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Thread: Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

  1. #1
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    Question Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

    The Ununtu Software center provides the option of downloading the ZSNES Super Nintendo emulator. If I were to download it, would it be legal to download old SNES ROMs?

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    Re: Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

    Legal status

    ROMs themselves are not illegal per se. This section gives a general discussion of the legal status of ROMs as regards the various uses to which they may be put, though this should not be construed as legal advice.
    [edit] Private ownership

    In some countries, it is legal for an individual to personally make backup copies of a game they own. Individuals may make backup copies for various reasons, perhaps as insurance against losing the game or as redundancy in the event that the original game's medium becomes unreadable. See the section on ROMs and Preservation.
    However, in the U.S. it has been illegal since 1983 for a user to create their own backups of video game ROMs onto other cartridges. This was decided in the court case of Atari v. JS&A. JS&A manufactured a "game backup" device that allowed users to dump their Atari ROMs onto a blank cartridge. JS&A argued that the archival rule allowed for this. The court disagreed, noting that ROM media was not subject to the same volatility as magnetic media (for which the law was created). Thus, not being so relatively vulnerable, ROMs were not applicable under section 17 USC 117(a)(2).
    Some games companies, such as Nintendo, print warnings inside their game manuals that they do not allow users to make backup or archival copies. Whether or not these warnings in this specific form can be considered valid contracts is legally questionable. For an overview of relevant issues, see user agreement (EULA), shrink wrap contract, clickwrap, Fair Use, Fair Dealing and DMCA.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROM_image

  3. #3
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    Re: Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

    If we ignore the long and boring legal texts:
    *Downloading something that has lost its copyright is more or less ok(i don't remember the amount of years needed)
    *If you have a physical copy, there is nothing stopping you from downloading a copy of that again of the net
    *Even if downloading the last part is legally questionable at the best, nobody would care anyhow

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    Re: Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

    Quote Originally Posted by del_diablo View Post
    *Downloading something that has lost its copyright is more or less ok(i don't remember the amount of years needed)
    With the passing of the mickey mouse protection act... err... I mean the copyright term extension act works lose their copyright at either life of author + 70 years for an individual, or for something made by a corporation (like a nintendo game) it's either 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication, whichever happens to be later of course. This leaves every video game ever made happily locked up by some company somewhere for about the next 100 years.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

    Well, that act is only valid for US companies.
    That leaves about all Nintendo games, and everything from Europa or Canada to have their copyright mostly expired.
    I can't remember what the "common" term was(in years).

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    Re: Legal ramifications of downloading old SNES games

    Only the "(PD)" ones are legal, but only a few of the public domain ROMs are actually games and if they're games, they're simpler games like Minesweeper and Pacman. Most of them are questionable themselves since they lift music from other SNES games.

    Downloading commercial SNES ROMs is illegal, unless you purchase them in the Wii Virtual Console where you can play on your Wii and the usage rights are only tied to the Wii.
    Last edited by CharmyBee; August 19th, 2010 at 12:53 AM.
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