Yes, Downloading Nintendo ROMs is Illegal (Even if You Own the Game)

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Mar 20, 2014
In them olden days, I wrote code for Comten for years. When IBM copied it, they even copied my mis-spellings in the comments to the source code. The lawyer's had fun. It is all part of the Big Game for tiny minds.


I guarantee if you got hauled in before the Canadian SC over this and you owned the cart they would throw it out.

Rom paranoia is stupid anyway. It's all for consoles nintendo no longer sells, and it'll be decades before they well and truly start monetizing dead properties.

I get what toms is on about w/ the legality here, but the patronizing "oh so spooky" tone is really lacklustre.

Plus, nothing is wrong if you don't get caught.
Considering that ROM's have been around for decades, it makes you wonder why only now the Nintendo cares.

But the answer comes from what Nintendo did in the last couple years. They tried the idea of making a "Classic" console with the games to see if they would sell. I think they were surprised by the response and now see that there is a great amount of money to be made off titles they originally sold 30/40 years ago.

The success of the NES and SNES Classics were the death knell of ROM's and Nintendo ignoring them. There is profit to be made.
While those sites were sharing Nintendo ROMs, the act of downloading them is also likely illegal, even if you already own those games on an old cartridge or disc.
I'd disagree. As copyright companies are so fond of saying, you didn't buy the game, you bought a license authorizing you to play the game.

Since you paid for and own the right to play the game, where you get the bits which allow you to play the game should be irrelevant in the eyes of the law. In fact, the copyright holder would be in violation of their purchase contract with you if you paid for the license but lost the original media, and they refused to provide you with replacement media to let you use the license you paid for. Their answer cannot be "buy another license, but oops, sorry, we're not selling them anymore."

Copyright gives the copyright holder the legal right to control distribution of the copyrighted work. Downloading is not distribution, so you cannot violate copyright by downloading something. Bootleg CDs are a great example. They will arrest the bootlegger selling the copies, but don't do anything about the people buying the bootleg CDs because they haven't done anything wrong (unless they also make copies and distribute them).

That's why they've only gone after people who've downloaded via filesharing apps - those apps also uploaded content to other filesharers. And the moment you're uploading, you're distributing, and thus violating the copyright holder's rights. But downloading, and especially downloading something you have a paid license to, is not a copyright violation.


Oct 18, 2015
"Running your favorite SNES title on your laptop seems like harmless fun…until you find out that you’re probably breaking the law."

Two problems with this sentence: I'm DEFINITELY breaking the law, and it's still harmless fun.
copyright rules are rules, like it or not, now If Nintendo failed to renew on patents attached to the copyright application.. it means it is free to use by all.
make you wonder... :)

but if the rules apply and your running 64bit programs on your computer illegally (according to the letter of the law not your personal though process in this matter) then it is illegal and therefore Nintendo can legally prosecute you for it.

but like copyrighted infringement in video of release pirated movies, do you thin they chase the lonesome dude living in the basement of their parents playing Nintendo 64 Mario brothers Game?

No they are looking to track down the seeders of the pirated ROM's in questions... not end user.


Yeah its too bad those classic consoles suck in general. If they improved them a little like making the SNES controller cord longer so you don't gotta be sitting 2 feet from the tv to play it might be better. Or if even if they made an extension cord for it, like charge 10 bucks for an extra 2 meters or so.
[quotemsg=21177216,0,1]Are you committing copyright infringement by downloading emulated ROM games? What about when emulating ROMs yourself? We spoke with three lawyers to find out.

Yes, Downloading Nintendo ROMs is Illegal (Even if You Own the Game) : Read more [/quotemsg]

"emulated ROM games" "emulating ROMs"
Bro, do you even computer?

You are not emulating roms you are using 100% exact copies of the roms,you are emulating the consoles so that you can play the games that where used to be distributed on roms,memory modules for said consoles.


Yep it is illegal... it may be so that They Are not coming after loader, but They could. And in some cases They have. So verytime you load a rom there is a chance that you will be accused. Not as bid as with distributors, but it is possible.

Gog makes a huge Jobs when They release old game by finding out who really own the rights and then making new deal to release those old games. And it is not easy!
Jul 27, 2018
This article is a load of crap. No downloading a rom if you already own a copy is not illegal this was all once argued due to bleem and bleem won.
Jul 24, 2018
It is illegal to download roms. It is illegal to distribute roms. Those two are facts and widely known. I've read an article by the same subject on a news website that is big in Holland. Some lawyers are active on that site. They basically say that the only thing that you can do by law is to make a local backup and emulate that. Including console bios.

@offtopic GoG is a great source for old games as Hannibal above here stated. They also have great troubleshooting guides when you run into trouble also.


“The nostalgic early video games are probably going to be under copyright until at least when their original players are in their 60s and 70s,” Boyd said.

Uh... unfortunately.... whoever owns the copyright near its expiration can usually renew it without issues... perpetually keeping it copyrighted. Copyright laws have been bought off, just like patents, so they never expire unless a company (who usually buys them up, if they didn't already own them) is negligent about renewal, or finally just doesn't care. The biggest argument I've heard for this had it because it could be a key to use on their newest stuff (even if their new stuff isn't related.)


