Emulator Talk Legal or a no no

Do you think computer emulaters are ilegal or should be used rather than the normally worse official ones or have more

Emulators are perfectly legal. Emulators is how classic games get ported in the original state to new systems. And Emulators on PC is fine, even those unofficial fan made emulators.

The legal questionably is in roms, as in the rom images of those games and bios files of those old consoles. Homebrew roms and roms of carts you own are fine. Downloaded Roms of games you don’t own are not. But then again there little means to catch someone with a large rom library.

On SRK we can talk about emualtors, frontends for emulators, emulation set up including netplay.
Even Rom translations, just not about where to get the roms your self.

thank you that makes sense i just forget that

Well, what we think about shoulds or shouldn’ts has nothing to do with legality. The laws remain the same until an appropriate legislature rewrites the relevant statutory or constitutional provisions, or the precedence determining how those laws are to be interpreted is overturned in the courts. I am not entirely sure what the laws are myself, since I am not a legal professional, but purely for the sake of discussion I shall mull over what I do know:

Legality depends on the existing laws of a particular jurisdiction, somewhat (the berne convention sets some international standards to copyright law), but because the nation is so much more populous than all of the others which use English as its primary language, even combined, I am going to assume you mean in the U.S.A.

Sony fought the battle against emulators years ago and lost in Sony vs. Connectix and Sony vs. Bleem, and surprisingly, they lost both cases and ended up using extra-legal means to put those companies out of business. Sony bought out Connectix, and used their marketplace leverage and deep pockets to bully and stall Bleem’s until they were ready to launch the Playstation, rendering both the P.C. Bleem emulator and Bleemcast mostly irrelevant as a commercial product. Bleem was fed up with it, so they closed up shop. The Gaming Historian has a very good Youtube video going over the details of the matter.

These days, reaffirming the legality of the emulators is that companies like Sony are using the same open source emulator you would use to power a Raspberry Pi, or an unlocked cell phone for the Playstation Classic, which is Psxrearmed. Sony isn’t the only one doing that either. Steam downloads are often run through D.O.S. Box., and companies like Hyperkin or Retrobit have also been using open source emulators to run the games.

The tricky part about it is accquring a copy of a game game that you can legally use with the emulator. The reason it never came up in the Sony lawsuits is because those games were made on regular C.Ds., and the copyprotection measures for Playstaton games were largely limited to preventing backups from being played back on the original console.

You can’t just download it, because the copyright holder generally retains a monopoly on creating new copies, as well as their distribution, and none of the exceptions apply to downloads. Napster tried to argue that downloading a backup copy of a music file you already own might constitute fair use as a form of space-shifting, but that rationale was denied, and the same rationale for the denial would probably apply to all media.

You would have to use a copy of the game that you already own, and even that can be difficult.

First of all, as a rule of thumb, bypassing copy protection measures violates the Digital Millinium Copyright Act’s anticircumvention provisions. The U.S. copyright office can make exceptions for specific purposes, and they have for video game consoles that were put off of the market in the past, but only temporarily, for a duration of three years before they have to be renewed. Something else that needs to be noted is that the Sony cases only tried these cases from a copyright angle. They didn’t try to sue Connectix for any patent infringements. It is likely that this is because the way emulators and original hardware works is so different that even patent laws wouldn’t have protected against the differences of functonality, but that remains untested in a court of law to my knowledge. Patent laws generally last 20 or so years, so again, I wouldn’t even be thinking about emulating anything past the dreamcast for this reason too.

The combination of these factors make it unlikely that any commercial games past say, the dreamcast can be legally used with a computer. The patents for those consoles haven’t expired yet, and even if they are non-applicable, the console manufacturers probably took note of the Sony vs. Connectix case and decided to implement copy protection measures against emulation as a result

Making matters even more difficult is that most earlier video game consoles are somewhat different from the Playstation, in that they are cartridge based, and you can’t just insert a video game cartridge into a computer lto play the authorized copy directly off of the cartridge like you can with a C.D. You have to find some way that will allow the computer to read the R.O.M. file. Historically the devices which allow you to do that have also been determined to be illegal.

