Nintendo Files Lawsuit Against Nintendo Switch Emulator Developer

On Monday, February 26, 2024, Nintendo of America filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, District of Rhode Island, against Tropic Haze LLC, the developer of the “Yuzu” emulator.

Nintendo markets and distributes video game consoles, games, and accessories. The Nintendo Switch video game console has sold over 139 million units, making it the third most popular video game console of all time. Tropic Haze owns, develops, and operates the Yuzu emulator, which allows users to play unlawfully pirated Nintendo Switch games on Windows, Linux, and Android systems, “which would not otherwise be possible due to the protection that Nintendo has put into place on its consoles and games.” Nintendo Switch games utilize “encryption that scrambles the audiovisual content in the game file to make it unreadable without the use of proprietary cryptographic keys.” In the course of playing a Nintendo Switch game on the console, the Switch console will decrypt said game during runtime and allow the user to play the game.

Nintendo’s complaint alleges that Yuzu unlawfully circumvents these piracy measures by executing code that decrypts Nintendo Switch games “using an illegally-obtained copy of [cryptographic keys].” Users obtain these illegally-obtained cryptographic keys through unlawful websites or by illegally hacking a Nintendo Switch console. The complaint further alleges that “Yuzu’s website provides instructions for its users telling them how to unlawfully hack their own Nintendo Switch and how to make unauthorized copies of Nintendo games and unlawfully obtain [cryptographic keys.]” The complaint states that emulation of Nintendo’s games is possible only due to Yuzu’s decryption of Nintendo’s encryption.

“In effect, Yuzu turns general computing devices into tools for massive intellectual property infringement of Nintendo and others’ copyrighted works.” The complaint illustrates this claim by pointing to the piracy of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, a major recent Nintendo game. A pirated copy of the game was illegally distributed a week and a half before its official Nintendo release. Pirated copies of the game “were able to be played in Yuzu, and those copies were successfully downloaded from pirate websites over one million times before the game was published and made available for lawful purchase by Nintendo.”

The complaint cites causes of action for: (1) trafficking in circumvention technology in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(2); (2) trafficking in circumvention technology in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201(b)(1); (3) circumvention of technological measures in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1); (4) unauthorized reproduction and distribution of protected works in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106(1), 106(3), 501(a); and (5) contributory and inducement liability for unauthorized reproduction of protected works in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106(a), 501(a). The complaint seeks relief in the form of (1) a declaratory judgment; (2) a permanent injunction; (3) entry of an order requiring the defendant to cease operation of the Yuzu website; (4) entry of an order requiring seizure, impoundment, and destruction of all copies of the Yuzu emulator and all other material violating Nintendo’s rights; (5) entry of an order requiring the defendant to report the manner in which it has complied with the court’s orders; (6) damages; and (7) fees.

Additional Reading

Nintendo sues Switch emulator Yuzu for ‘facilitating piracy at a colossal scale’, The Verge (February 27, 2024)

Nintendo of America Inc. v. Tropic Haze LLC (Case No. 1:2024cv00082)

Complaint in Nintendo of America Inc. v. Tropic Haze LLC

Photo Credit: Sundry Photography /