Are ROMS legal? Nope. Here’s why.
There is so much misinformation out there. So so much. Although this has been discussed hundreds of times at many different places across the internet, some people still think otherwise. Here are the facts on ROMS how you can know the answer for yourself to that age old question. Are ROMS legal?
In the early days of the internet, many less than savory websites would have Nintendo ROMS available for download. While that is still the case today, the usual answer to whether or not they’re legal hasn’t been published on any of them for quite some time. While I won’t drop any names to any specific sites as a quick Google search will bring them up, I felt the need to clear the air after several recent posts on Social Media I had to pull myself from commenting on. Anyway, I digress. Here are the facts.
“You can download any game you want and make sure you delete it from your computer in 24 hours”
False. The only way you can legally obtain a digital copy of a copyrighted game is to make the copy yourself.
“It’s similar to how when you purchase a CD you can copy the music to your own computer for backup purposes”
While this statement is not ENTIRELY untrue, it is still false. The difference is that when you “purchase” a CD and make a copy of it, you yourself are making that copy with hardware and the CD you OWN. You are making that copy yourself. With games, if you own a copy of the game and go online to find a ROM, you didn’t make that copy. Meaning it is still illegal to do. It may be difficult to swallow, but there is no gray area here. I’ll reiterate. You must make that copy YOURSELF.
“Publishers and developers don’t care because they aren’t making any money on the sale of the games anymore”
This may be true for some titles. However, in many many cases, the games are still available somewhere. Even Steam sells Sega Genesis/Megadrive games. Nintendo themselves have an active sales platform known as Virtual Console where they’ll gladly sell you the copyrighted games again in a digital format. Meaning in many cases, publishers and developers are still making money from a great many games that you thought they weren’t profiting from. Consider one of the most pirated classic games systems, the NES. Then consider how many different ways you can legally purchase those games. How much was lost to piracy?
“If a game isn’t available on any of the legal platforms, it’s perfectly O.K. to download a copy to play!”
Let’s consider for a second the Disney company. They’re known for putting classic films in “the Disney Vault” for release again much later. So, if a Disney movie can’t be found anywhere, then surely it’s ok to download it. There is no loss of income and no one is harmed! But, if they release the movie again in a few years time, then what about all the people who say “well IU downloaded that years ago and still have the movie on a thumb drive. I’m not buying that, I own it”. Disney could potentially have lost all the income from re-releasing that film. The same can be said for games.
Just because a copy of Pokemon Gold wasn’t available legally for purchase doesn’t mean someone can download it to play on their phone. Especially because Nintendo has also adopted something to the Disney idea. In fact, they just re-released Pokemon Gold and Silver this year in 2017 for the 3DS. While that’s a completely hypothetical situation, it’s still a valid one.
The Bottom Line
There you have it. I’d like to add that I am not a lawyer. I can’t help anyone create a defense for using a ROM. However, they are unambiguously illegal. The bottom line is if you want to legally have a digital copy. Buy it.
I won’t say I have never used ROM’s. Of course, I have, and I will continue to use them. However, the law is pretty clear on this. They aren’t legal. I just thought I’d help clear up some of the confusion that was so widespread up to just a few years ago. Sadly that information continues to spread even now. So go out, buy your Classic Edition systems and enjoy knowing you supported the economy and some companies you love! Help developers make the games you and I love and keep gaming! Just remember, there is no gray area in downloading ROMS.
Here is a link to Nintendo’s Legal Documentation on Are Roms Legal to go with it.
In the meantime, If I made a mistake or you have a rebuttal, drop it into the comments!
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