The Nintendo Switch was set to release on March 3rd, 2017, when—two weeks early—an “unboxing” video surfaced, attributed to Neogaf user Hiphoptherobot. However, according to a Nintendo spokesperson, Switch units were stolen by employees of a U.S. distributor, with one system (this system) being illegally resold.
Hiphop may be guilty of possessing stolen goods if he knew, or should have known, that the Switch in his possession was stolen.
If Hiphop unknowingly purchased the stolen Switch, he likely must return the Switch, but can seek restitution from the seller for the purchase price. Let’s look at the facts of this case.
Hiphop posted pictures of his new Switch at 8:29pm on February 16, 2017. As hype grew in forums, Hiphop first claimed to have received the Switch from a store that shipped it early. As Hiphop explained, he didn’t “[grab] it off the back of a truck or anything,” just “happened to get lucky.” Hiphop refused to name the store that “decided to ship early for whatever reason,” to avoid “getting the store that shipped it early in trouble with Nintendo.” As Hiphop explained, “if [he] did something shady [he] wouldn’t be posting on the internet about it.”
Hiphop agreed to share footage of the Switch, and the Neogaf forum exploded with activity. Sometime before 10pm that night, a three minute video of the Switch and it’s user interface—regarded as the most well kept Switch secret—was released. Later that night, or early the next morning, Hiphop teamed with FlokKO.tv to host the first “unboxing” video of the Nintendo Switch. Hiphop repeated that he “had no clue [he] was going to get it early until it was at [his] door.” He “didn’t ask to get it early,” and “devoted [his] entire day to answer people’s questions.” “[H]opefully Nintendo isn’t too mad about the unboxing and ui videos,” Hiphop said.
At 8:49 pm on February 17th, Hiphop stated he was going to take down the videos to not risk Nintendo “coming after [him] any more than they already have,” and revealed that the console had been returned to Nintendo. Though Hiphop was “personally not in any trouble,” he was out the console and the money he paid.
At this point, the story began to shift. Hiphop explained that he didn’t think “the person” he got it from knew the switch was stolen, and recognized that the café in which he worked as a barista didn’t usually carry Nintendo products. Hiphop asserts that he unknowingly bought the stolen Switch. Many of the Neogaf users insisted Hiphop was under no legal obligation to return the Switch to Nintendo.
While it is impossible to say on the facts whether Hiphop actually knew the Switch in question was stolen (despite his suspicious change in story), it appears likely that Hiphop should have known he was dealing with stolen goods. First, acquiring a Switch console two weeks before the release date, whether shipped from a store as he first stated or purchased from a person as he later stated, should have been a red flag. Second, Hiphop himself states that the café doesn’t usually carry Nintendo products, another red flag. Other facts may be informative, such as the price paid. Under the facts as they stand, it seems a reasonable person should have known, if they didn’t actually know, that the purchased Shift was stolen.
The employees responsible for the original theft have been terminated by Nintendo and are currently under investigation by local law enforcement authorities on criminal charges. Although it appears Hiphop will not be charged with a crime in this case, Hiphop is likely legally required to return the Switch to the rightful owner. As Hiphop likely should have known the Switch was stolen, he likely cannot seek restitution of the purchase price from the café culprit.
In many ways, the “cat is out of the bag,” or the Switch is out of the box, but Nintendo looks forward to everyone being able to discover the wonders of the new Nintendo Switch for themselves on March 3, 2017.