Is emulation really legal?
Yes it is. The case of SONY V. CONNECTIX
found that unauthorized emulation is perfectly legal. It was the decision
of the court that CONNECTIX had the right to emulate the SONY Playstation
and that reverse engineering of the Playstation BIOS for such a cause
fell under fair usage. As a result of this case CONNECTIX was allowed
to release it's Virtual Gaming Station for the Mac OS.
Ok, so it's legal, but is it right?
Emulation simply makes one hardware platform act like another. There
is nothing wrong with making the hardware you own behave the way
you want it to. That is exactly what software is for, it makes the
hardware you own behave in a useful manner. Emulation is not used
simply for playing console games on a PC. Emulators exist for all
kinds of hardware and all types of platforms. Console emulation
is only part of a very large emulation community.
Are ROM images legal?
Yes, under very specific circumstances. Section
117 of the US Copyright Law gives the owner of a software package
the right to make an additional copy under certain provisions. If
you adhere to the provisions then making ROM images is perfectly
legal. However, legislation has been passed to prevent software
piracy that makes game copying devices illegal. Using such a device
to create a ROM image makes the resulting image illegal as well.
Are your ROM images legal?
Yes. We have taken great pains to fulfill every letter of the law.
Our images were made by our own personnel. The data was copied directly
off the cartridges we own and the image was transferred using a
generic EPROM reader. All of these steps were taken in accordance
with the law.
Is distributing ROM images legal?
No, not clearly. Individuals and Companies have a right to back
up their software. This does not give them the right to distribute
that copy to others, even provided they also own a legal copy of
the software. So, in short, it is perfectly legal for you to copy
a software package you own, but not for you to give that copy away.
Aren't you distributing ROM images?
No. The way our service works is simple. Our clients log into our
service, they then can browse a list of available games. Once a
user has selected a game our server locks that image so that no
one else can use it. This ensures that we are never using more copies
of a game than we own, that would be copyright infringement. If
the connection between the client and server is broken the game
no longer functions on the client and the server unlocks the game
for other players. We allow you to rent our games, not buy them.
We allow you to access our ROMs, but we don't distribute them.
So you're basically an internet video rental place?
Exactly. There is no ideological difference between our service
and that of any common video rental store. We have simply taken
a classic idea and brought it to the web. This will certainly become
commonplace as the internet expands and bandwidth increases. We
are merely spearheading a small piece of a huge industry.
What would happen if Nintendo ever found you?
On June 21, 2001 Nintendo Of America (NOA) wrote us a letter concerning
the legal status of our service. They informed us that it was the
feeling of NOA that we were participating in pirate activity. We
assured them that we were not involved in any such activity. Since
that time we have received no further contact from NOA. You can
read the NOA Letter and the Console Classix Reply here.
» View the letter from NOA
» View the response from Console