Having posted Treads on various Emulators (And reading others posting “misinformation” about the subject) I would like to establish the Following regarding their use and LEGAL ramifications of such use -
IS EMULATION ILLEGAL?
No. Emulating another platform, in itself, is perfectly legal. This is established US case law from the Sony v. Connectix and Sony v. bleem! Cases
ISN'T COPYING ROMS A LEGAL GREY AREA?
No, it's not. You are not permitted to make copies of software without the copyright owner's permission. This is a black & white issue
BUT ISN'T IT OK TO DOWNLOAD AND "TRY" ROMS FOR 24 HOURS?
This is an urban legend that was made up by people who put ROMs up for download on their sites, in order to justify the fact that they were breaking the law. There is nothing like this in any copyright law
CAN'T GAME ROMS BE CONSIDERED ABANDONWARE?
No. Even the companies that went under had their assets purchased by somebody, and that person is the copyright owner
These quotes are taken from the MAME FAQ but apply to ANY Emulator and/or ROMS/BIOS Files/CHD’s/ISO’s/Bin & Cue Files etc!
However, now this is established, I would just like to make the following points before any user thinks they are now “Demonised” as some sort of CRIMINAL/PIRATE by their use of Emulators/Roms, by examining “Copyright” Law in respect to “Other” Digital Media -
1. iTunes - Have you used iTunes to “Rip” CD’s for your Library? If so, THIS IS ILLEGAL you are committing a criminal offence~! Furthermore, ANY file purchase from iTunes (Unlike physical Media) is, in effect, a “Rental” agreement (I BET you didn’t know that! That will teach you to read the Legal Disclaimers!), YOU don’t own the copyright (In relation to personal use), APPLE retain it*!
2. Media Centres - Where did the media you are using on this software originate? Owning the Original Title be it a CD/DVD/Blue Ray (Or an iTunes Download), gives the user NO LEGAL RIGHT to copy this to other Formats (i.e “Ripping” it to a Digital File or removing DRM (Digital rights management encription)). If you are using files attained in such a manner, THIS IS ILLEGAL you are committing a criminal offence!
3. Ownership of the Original Software (ROM) - Owning the original software DOES NOT give the user permission under Copyright Law to “Rip” the image for personal use^. THIS IS ILLEGAL you are committing a criminal offence!
4. Public Domain - SOME Software (MAME for instance and MOST emulators) is classified as “Public Domain”#, that is, NOBODY owns the Copyright/Intellectual Property. You are free to use/copy and distribute these files, however, you are NOT permitted to profit from this! (i.e. SELL THEM!). Another case is The Vectrex Console, the original developer/manufacturer made ALL its original Software and BIOS files “Public Domain”
~ The Recording Industry Association of America is at this time, with use of a threatened legal case, using this issue to force Apple to give them a larger slice of the profits made from Download Sales (Apple currently retain the LARGEST SHARE)
*There is currently a Legal action in the USA fronted by Bruce Willis (Yes, THAT 1!). The basic premise of argument being, currently on DEATH these files cannot be “bequeathed” to another person as you DO NOT OWN THEM! Apple are currently Legally within their rights to retain/remove them from any device they are installed on!
#Universal vs Nintendo
Due to Donkey Kong’s massive success (i.e. Revenue!), Universal Studios noting a similarity to King Kong, filed a lawsuit claiming “Trademark Infringement” against Coleco (Who had licensed Donkey Kong for their forthcoming console the Colecovison) and Nintendo for 3% of ALL related revenue (Including merchandise). Whereas Coleco capitulated, Nintendo decided to go to court and WON, because Universal had, in a previously case against RKO (Who produced the 1933 Original), claimed King Kong was now, in effect, “Public Domain” (So they could distribute a 1976 Remake!)
^ This is currently the case in the UK, the USA however, under the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act”, in some cases, permits this
As can be seen above, the Laws on Copyright are ANTIQUATED, that being, they were written into statute long ago and, as such, have NO relevance/interpretation/legal definition for modern methods of storing/distribution like “Digital Media”. Some countries (The USA in particular) have modern legislation the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” for instance, to address this. Others, China and Large Parts of Asia, take no notice of Western Laws regarding the issue of Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights or Patent Law anyway so it is of NO ISSUE to them!
"The list of things I have heard now contains everything!"