As Nintendo’s official website for Switch game The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom states, “The adventure begins on May 12.” Officially, at least.
The hotly anticipated sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will go on sale next month in digital and physical formats, with the latter also available as a special Collector’s Edition.
Targeted at Zelda connoisseurs, the special edition includes “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (physical version), Artbook, SteelBook® case, Steel Poster, and a set of four pin badges.”
Pre-Release Leak: February 2023
On February 20, 2023, Eurogamer reported that a 200-page ‘Artbook’ had been leaked online, containing details of new characters, enemies, enemy types, and new locations.
“It’s currently unclear how this art book managed to leak, so far in advance of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s official launch date,” the publication noted at the time.
Two months later, it’s clear that a) Nintendo is very aware of the leak and b) they have a specific internet user in mind as the potential leaker.
DMCA Takedown Sent to Discord
On February 21, Nintendo of America sent a DMCA notice to Discord. The complaint targeted a Discord channel named “Tears of the Kingdom Official Discord Server.”
The notice went on to target six specific URLs featuring images or links to images “from Nintendo’s copyright-protected and unreleased special edition art book for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom video game in violation of Nintendo’s rights.”
Just eight minutes after the takedown notice was sent to Discord, the platform acknowledged the complaint and told Nintendo that the content “will be removed promptly.”
Around ten hours after sending the initial takedown notice, Nintendo followed up with a request for “immediate review and takedown” of the Discord channel, noting that members were still distributing the pre-release artwork using direct messages and links.
“Additionally, some members have been assigned the role of ‘The PDF Pirate’ which identifies them as a source for PDF files of the infringing art book images. For your review, we have also provided screenshots from the server featuring four members and a brief description below highlighting their activity in the server.”
Around 18 hours later, Discord said it had “issued a warning to the server for the reported activity.” In its original notice, Nintendo had objected to the term ‘official’ being used in the server name since the “server is not operated or authorized by Nintendo.”
Discord said that if Nintendo was “concerned about potential consumer confusion,” it might want to file a trademark complaint.
Nintendo Goes to Court in California
On Friday, April 4, 2023, Nintendo of America’s attorneys filed an application for a DMCA subpoena at a district court in California.
Referencing the notices sent to Discord in respect of the “copyright-protected and unreleased special edition art book for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” the company highlights a Discord channel and a specific user.
“[Nintendo of America] is requesting the attached proposed subpoena that would order Discord Inc. …to disclose the identity, including the name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), and e-mail addresses(es) of the user Julien#2743, who is responsible for posting infringing content that appeared at the following channel Discord channel Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom..[..].
Information available on other platforms, Reddit in particular, suggests that the person Nintendo is hoping to identify is the operator of the Discord channel and, at least potentially, the person who leaked the original content.
A two-month-old comment on the origin of the leak suggests the source was “a long time friend.” A comment in response questioned why someone would get a friend “fired for internet brownie points?”
Nintendo’s DMCA subpoena application can be found here (pdf)