U.S. copyright law has statutory provisions allowing people to back up computer software, but only as specified as U.S.C. Title 17 §117, and Atari vs. J. S. & A. held that those provisions did not apply to video game cartridges because video game cartridges were not volatile enough to require backups. Personally, I think this case is in error because cartridges are prone to malfunction, even if they are not as prone to malfunction as the magnetic media of the day. However, as of yet this case has been essentially upheld in Nintendo’s lawsuits against Bung Enterprises regarding the Game Doctor devices , and the doctrine of stare decisis makes it difficult to overturn bad precedent.

However, there may be a legal distinction between a copier and a mere reader. A copier can directly write a copy of the game to new media, like a cartridge or a disc. A mere reader would simply allow a computer to interface with the device, and only incidentally allow the creation of a new copy to be made as the result of the computer’s ability to copy the file. This would be done at the user’s discretion, pursuant to the mitigating factors of law, such as fair use. This is based on the determination of R.I.A.A. vs. Diamond Multimedia that makes copying music files from a music C.D. somebody owns to an MP3 player legal. This rationale could probably be applied to video game emulation, although it has not been directly tested in the courts yet, so it is hard to say for sure. If you took this route, you would need to acquire such a device and personally own a copy of the original game, which is probably going to be more expensive than downloading the same game through a licensed game.

Another way to go about it would be to license the R.O.M. from a website, then take that R.O.M. file and use it with an emulator other than the one that came with it. However, if you take that route, then it is likely that your ability to use the R.O.M. is going to be contractually limited in accordance to the terms and conditions of an E.L.U.A. meant to prevent illegal redistribution, which may incidentally restrict your ability to do that, and even if it is not directly restricted in such a matter, the D.M.C.A. anticircumvention measures could also stop you from using it with a third party emulator if the file has copy protection specifically designed to prevent that. However, in lieu of a restrictive license or such copy protection measures, then I can’t see this being much different than downloading a music off of itunes and playing it back in Windows Media Player, Winamp, V.L.C. or again, on another device such as your digital audio player.

So all in all, the most accurate answer is probably “it depends on the circumstances”, and even then, we’re not the ones who will really be able to say for sure. If you’re worried about the legality, I’d advise consulting a lawyer, while keeping in mind that the final decision would likely be made by a judge.

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Emulation is Glorious and the future! Only the anti-emulation snobs (looks at Darksakul) really have a problem with it at the end of the day. Really, if you take a microscope to even the finest emulation out there, you’re going to see SOME flaws. Emulation by it’s nature can never truly be 100.00% perfect, and trying to hold it to such an extreme is silly and unreasonable.

I was asking a question

And i was making a statement.

ok how am i a anti-emulation snobs

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My view on emulation:
I have no problems with emulation itself and I fully understand that it’s a good way to preserve and play older games.

That being said, my gripe with emulation is people use it as an excuse to get “free games”, which I strongly have a problem with.

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I see things as somewhere in the middle. Once a company ceases production and support of a system & its games, it is abandoned. Sure they may re-package/re-release the game for future systems, but this is no longer a native solution. One cannot play Virtual Console games on a N64. There is nowhere to stick the bytes & bits.

ALL of my game systems are old & unsupported. However, if I could go out to the store and buy a brand new copy of Turok for the N64 knowing that profits go to the game studio and Nintendo, and I get the consumer protection of a warranty, I would still be buying games. There is no such consumer protections for any of the systems I own, and at this point none of my spending benefits content creators, development studios or the console maker. I “appreciate” that there are hoarders and resellers, but I am neither. I am a gamer and a consumer.

I know the way I do things is questionable in legal terms, but I have no trouble sleeping at night. I still own every console I grew up with. Flash Carts & other methods have negated my need to deal with resellers and hoarders. If you ever want a good laugh, ask a reseller how much of the sale goes back to the developer, and if they have a warranty. They may laugh, or they may simply decide to not sell to you because you are insane.

I have no problem with someone wanting a collection of carts & game discs. There is generally nothing wrong with this. I don’t collect for shelf decorations. I have a small collection of consoles and games, including a 2600, Genesis + 32x, Snes, Nes, N64, Playstation and even an MVS. Some of these consoles I have multiples of. I also have a Wii, and though I don’t emulate on my PC at all ever I found that the wii does a great job of emulation of my NES, SNES & Genesis. Basically I have one small unit that does an acceptable job of emulating 3 systems that I no longer need to keep plugged in. Because of this, I can store these systems and all hardware in boxes in the man-cave/storage room. The wii is the last great 15khz videogame system, and at face value is worthless. I hate the wii games and the shaking, jumping, swinging garbage. However as an analog game system emulator, it is exceptional and quick and easy.

