Nintendo is going after the Switch emulator Yuzu: “it promotes piracy on a colossal scale”

There are dark clouds in the future of emulators.

Nintendo is going after the Switch emulator Yuzu: “it promotes piracy on a colossal scale”
Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

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If you like Nintendo games and haven’t bought the Nintendo Switch yet, surely you have heard of Yuzu, as it is the largest emulator of the Japanese console to date. Well, now Nintendo has had enough and has set its lawyers in motion.

Nintendo Switch Online DOWNLOAD

In the lawsuit, discovered by Stephen Totilo, Nintendo alleges that Yuzu violates provisions against circumvention and trafficking of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), in addition to accusing the creators of copyright infringement.

The Japanese company claims that Yuzu is “primarily designed” to bypass multiple layers of encryption on the Nintendo Switch so that its users can play copyrighted Nintendo games.

A lawsuit to stop piracy?

The company not only asks the courts to stop Yuzu with a permanent injunction. They also want their domain names, URLs, chats, and social media presence to be removed; to hand over to Nintendo; and even to confiscate and destroy their hard drives to help eliminate the emulator.

And Nintendo also wants a lot of money for damages. But, are emulators legal? Well… yes and no. Although there are legal precedents suggesting that reverse engineering a console and developing an emulator that does not use the company’s source code is legal, those cases are about a quarter of a century old or more; things get complicated when we talk about multiple layers of modern encryption and copyright-protected BIOS that Yuzu and other modern emulators need to function.

The Dolphin emulator for Nintendo Wii and GameCube got into a big trouble and abandoned its plan to release on Steam when it was discovered that Dolphin includes Nintendo’s common key for Wii in order to bypass the copyright protection of Wii games.

However, Nintendo does not claim that Yuzu includes any of those keys. Yuzu takes a “bring your own BIOS” approach, expecting users to extract their own BIOS and keys from a hacked Nintendo Switch (using an exploit that Nintendo removed in newer models) or, more likely, download a hacked one.

So, instead, Nintendo argues that Yuzu is “facilitating piracy on a colossal scale” knowingly. Nintendo suggests that Yuzu is facilitating that piracy in countless ways, including providing “detailed instructions” on how to “make it work with illegal copies of Nintendo Switch games”.

Nintendo also claims that developers have clearly extracted Nintendo Switch games themselves, bypassing encryption, to test their own emulator.

If Nintendo can prove that Yuzu is “primarily designed” to provide access to official Nintendo Switch games and has no other real use, Yuzu would indeed have problems.

And it is that article 1201(a)(2) of the DMCA prohibits products “designed or produced primarily for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access” to a copyrighted work. It is the same provision that game archivists have been fighting for years.

Nintendo Switch Online DOWNLOAD

Nintendo suggests in its lawsuit that it may also have been harmed by Yuzu, claiming that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was illegally downloaded over a million times in early May 2023, while the number of Yuzu’s Patreon members doubled during that same period.

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Journalist specialized in technology, entertainment and video games. Writing about what I'm passionate about (gadgets, games and movies) allows me to stay sane and wake up with a smile on my face when the alarm clock goes off. PS: this is not true 100% of the time.

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