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Nintendo Sues Yuzu Emulator Developers, Seeks to Squash Emulator and Remove Domain

Nintendo Files Lawsuit Against Yuzu Emulator Developers

If you’ve ever seen a Steam Deck playing a Legend of Zelda game, chances are you were seeing the Yuzu emulator at work. Now, Nintendo has sued the developers of Yuzu in US federal court, with the intent of squashing Yuzu for good.

In the lawsuit, Nintendo alleges that Yuzu violates the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as well as accusing the creators of copyright infringement. It alleges Yuzu is “primarily designed” to circumvent several layers of Nintendo Switch encryption so its users can play copyrighted Nintendo games.

Nintendo’s Claims and Demands

“…immediately transfer the domain name yuzu-emu.org … to Nintendo’s control”

The company’s lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to stop Yuzu and also wants to take away its domain names, URLs, chatrooms, and social media presence. It requests the domain name yuzu-emu.org to be transferred to Nintendo’s control. Nintendo also aims to seize and destroy Yuzu’s hard drives to help wipe out the emulator. Moreover, the company is seeking significant monetary damages.

Legal Complexities of Emulators

Aren’t emulators legal? Well… yes and no. While there’s legal precedent that suggests it’s okay to reverse engineer a console and develop an emulator that uses none of the company’s source code, those cases are roughly a quarter of a century old or more. It becomes more complex when multiple layers of modern encryption and copyrighted BIOSes required by Yuzu and other modern emulators are involved.

For instance, Dolphin Emulator for Nintendo Wii and GameCube had to abandon its plan to launch on Steam when it was revealed that it shipped with Nintendo’s Wii common key to circumvent the copyright protection on Wii games. Nintendo, on the other hand, alleges that Yuzu knowingly facilitates piracy at a large scale.

DMCA Section 1201(a)(2)

If Nintendo can prove that Yuzu is “primarily designed” to give people access to official Nintendo Switch games and has no other legitimate use, Yuzu would be in trouble. DMCA Section 1201(a)(2) prohibits products “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access” to a copyrighted work.

Experts believe that Nintendo has a fair chance of winning the case, as the court will scrutinize the effectiveness of Yuzu’s technological measures and the intent behind its creation.

Yuzu’s Impact

Nintendo suggests that it has suffered damages from Yuzu as it claims that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was illegally downloaded over a million times in May 2023, alongside a significant increase in Yuzu’s Patreon membership. Consequently, many emulator projects have ceased operations after being confronted by Nintendo.

Yuzu emulator developers have yet to respond to requests for their side of the story.

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