What are the Legal Issues behind ROM’s, Emulators and those that use them?

Will I get arrested eventually for using, owning and downloading ROM’s and Emulators?

You’ll hear alot of different things as an answer to this question….

Answer One: No way, screw those government pigs and money-hungry companies, we have rights and can do whatever we want as long as its on the web its fair game!

Answer Two: No, as long as you own the game in its physical form, you can download it from the Internet digitally as a backup.

Answer Three: Yes, you are stealing from game developers and companies, they will find you and send you to jail or make you pay a fine.

Answer Four: No, As long as you download games that are no longer being sold in their original format, you’re fine. PSOne and back to the DOS and Atari you’re fine. Abandonware is it.

The right answer: Do what you think is right.

All and none of these answers apply to this question as most of the legislation used to prosecute “individual citizens” is still bouncing about in courts all over the world.

Cases have been fought, lost and won for many individual similarities and problems relating to Emulation and ROM’s but…

NO Specific government court case or prosecution has ever been brought against an individual, creator or company distributing emulators or ROM’s on the Internet.

Specific being key here, (A place where you might have found some ROMs) got shutdown, find out why.

You can’t prosecute the Internet and all its users of that specific site, can you?

It’s like a cop pulling over five cars on the freeway going the same 10 miles over the speed limit.

Or charging a drug addict for using an illegal substance and then charging the dealer and the other buyers even though they aren’t present or were seen and documented dealing or using.

If you are familiar with DRM and SOPA, you will know that the problem of downloading not only games but any kind of copyrighted material is an issue that has many sides and biases.

My best advice is to research well and then make your decision based off of what you know to be legally true and present.

Know what consequences you could be charged for because of your actions online in your own state and country.

Know that the creators of the emulators, release almost all of their programs under GNU, for free, public use.

Know that the creators of the actual games, spent years of hard work programming and making the games and are still gathering royalties from the companies that sold them, and are reselling them on things like PSN, WiiVC, Steam and Xbox Live, for monetary gain alone.

Know that downloading games or acquiring hardwares that have active copyrights can get you in huge trouble, especially if you resell or distribute them for money or a fee.

Know that the ESA, a non-government affiliated independent company, funded entirely by big, money-making companies like Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, is the only entity that can legally charge you with Piracy in these situations (find out what they say they do here). Using logic you will deduce that sites like Emulator Zone, Emuparadise and CoolRom have been around for 5 or more years. This means that big companies obviously do not find these huge sites (an average of a 1,500 unique users and downloads per day) as much of a threat as they say they are or they would have already shut them down 5 years ago.

Know that when you’re deciding to download a ROM or ISO use your head and ask “Where’s the money at?”. That’s the big question that’ll save your butt from being broke and in jail. If you’re on Pirate Bay downloading the latest copy of a game that came out a month ago and putting it on a DVD to play it on your console, you’re screwed.

Know that when you download a ROM of an N64 game produced by some company 12 years ago that was sold to a company of a company of a subsidiary of a company and the original copyright holder is some programmer living in the Burbz with his 73,000 home, his mistress and twelve BMW’s living off of the royalties from the copyright of the title of the game alone, is not gonna give three shits about the reproduced, free, not-for-profit ROM because most of them don’t care, don’t think they work or don’t even know about them.

All things considered there is no real, true answer… for each individual’s particular situation.


SS recommends using these websites to help you make the right decision about what you emulate:


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