On July 8, Tokyo resident Ichimin Sho was arrested by Niigata police for trying to sell a modded Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild save data, according to a report by the Broadcasting System of Niigata.
Sho was also offering a service to modify save files of Breath of the Wild, however, the customer wanted it from giving rare items to maxing out player stats. According to Niigata Prefecture police, the modder confessed to selling over ¥10 million worth of modified save data which is a little over $90,000 total.
Sho had been selling modded saves for Nintendo games since 2019 for about ¥3,500 ($32) per file.
Crime and Unfair Punishment
At this point, we don’t know what Sho is being charged with or the law he broke, but he possibly violated Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law. The revised law was put into power at the end of 2018 to protect a company’s intellectual property, trade secrets, and copyright and the revision includes expanding the “criminal aspects”.
Japanese copyright policy is strict as usual. https://t.co/EDBRMoBdIX
— TalesofAdam (@AdamDemseyRoll) July 12, 2021
Punishments and penalties have been expanded to include an increase in fines and confiscating the “crime proceeds” which is the money made in that crime. And this can be without a direct complaint by the owner of the IP. It seems that punishments extend out to arresting people.
A summary of the law can be found on Mondaq which aggregates legal content from across the world and it’s a fascinating read.
It may come as a shock, but this isn’t the first time someone got into legal trouble or even arrested over a video game. Back in 2017, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Tokyo go-kart rental service MariCar over copyright infringement and violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Act. Even further back, thirty-year-old Akihide Yamamoto was arrested for selling cheats for the online first-person shooter, Alliance of Valiant Arms.
These actions aren’t just in Japan, as Nintendo of America has a history of suing ROM hack sites and fan-made games, much to the anger of gamers. These takedowns have been happening for years now and it has gotten to the point where online communities call them the Nintendo Ninjas.
NEW LEAKED STUFF #3
✨ Proof that Nintendo is fucking FBI when it comes to hackers.
— Eclipse 🌑 𝕯𝖆𝖗𝐤𝖗𝖆𝖎 𝖀𝖒𝖇𝖗𝖆! (@eclipse_tt) December 22, 2020
This is in reference to Nintendo employees who investigate leakers, hackers, and anyone who has violated copyright law and subsequently takes them down either by lawsuit or DMCA notice.
Over the Line
To be blunt here, I think anyone getting arrested for providing a modded service is a ridiculous idea. I understand the want and need of a company to protect their IP, but arresting someone is going way too far.
Clearly, Nintendo is well within their legal right to do this, but that doesn’t make it morally right. Someone’s life is being ruined here for a 3-year-old game. Personally, I believe that once you buy something, that product is yours to do whatever you want with it and if someone wants to modify it, it should be well within their right to do so.
You’d think that the police of Niigata Prefecture would focus on more dangerous and pertinent crimes than a modded game. Nintendo has a long history of stepping over the line when it comes to their IPs. This is the latest instance and I doubt we’ll see it end soon.