Nintendo Vs Yuzu Lawsuit Settlement Explained




Notoriously litigious gaming giant, Nintendo Co. Ltd., through its wholly owned subsidiary Nintendo of America Inc. (collectively Nintendo) clashed and then settled a dispute with Tropic Haze LLC, with respect to their video game emulator for the Nintendo Switch named ‘Yuzu’ (Yuzu). This legal saga has caught the attention of the gaming community in general and has started raising the pertinent questions regarding the fine line between emulation and copyright infringement.


Nintendo creates, develops and publishes many popular video games made specifically and exclusively made to play on Nintendo’s video game consoles including the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, and Nintendo Switch OLED consoles (collectively the Nintendo Switch). Nintendo also re-releases certain popular videos games that were popular on its previously designed consoles (illustratively Metroid Prime, popular on the Nintendo GameCube made available in 2002) to play on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo further offers a paid subscription to users of the Nintendo Switch, which gives access to over 100 legacy games created by Nintendo from previous gaming consoles such as the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, SNES, Nintendo 64. Currently, the Nintendo Switch is the third most popular video game console of all time having sold over 139 million Nintendo Switch consoles.

An emulator is a hardware or software that enables a computer to behave/ imitate/ simulate like another computer/ system such that the former may run applications/ services designed for the latter. In the context of gaming, a video game emulator is a type of emulator that allows a computer to emulate a video gaming consoles hardware and play its games on the emulating platform. Yuzu allows Nintendo Switch games (which Nintendo authorizes for play solely on Nintendo Switch consoles), to be played on any Windows, Linux, or Android systems.

Therefore, users of Yuzu may play pirated Nintendo Switch games on personal computers and Android devices, which would not otherwise be possible due to the protections that Nintendo has put into place for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo also claimed that Yuzu not only infringed Nintendo’s copyright and circumvented the Nintendo Switch’s copyright protection, it also sold the technology used to circumvent such protections. The primary trigger for the lawsuit hinged on the Nintendo Switch game titled “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” (Zelda) which was available to emulate on Yuzu before the game was even released.

Nintendo filed a complaint before the United States of America District Court, District of Rhode Island. Nintendo’s complaint alleges that Yuzu unlawfully circumvented the piracy measures by executing code that decrypts Nintendo Switch games “using an illegally obtained copy of cryptographic keys”. The complaint further alleged that Yuzu’s website provided detailed instructions for its users to unlawfully hack their own Nintendo Switch and how to make unauthorized copies of Nintendo games. Nintendo alleged that Yuzu facilitated piracy in a myriad of ways, including providing detailed instructions on how to get it running with unlawful copies of Nintendo Switch games, testing thousands of official Nintendo Switch games to verify their compatibility and linking to websites that help users obtain and further distribute the “prod.keys”, that are used to decrypt and play the Nintendo Switch games. As stated by Nintendo, the emulation of Nintendo’s games was only possible due to Yuzu’s decryption of Nintendo’s encryption. Nintendo accused Tropic Haze LLC of violating the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 1998 and accused the creators of copyright infringement. It alleged that Yuzu was “primarily designed” to circumvent several layers of Nintendo Switch encryption so its users can play copyrighted Nintendo games.
Therefore, Nintendo sought for equitable relief and damages for unlawful circumvention of Nintendo’s copyright protection systems (technological measures) and unlawful trafficking in circumvention technology in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 1998. Nintendo also sought for the transfer of all domain names, URLs, chatrooms, and social media presence and the site over to Nintendo and sought the seizure and destruction of all hard drives to help wipe out the Yuzu emulator.

Settlement and Final Judgement 

Yuzu agreed to a settlement of US$2,400,000.00 (calculated basis Nintendo’s claim that over 1 (one) million copies of Zelda were emulated on Yuzu) in favour of Nintendo and the District Court granted the permanent injunction and inter alia ordered the payment of the Settlement Amount to Nintendo, granted the permanent injunction preventing the advertising, selling or otherwise trafficking in Yuzu (or any other such software) or any source code or features of Yuzu, permanent closure of the domain name, the destruction by deletion of all circumvention devices including all copies of Yuzu, the handing over to Nintendo of all physical circumvention devices that circumvent or attempt to circumvent the technological measures, and of modified Nintendo hardware, including modified Nintendo Switch consoles.
While there is still no legal determination as to whether an emulation company/ site etc. aids in piracy, some developers including the developer of Yuzu have now stepped away from emulation projects and are shutting them down or have left the emulation environment entirely.

Authors: Aneesh Tendolkar and Malabika Boruah


Interns and Paralegals.


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