On a side note, aside from my computer monitor I don’t own a single “HD” television. I have 2 CRT televisions. One in my living room, and one in my mancave. I am not a consumer of most contemporary content. I have an outstanding PC which can handle any current games at high settings, but I think its a waste. I have bought less than 1 game per year over the last 10 years for the PC. I have been a PC gamer since the late 90s, and I think I am getting to the point where I have seen it all. I am completely content with Mario Kart 64 or Metal Slug 3 and I don’t need a 5ghz intel processor to enjoy games.

One need only point to the hundreds upon hundreds of classic and FUN Arcade games over the past 30 years, that never got a console release. Or even modern home release on something like XBOX Live. And for those FEW that did? The licenses have long since run out for many, and they are once again unable to be acquired officially.

For such gems, emulation is the only option. Otherwise they’d be lost to the sands of time never to be enjoyed again.

So what does any of this really have to do with Tech Talk?


Just for reference those were the anticircumvention exceptions that were made in the year 2006. I hadn’t bothered to mention those because like I said, the rules change every 3 years and those expired in 2009, so I wouldn’t act on those. However for the sake of preserving the conversation I’ll quote the most relevant provision.

  1. Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

However, through hacking the link I was able to more easily navigate the copyright.gov website to find the present list of exceptions. The most relevant provisions are these:

The explicit mention of libraries, archives and museums suggests that the generalized exception specifically applies to those organizations alone, and not the general user who just wants to play a R.O.M. in the comfort of his or her own home.

It is nice to see that there is a specific exemption that allows players to play games for which online support by the company has been discontinued though, like Phantasy Star Online for the Sega Dreamcast. Still though, this could change in 2021.

I’d argue that it’s questionable in ethical terms too. The idea behind copyright law in general is to help rights holders use artificial scarcity to their advantage first sale doctrine is that the rights holder exhausted their pecuniary interest in a particular copy by selling it for keeps…

edit: I dropped my keyboard for the second time, I’ll continue this in another post to preserve the flow of conversation.

On my end, personally, the older the game/platform, the less “issue” I have with emulation, though I’ll still try my best to play it on an “official” platform. It’s just something that makes me feel better.

I noticed that when I have, say, an RPi with 30 SNES games tossed in it, I have virtually zero drive to play any of them (ie, I just keep jumping from game to game with the attention span of a fly). But if you gave me the same games on real cartridges on my proper SNES, I would spend hours on each of them. Weird, I know.

As I mentioned before, my main gripe with emulation is people using them an excuse to get “free games”.
I know one person who’s a huge fan of the Zelda games, but chooses to not buy a Switch or even a Wii-U to play Breath of the Wild because he’s too cheap; so he uses a Wii-U emulator to play it on his PC. This is the kind of situation that I have issues with.

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I completely disagree with this in any notion. Copyright law is not the enforce any kind of artificial scarcity. That would be the abuse of the intended law.
Copyright law was there to promote the development of the arts and sciences, and encourage good commerce by protecting the rights of the rights of the IP Holder. It’s to incentivize the creation of new media, not the hording of it.

I see the first sales doctrine as a key tenant of Copyright law. Once a product is sold, its the purchaser of that product’s right to do as they wish as long as it does not infringe on the rights of the IP Holder. (Like you making copies of their media for sale). You are still free to sell, give away or destroy your original copy. You are allowed to make your notes and copies of said media for personal use.

I got no issues with Emulation. Emulation is how old titles are often ported to new systems, its the basis to every “Classics” mini retro console to date. And it’s key to preservation of these older software, making copies that survive the next few decades and well past the life of the dying hardware that supports those titles.

I got no issues with roms in general, rom dumps is how I can get English translations of classic games that never came over to the United States.

First of all, sorry 'bout the incomplete posts earlier. I’m using my keyboard on my lap lately 'cause I have no space for a proper desk setup at the moment, and well, it hasn’t been exactly working out smoothly.

That is the justification of listed in the enumerated powers of congress listed in Article I section 8 of the U.S. constitution, but what I was talking about is the means by which it achieves that effect. It’s to grant authors certain exclusive rights that they may leverage to their advantage, such as the sole right to create new copies of the work. That’s kind of why these sorts of laws became known as copyright. It limits the numbers of copies available on the marketplace to just however the publisher thinks can be sold at the price being offered, which is a type of artificial scarcity management.

