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  1. #1

    Is it unethical to play Roms/Emulators?

    I'm particularly talking about SNES Roms and Emulators, although I've also setup a few Gamecube games for my children to play. What do you guys think? Is it unethical? Or better yet, illegal?

  2. #2
    In my opinion:
    - If you’ve owned the actual console and bought the games in the past, it isn’t at all unethical.
    - If the console has long been off production, and is no longer easily acquired, or hard to find for your region, and the games are in a similar situation, it’s not unethical. It’s probably been a long time since Nintendo has seen a dime directly from the sale of an SNES, and the market for the console will sustain itself for the collectors.
    For me, a Wii emulator approaches a gray area. If you don’t own a Wii, I think that’s a bit unethical.

  3. #3
    Well, what Jeff said was that everyone has to draw their own line somewhere. It’s technically legal to play digital backups of games you’ve purchased, but if you download a ROM or something from the internet, it’s technically not ‘your’ backed-up copy so it’s somehow illegal again.
    Me? I play ROMs as long as it’s not something still being sold and the dev or publisher is still making money from, which includes a bunch of SNES or GBA classics that Nintendo sells through the eshop. If people want to play these games, they should just do so on your 3DS or Wii-U, they’re not exactly expensive.
    That said, I recently re-played a bunch of Wii games at full HD on my PC’s Dolphin emulator. I do own physical copies of the games, but I downloaded the ISO.

  4. #4
    I would argue that it’s not necessarily illegal for you to play ROMs, although it almost definitely is illegal for anyone to offer them for download. It sure seems to me that fair use would cover your playing of games that are no longer available for sale, as well as ROMs of games you own on other formats. It just wouldn’t cover somebody else distributing them – only the copyright holder has the right to do that, and copyrights don’t go invalid the minute a product is taken off the shelves.
    As for unethical… well, I’d say that depends. If you own really any purchased copy of a game, I can’t see how it’d be unethical to play a ROM of it in another format, any more than it’d be unethical for you to rip a CD to mp3 so you can play it in your iPod/iPhone. Similarly, if a game is clearly "abandonware" – ie. there is no version of it for sale anywhere and hasn’t been for decades, then you’re clearly not harming anybody by playing a ROM.

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