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Discord is nuking Nintendo Switch emulator devs and their entire servers

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Discord has shut down the Discord servers for the Nintendo Switch emulators Suyu and Sudachi and has completely disabled their lead developers’ accounts — and the company isn’t answering our questions about why it went that far. Both Suyu and Sudachi began as forks of Yuzu, the emulator that Nintendo sued out of existence on March 4th.

“Discord responds to and complies with all legal and valid Digital Millennium Copyright Act requests. In this instance, there was also a court ordered injunction for the takedown of these materials, and we took action in a manner consistent with the court order,” reads part of a statement from Discord director of product communications Kellyn Slone to The Verge.

The developers of Suyu and Sudachi only received vague messages about how they were sharing content that allegedly violates intellectual property rights, according to images shared with The Verge. Meanwhile, Discord tells us that it’s following its normal process for DMCA takedown requests — but it’s not at all clear there was a valid DMCA takedown request or that those communities were actually violating IP rights, and it’s quite possible Discord isn’t following its own policy by kicking them out.

Remember, Nintendo got Yuzu to settle rather than proving its case in court, and the settlement did not give Nintendo the rights to Yuzu’s freely copyable GPL v3 code. Developers of Yuzu’s forks also claimed they were changing the code further, among other practices, in an effort to avoid pissing Nintendo off. And that code wasn’t hosted on Discord in any case.

But it’s possible that people were sharing Nintendo’s cryptographic keys, firmware, or even entire pirated games in these servers despite those commitments. At the end of the day, most people seeking out a Nintendo Switch emulator are looking to play Nintendo games on it. But with the servers gone, it’s hard to prove either way.

Even if Suyu and Sudachi were infringing, Discord’s policy does not suggest it would permaban, much less nuke entire servers, on the first offense. Discord did not answer questions about whether these users were repeat copyright infringers, had received any previous warnings, or were forwarded any takedown requests.

Sudachi developer Jarrod Norwell tells me it came out of the blue: “Their first email was that my account has broken the TOS, with no additional information.” He claims Sudachi wasn’t doing anything infringing. Later, he was told it vaguely had something to do with intellectual property but says Discord still hasn’t given him any details.

DMCA takedown requests are traditionally about content, not people or groups of people, and Discord’s policy is written to reflect that. A valid takedown request has to include a description of the content that’s infringing and where to find it; a platform then takes down the content, and users can get it reinstated if they file a “counter-notice” that claims it wasn’t actually infringing. At that point, Discord has done its job, and Nintendo can sue the developer directly if it wants by using the counter-notice to track them down.

But that doesn’t seem to be what happened here. It looks like Discord simply de-platformed these emulators by nuking their communication channels.

And while the court order that Discord mentions does ban some third parties from “providing, marketing, advertising, promoting….or otherwise trafficking in Yuzu or any source code or features of Yuzu,” it’s specifically talking about third parties “acting in active concert and participation with Defendant.” Discord would not tell me that any of the Yuzu developers were connected to the Suyu or Sudachi projects.

At the end of the day, platforms like Discord have no obligation to host anything they don’t want to host, as we discussed back when GitLab did something similar by deplatforming Suyu’s code. And perhaps Discord did see evidence of software piracy in these Discords. That’s not currently how it’s justifying these channel wipes, though.

For some Suyu developers, this may have been the last straw: an insider tells me that after infighting, one group has splintered off to do its own projects, which may or may not be related to emulation; here’s a Pastebin where a “real Suyu developer” claims the core development team has left the project because of Suyu’s “radioactivity” and its allegedly egotistic leader. (That leader does tend to bark out orders, from what insiders have shown me.)

Sudachi’s developer, meanwhile, tells me he’s still working on all his projects.

Nintendo isn’t just targeting Switch emulators with its latest round of takedowns but also some of the tools that aid them: it sent DMCA takedown requests to GitHub to remove 27 forks of the Sigpatch Updater, as well as Lockpick_RCM, kezplez-nx, and Incognito_RCM, which help Switch owners and developers obtain encryption keys.

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