Hacking group Team-Xecuter has long been a thorn in the side of major gaming companies.
The group offers hardware and software solutions that allow people to install and play unofficial games – including pirated copies – on various consoles, including the popular Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo has been trying to shut down the group for years but without much result. However, the matter escalated last October when the US Government launched a criminal prosecution of three Team-Xecuter members, accusing them of facilitating copyright infringement.
Arrests, Indictments, But No Domain Seizures
Team-Xecuter often defended its work by pointing out that its products are not necessarily pirate tools. They positioned themselves as supporters of the ‘right to repair’ movement and back people who want to play homebrew games on their devices for personal use.
The legality of Team-Xecuter will eventually be decided in court. What stood out, however, is that despite the criminal allegations Team-Xecuter’s site remained up and running for months.
That changed a few days ago. At the time of writing, team-xecuter.com shows an “Error establishing a database connection” message. This suggests that something at the backend of the site is broken. Whether this can or will be fixed is unknown.
Given the criminal case against Team-Xecuter it is tempting to suggest that the US Government has something to do with the issue. However, for now, there is no sign that this is the case.
In fact, the Team-Xecuter case appears to be quite unique from an enforcement perspective. Even though the U.S. Department of Justice accuses the group of running a criminal operation, the official domain name wasn’t seized.
Domains Still ‘At Large’
Looking at Whois information today we see that team-xecuter.com is still registered to the original owner. The same is true for xecuter.com which is still online and hosts download links and tutorials for the allegedly-infringing products.
This is very unusual as the authorities usually have no trouble seizing .com domain names, which previously happened in other copyright cases including those against KickassTorrents and Megaupload. Not to mention the million+ domain names that were seized as part of “Operation in Our Sites.”
Seizing a domain name in a criminal case should be fairly easy for the Department of Justice. The .com domains are managed by the U.S. company Verisign, so jurisdiction is not an issue. Perhaps the authorities have other reasons not to seize them for now, but it seems odd.
Domain mysteries aside, Team-Xecuter’s outlook is getting grimmer and grimmer. After the indictments were announced several allegedly related sites, including Maxconsole.com, have disappeared.
Several online stores have thrown in the towel as well, including Axiogame.com, which was allegedly operated by Team-Xecuter. Interestingly, the Axiogame domain was seized, not by the Department of Justice, but through a Nintendo lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the criminal prosecution continues. Team-Xecuter Defendant Gary Bowser is currently in prison awaiting trial. French national Max Louarn, was arrested in Canada where a U.S. extradition request was launched, while Yuanning Chen from China is still at large.