creating the software. In two previous cases, Sony brought suits against emulator developers that it ultimately lost, but the legal fees and loss of income bankrupted the defendants. Nintendo is likely seeking a similar outcome here, even if it doesn't win the case.