Nintendo keeps playing DMCA whack-a-mole with Yuzu Switch emulator copies on Github, but it'll never be able to fully stamp them out

A lot of Marios surround a Luigi
(Image credit: Super HooHoo 128 by YouTuber Mayo)

It's been two months since the makers of Nintendo Switch emulator Yuzu settled for $2.4 million, ceasing development and handing the code over to Nintendo. Before Yuzu was taken offline, though, countless emulation fans forked the code to their own Github repositories, creating a duplicate. Others backed the code up to other hosting platforms, which may make them more resilient to Nintendo's takedown requests than Github, which has just complied with a Nintendo takedown request by removing 8,535 repositories of Yuzu code.

The details of the takedown were posted on Github yesterday, based on a takedown request sent on April 29. "Because the reported network that contained the allegedly infringing content was larger than one hundred (100) repositories, and the submitter alleged that all or most of the forks were infringing to the same extent as the parent repository, GitHub processed the takedown notice against the entire network of 8,535 repositories, inclusive of the parent repository," the statement reads.

Nintendo repeated the same claim it's made in the past: that Yuzu is violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it "is primarily designed to and unlawfully 'circumvent[s] a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under' the DMCA." This largely comes down to Yuzu's usage of cryptographic keys to decrypt and play Switch games, though the emulator never included the console hardware's keys in its code—users had to provide the prod.keys themselves. (It did include code to generate game-specific encryption title.keys, however.)

There was speculation when Yuzu quickly settled the lawsuit that the instructions on its website—which explained how to use the tool Lockpick_RCM to dump the cryptographic keys from a Switch—or that title.keys-related code may have proven damaging in court. But we'll never know, since no case that involves emulation and the DMCA's anti-circumvention measures has made it to trial. 

While 8,535 repositories sounds like a large blow, the code remains online in many other locations, as does one of the Yuzu successors on Github, Sudachi (which pointedly removed the code related to the title.keys, requiring users to supply those for each individual game). Despite Nintendo's ongoing efforts to stamp out further development of Switch emulation—including by going after the Discord accounts of two people who attempted to spin up their own successors using Yuzu's code—it's never going to be able to find or remove all the places the emulator's code has been stashed online. Nintendo may make developing Yuzu on Github a particularly fraught effort, but even then there's another formidable Switch emulator, Ryujinx, which seems to be standing on firmer legal ground. 

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).