Also, this sort of artificial scarcity management is not an unexpected consequence of the law either. It is very much expected. What is thought to be the very first copyright law as one of which the framers of the U.S. Constitution were probably well aware since it was british in origin, which is the Statute of Anne (1710), which was justifie thusly:

If we still have a disagreement, that’s probably because we have a difference of opinion regarding just what the extent of those rights are. I must admit that my stance on the matter is relatively unique, based on past conversation I’ve had regarding the matter of emulation ethics. Speaking of which, I should probably finish up writing my thoughts on those.

Anyway, continuing on with what I wished to express before, something I feel needs to be considered is the nature of the transaction at the time it took place. Collector’s value might not be a directly intended consequence of copyright law, but it is something that sellers may use their exclusive rights to take advantage of in the commerce of their product and they often do.

A copy of a work with prospective resale value can have their costs mitigated by that prospective resale value, or even be treated as an investment, giving developers more leverage to charge a higher price in exchange for that copy of the work. Copyright holders have somewhat of a vested interest in honoring such arrangements, and Wizards of the Coast in particular took advantage of this by establishing the Reserved List policy, which includes a number of cards that Wizards of the Coast will never reprint again, giving them extra collector’s value. Cards on the reserved list can sell for insanely high prices, but that’s part of what people were expecting when they bought those booster packs for $5 a pack,containing what would otherwise be worthless pieces of cardboard that couldn’t have cost much more than a dime to make in the first place.

More importantly though, if I knew I would be easily be able to get a game for free say, even just five years later I would be far less likely to spend my hard earned money in the here and now. Part of the nature of commerce is being able to refuse a purchase or sale if the terms are deemed unfavorable to either party. That means copyright holders have a vested interest in being able to withhold their product from the market altogether if necessary. Treating games as if they are public domain simply because they have been taken off of the market greatly diminishes the publisher’s ability to refuse a sale under unfavorable terms. This is especially so if I have a huge backlog of games that were already taken off of the market to keep me occupied in the meantime.

As players of old video games in general and especially as Capcom fans, I think we are accutely aware of what happened to Shantae. There were not enough people who bought the game at the time of production for Capcom to justify contination of the game’s production on the Gameboy color, so there aren’t that many original copies of the game in existance, at least relative to the game’s desirability. Being able to resell the game at its full value is what I see as the prospective reward those few people who did buy it, and support the game while it was on store shelves. As for resellers, well they bought the remaining interest of the original purchaser’s investment.

Treating video games as an investment is not something new to companies like Taito, Capcom, Namco, Sega or S.N.K. either. This is part of why arcade machines were able to sell for so much more than their home console counterparts. They were produced so that operators could take full commercial advantage of public exhibition rights, whereas the home console ports were only meant for private amusement purposes.

I can’t help but feel like emulation is in part responsible for the death of video game arcades in the west. Yes, home console games played a large contributing role, since you could play a games as often as you liked for a flat fee instead of being charged on a per play basis, but some great games existed that simply weren’t ported to other platforms for years to come, if ever. I wonder how much more often I would see something like Konami’s The Simpsons out in the wild if people couldn’t easily play an illicit copy on something like M.A.M.E? A market for arcade cabinets is still there in Japan, hence why Taito can continue producing Vewlixs, and I can’t help but suppose that might be because M.A.M.E. is less prevailent there, perhaps due to a more honor bound society. It probably also helps that candy cabs like the Vewlix are just plain smaller.

Now as a matter of predisclosure, I should mention that there are a few expensive games in my S.N.E.S. collection which would be a very profitable return on investment if I decided to sell them, namely E.V.O., Pocky and Rocky and Earthbound and that the collection as a whole has likely doubled in value since I bought it.

However, with that out of the way, the present circumstance of video game collecting is not really a situation I like. First of all I am not personally interested in reselling my games, because like you folk, I prefer playing them in the original format.

I also share in the pain of certain rare games being way too expensive. I love Touhou games for instance. I want to play the series from game one, but I can’t because Zun won’t rerelease any game prior to game 6, and buying even just one of the original floppy discs would probably cost more than every game I have in my S.N.E.S. collection. Similarly, although I have Pocky and Rocky, I lack Pocky and Rocky 2 and it costs hundreds of dollars which is more than I’m willing to pay for a single game, even if I know it’d be a great experience. Zun and Natsume also want to move on and focus on newer games rather than focusing on the past, so these particular games might never see another release again.

