Nintendo is doing everything in its power to stop the public from playing pirated games on the Switch console.
Their major adversary is the infamous ‘hacking’ group Team-Xecuter, which released ‘jailbreak’ hacks and modchips for the popular game console.
Criminal and Civil Lawsuits
Last month, the US Department of Justice indicted three alleged members of the hacking group. This was a big move, but one that failed to take the group, or even its website, out of business.
The same can be said for several online stores that sell modchips and hacks for the Switch and other consoles. As part of a civil lawsuit, filed by Nintendo earlier this year, a federal court in Seattle granted an injunction that required several foreign stores to shut down. Again, this was easier said than done.
Since the store operators ignored all communication, Nintendo asked their domain registrars to transfer the domain names, as permitted by the court. This is precisely what happened. A few days after granting the injunction, Txswitch.com and other domains were signed over to the videogame company.
‘Hack’ Store Hops to New Domain
However, a day later Txswitch already appeared to have made a comeback, operating from Stxwitch.com. This site looks nearly identical to the old one and even uses the same logo and code.
This type of ‘domain hopping’ is common in pirate circles and Nintendo hoped that the registrar GoDaddy would take the new domain down as well. This would be in line with the injunction, which states that “any variant or successor” was also covered by the order.
Godaddy Demands Detailed Order
In the event, GoDaddy refused to take action without a court order that specifically spells out the new domain name, a new filing by Nintendo explains.
“Nintendo requested that the STXWITCH.COM domain be immediately transferred as a successor or variant of TXSWITCH.COM pursuant to the Judgment. GoDaddy responded to outside counsel for Nintendo stating that they required the domain name to be listed in an order to take action,” Nintendo writes.
The game company requests the court to clarify that, if new copycat sites appear, these are covered by the existing injunction. As such, registrars would be required to take action without a separate order that specifically mentions the new domain.
Putting and End to the Whac-A-Mole
Without such an order, pirate sites will continue to move to new domains, which means that the court has to keep issuing new orders, creating a whack-a-mole situation.
“Nintendo is concerned that absent such further clarifications of the scope of the Judgment, the Doe Defendants will again domain hop, changing a letter of a domain name, and the cycle will continue to repeat with the registrar contending that the new domain is not specifically covered by the injunction and with Nintendo having to return to this Court,” Nintendo adds.
By clarifying that domains of copycat sites and new variants or successors should be transferred to Nintendo, registrars such as GoDaddy will have to take action more swiftly.
This doesn’t mean that registrars have to “police the Internet” and proactively scan for new copycats, the company notes, as Nintendo will track down the new domains and report these accordingly.
Nintendo hopes that with sufficient clarification from the court it can prevent the piracy hack stores from “thumbing their nose at the court” while frustrating Nintendo’s enforcement efforts.
Dynamic Order Isn’t Perfect Either
The requested order is similar to the dynamic pirate site-blocking orders we have seen in other countries. While those deal with ISP blocking, they also allow copyright holders to add new domains names that pop up.
Given the order that’s already in place, it is likely that the court will grant the requested clarification. However, this doesn’t mean that Nintendo’s troubles are over. There are plenty of registrars and registries that don’t fall under US jurisdiction, after all. So the store may move to one of these next.
A copy of Nintendo’s request for clarification and to enforce the permanent injunction is available here (pdf)