from the what-the-what? dept
We’ve already written a few times about how Japan’s onerous Unfair Competition Prevention Law has created what looks from here like a massive overreach on the criminalization of copyright laws. Past examples include Japanese journalism executives being arrested over a book that tells people how to back up their own DVDs, along with more high-profile cases in which arrests occurred over the selling of cheats or exploits in online multiplayer video games. While these too seem like an overreach of copyright law, or at least an over-criminalization of relatively minor business problems facing electronic media companies, they are nothing compared with the idea that a person could be arrested and face jail time for the crime of selling modded save-game files for single player game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
A 27-year old man in Japan was arrested after he was caught attempting to sell modified Zelda: Breath of The Wild save files.
As reported by the Broadcasting System of Niigata (and spotted by Dextro) Ichimin Sho was arrested on July 8 after he posted about modified save files for the Nintendo Switch version of Breath of The Wild. He posted his services onto an unspecified auction site, describing it as “the strongest software.” He would provide modded save files that would give the player improved in-game abilities and also items that were difficult to obtain were made available as requested by the customer. In his original listing, he reportedly was charging folks 3,500 yen (around $31 USD) for his service.
Upon arrest, Sho admitted that he’s made something like $90k over 18 months selling modded saves and software. Whatever his other ventures, the fact remains that Sho was arrested for selling modded saves for this one Zelda game to the public. And this game is fully a single-player game. In other words, there is not aspect of this arrest that involved staving off cheating in online multiplayer games, which is one of the concerns that has typically led to these arrests in Japan within the gaming industry. This is more like people getting mods for their owned games, along with save game files being traded, something that has existed in gaming for as long as the industry has existed.
As Kotaku notes, this isn’t wholly new for Japan.
While this might seem wild, being arrested for selling save files, it’s not a new situation in Japan. Police in Japan have previously arrested folks for modifying video game software which violates the Unfair Competition Prevention Law in Japan. This same law was also used by Nintendo to sue a go-kart company in 2017. In 2015, another man in Japan was arrested after selling cheats in the popular online shooter Alliance of Valiant Arms.
Except, again, in most of those instances the police were arresting those selling mods and cheats for online multiplayer games. That’s, frankly, bad enough, but we’re now talking about the arrest of a person for selling save game files for a single-player game.
And the real question becomes: who is this arrest protecting? The selling of these files doesn’t take any considerable money out of Nintendo’s pocket. It doesn’t harm other players of the game in the way cheating in online games does. So why is this arrest even happening? And, if there’s no good answer to that question, why is such a poorly written law that allows for this arrest remaining in place?