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The internet will give you a lot of answers, but we talked to a lawyer to get a more definitive answer. Emulators are legal to download and use, however, sharing copyrighted ROMs online is illegal. There is no legal precedent for ripping and downloading ROMs for games you own, though an argument could be made for fair use.
Unfortunately, we discovered that no definitive answer truly exists, since these arguments have yet to be tested in court. But we can at least bust some myths that are floating around out there. There are exceptions, of course, such as the BIOS files that are required by certain emulators to play games.
In the United States, copyright protects works for 75 years, meaning no major console titles will be public domain for decades.
But even ROMs exist in a bit of a grey area, according to Bambauer. Fair Use To begin: But is there a legal defense? Possibly, if you already own a Super Mario World cartridge. Then, according to Bambauer, you might be covered by fair use.
He says he could imagine a few possible defensible scenarios. You can see where this gets complicated.
A common argument online is that extracting a ROM from a cartridge you own is perfectly legal, but downloading ROMs from the web is a crime. So is ripping a ROM you own any different than downloading one?
Probably not, says Bambauer: Consider the entertainment industry. For ROMs it largely works the same way, which is why sites that share games are so frequently shut down. That argument might not be airtight, according to Bambauer.There’s nothing quite like reliving your childhood with your favorite retro games, but are emulators and ROMs legal?The internet will give you a lot of answers, but we talked to .
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