Nevertheless, I still abstain from playing those games because nothing really gives me that right in the first place, since I had not bought them, and I feel as if diminishing the marketplace demand by bypassing the traders and using an illicit copy still harms the developers, by cheapening the deals they made with their customers at the original bill of sale, and lessening their leverage to make future deals, not only for the game in question but their entire library (mortals can only enjoy a finite amount of entertainment before they expire).

That isn’t to say I think games should necessarily have to be expensive in the future. An investor takes risks, and sometimes they lose. Some games are just destined to never be worth very much because people don’t want them, and beyond any explicit promises, a rights holder is not beholden to insure that a given transaction is profitable. However, it is the sole right of the rights hold to decide when and how to make new copies to give them the power necessary to leverage sales, at least until the copyright expires into the public domain.

Anyway, I also prefer playing original games on original hardware, and using C.R.T. televisions. However, also like many of you, I have limits regarding what I’ll pay to do it, so I just don’t play some games, especially since I’m trying to avoid supporting the transition from purchased physical media to licensed digital downloads which are more like a semi-permanent rental, meaning that even venues like Virtual Console aren’t an option for me. So what ends up happening to me, due to my philosophy regarding the matter, is that there is a considerable list of games I want to play, but won’t, which makes me very eager for those game compliations which bundle 20 or so games together, because even if I already own some of them, there might be that one game that I’ve been dying to play for ages.

My main concern is mostly just an ethical one.

However, I also suppose I also am somewhat of “an anti-emulation snob” as you term it, even if Darksaul denies that title himself. I’ll settle for legitimate channels of emulation, if it’s the only practical option and an acceptable offer is made. That’s why I bought the Megaman Anniversary Collection when it was released: It was a much more affordable way of getting Megaman 1, and one that would leave me with a clean conscience. However, I’m certainly hoping for a better future than being stuck with imperfect emulators, and I’d be willing to pay a reasonable premium to get it.

Companies like Analogue and Retrousb are making some very nice clone consoles that use F.P.G.A. prototyping hardware to recreate the original chips on a functional level.

If they can perfect the F.P.G.A. tech, hopefully you’ll be able to translate that into cheaper A.S.I.C. systems that are better than the cheap knockoff consoles than we’ve seen before. Of course, just the console isn’t enough. You still need the games.

Yeah, it’s sad to see the old systems go, especially when there seems to be no real good reason for it…

and hopefully we can see companies making licensed reproduction cartridges that share some of the revenue stream with the developers, instead fanciful bootlegs. We’ve already seen some legitimate reproductions from Retrobit, and iam8bit for the N.E.S. and the S.N.E.S., with Irem, Jaleco, Dataeast and Capcom. Granted, their games have been appearing in a bunch of cheap emulation boxes too, but playing those games on console hardware is quite preferable, at least for the home console originals. Granted, the iam8bit offerings are overpriced, but what retrobit is offering is nice, if you can get over the fact that the cartridges look more like knockoff Sega Genesis cartridges than legitimate S.N.E.S. ones.

However, if the future must be in emulation, I hope it causes a market crash for original hardware so I can start collecting it again. Yeah, I know, it’s wishful thinking and I just wrote paragraphs trying to justify collector’s value, but it’d still be better to give the rights holder a new inflow of cash.and I can still hope, can’t I? XP

Heh, yeah. It’s really sad to see the old systems lose support. It’s especially baffling for the C.D. based systems, since it should be relatively easy to produce new discs. Some good news though is that we’ve seen some headway into licensed reproduction cartridges from Retrobit and iam8bit. Granted, those companies take their cut, and Nintendo doesn’t see a dime of it since their patents expired long ago, but what’s important to me is that developers like Capcom, Jaleco, Data East and Irem are getting their fair share for the software.

Granted, the capcom licensed iam8bit cartridges are way too expensive for the games being offered, since the games being offered are extremely common but still, I’m hoping we see more stuff like that in the future

Atlhough I’ve got nothing against high definition per se and think O.L.E.D. monitors will be good if they ever come out, I simply must say one thing, which is C.R.T. forever:

"Tis a real shame that none of those classic edition consoles have even so much as a composite video output to plug into a C.R.T. I don’t get why. Even the Pi does at least that much. =\