In a futile effort to stop Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom leaks, Nintendo is also hitting good-faith streamers and emulator users

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom screenshot
(Image credit: Nintendo)

As The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom leaks continue to spill over the internet, Nintendo is issuing takedowns against emulation tools and streams, many of which have nothing to do with the game's early proliferation.

Last week, Nintendo issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) strike taking Lockpick down from GitHub. Lockpick is a tool that allows you to dump decryption keys for games that you already have from your own Switch console. If you wanted to play a Switch game you don't own - in other words, one obtained through piracy - you'd need to find keys somewhere on the darker corners of the internet. You wouldn't be using a tool like Lockpick to get those keys.

It's worth noting here that emulation - even emulation of current, actively marketed platforms like the Switch - is legal. At least that's the case in the US, based on the legal precedent set when Sony unsuccessfully tried to get the commercial PlayStation emulator Bleem taken off the market many years ago. While Switch emulators like Yuzu or Ryujinx have been popular for years, Nintendo has never taken action against them because it has no recourse to do so.

However, under the DMCA, any circumvention of copy protection is considered copyright infringement, regardless of how you end up using the content. To give a metaphor to my fellow 2000s teenagers, imagine you've got a music CD and an MP3 player you want to play those tracks on. Nothing illegal there, right? The difference between ripping CDs to MP3 players and ripping games to be emulated is that modern games have copy protection, which the DMCA prohibits you from circumventing.

That's the detail Nintendo has used in its DMCA notice against Lockpick. Lockpick's been available for years, and it's tough to imagine the reason behind this sudden takedown is anything other than a response to the recent proliferation of Tears of the Kingdom all over the internet. But again, this tool's removal won't slow down the piracy of TotK one iota.

DMCAs have been affecting streamers, too. Nintendo has obviously been quick to take down any leaked Tears of the Kingdom footage from online video platforms, and this week, Sony Santa Monica dev and prolific streamer Alanah Pearce was abruptly suspended from Twitch in the middle of a Tears of the Kingdom stream. The catch? Pearce was streaming a reaction to a video preview of TotK officially sanctioned by Nintendo. No pirated footage here.

Pearce's suspension was quickly disputed and lifted, but it's clear Nintendo is casting a very wide net when it comes to Tears of the Kingdom leaks. That may be the point, too. In the wake of all this, the developers behind the Android Switch emulator Skyline have announced that they're abandoning the project in fear of potential legal ramifications.

Zelda fans are counting down the last 72 hours until Tears of the Kingdom's official release in the best way possible: with lots of Majora's Mask references.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.