Jul 8, 2015
When I was young spent thousands of hours playing those video games distributed on cartridges ( mainly Atari and Intellivision ). I still have my working Intellivison console with many games at my closet. But something I never learn was how people make a ROM from the cartridges. I guess they un-solder a ROM chip inside, buy How do you read it to your PC ? It would be illegal to learn how to and make my own ROMs backups ?
[quotemsg=21179701,0,2764448]It is illegal to download roms. It is illegal to distribute roms. Those two are facts and widely known.[/quotemsg]

in some countries

when talking law, one has to take national laws into account. there are countries where the distribution of course is illegal, the download however is not


Jan 1, 2011
All content, opinions or information in this comment posted in/on the article "Yes, Downloading Nintendo ROMs Is Illegal (Even if You Own the Game)
by Scharon Harding July 26, 2018 at 8:20 AM" (,37512.html) on the web-site tom's Hardware August 1 2018 are copyright and not for sale or use without the writer SyncroScales' consent. All payments are due to the original writer of this article. Including to and therefore of the use of the internet forum alias and actual person in real life. This writing may be re-distributed with the appropriate credit given. All monies made through all channels and possibilities and all percentages made must be reported to the person who uses the alias SyncroScales on tom's Hardware August 1 2018. Not complying with the law is illegal and copyright infringement. It is abuse to the person who uses the alias SyncroScales on tom's Hardware or anywhere else.

It's good that this article has informed people about other options that they have. Site's such as, Steam, and other online distribution or phone/tablet distribution are a good option to check out and they have worked hard and a long time to have a large catalogue.

Which investment firms and which investors own these digital distribution sites/companies? What is their legal record and/or criminal record of theft?

Do not forget that the programmers, music creators, artists, everyone else involved with the projects are NOT guaranteed to be paid. They could be work for hire or just receive a wage. It is management, investors and anyone/anything else involved who own the rights or are involved with the financial parts of the property.

It is wrong and criminal for companies such as Nintendo or any other property and rights holders to steal the work and code for the games, ROMS, emulations, translations, etc. These companies should not be able to get away with doing a bad job programming and being too lazy to employ people to get ENTIRE catalogues available for all systems. E.G.: Nintendo was having problems with some games on the virtual consoles because they programmed stuff or cut corners so that the games used 480i instead of 240p. Their virtual games were sub-standard and the ROMS people could download and use in emulators were programmed better. Although older televisions that are NTSC would use lines, apparently the video game consoles could or would use 240 progressive not interlaced.

There are celebrities, musicians, rappers, singers, people in the entertainment industries, Hollywood, audio/video/photo/graphical/media industries and public figures or banksters, investors and people who have a lot of money. Some of them are not people. Most of them do not act like people. But when you hear about them saying the public and customers or consumers should pay for things because it is the right thing to do, do not always listen. All of the ones listed above have been playing World Of Warcraft or were on 4Chan and online for many years. They have every single ROM and downloaded song or movie and television show you can think of. There are many of them who even are the bootleggers or uploaded a lot of content.

Some of those families and losers are so cheap that they will not buy all the current consoles for themselves or their children and will not buy every single virtual console game. This includes corporate people who work at Nintendo. It is not an industry secret.

There are cultural things going on. Some countries are too poor or have really high import taxes for certain or all items. People in Canada, America, Europe and other places are being charged and ripped off with many levies and higher-prices. They are stuck with other cultures that are too poor to pay or too cheap. Corporate, investors and the families involved do not care. They are charging everyone.

Why are there levies on almost every single thing possible? It is currently being extended to non electronic devices. If a person purchased blank media or electronic components for personal use, for their own creativity or work, for nothing to do with the media industries, etc then why are they paying levies? When someone pays for their media (music, audio, video, photo, video games, movies, streaming services, etc) why are they paying levies?

It is all related and still on topic, because what is next? There are a few things going on.

All the levies, taxes and lawsuits are being used for certain families, celebrities, royalty, fake royalty, government official, investor, etc trust funds. It is viewed as something to control and limit to the general population, but their relatives, friends and families are allowed to steal everything they want to.

Companies and right-holders or right-leasers such as Nintendo need to partner up with anyone who can create and sell the hardware and software to make your own back-ups. There should be third-party and official partnerships.

These companies and right-holders or right-leasers should also partner up with anyone who is able to program, emulate and translate the titles or properties.

The cultural stuff which could be happening from the head-offices in each country is not a one way street. As a customer or someone who has technical skill, it is completely inappropriate and potentially illegal to have such a one sided approach to punish and limit access for customers.

Everyone needs to admit to and look at how entire catalogues are not available STILL. There is no excuse for this. Although it is hard to find out and probably impossible to find out who programmed all the ROMS and emulators even if they were to be employed: the companies and investors should have been doing it themselves and even been having open-sourced stuff available for their virtual and digital storefronts and hardware or software.

Anyone heard about how old Nintendo consoles were being auctioned off for $3,000 or $5,000 or $10,000, etc? This was being lied about around 2005 - 2014 and up to today. It seems to be lies started by a woman and her family or staff in Calgary, AB Canada in the 'Video Game Trader' store. They never could say what was included and when it was or who was involved. It was a rumour and a lie. The online jokes, rumours or lies about this were taken seriously. And then it started to happen because they sold people retro junk and stupid young people used and wasted with families money thinking they would collect assets and valuable things to sell later. Now certain items and many other items that do not work are too expensive and do not reflect their value or worth. All that retro stuff is over-priced and broken, scratched and failing. There are many retro stores that have thrown everything into the garbage and closed their doors.

There has been quite an interest in taking down the digital web-sites for many many years. It is to limit access by those who create dark-web content. It's like digital currency and Bit Coin: The Windsor household, celebrities, investors and others claimed their relatives made the idea and made the currency, not that they were only involved in part of the projects. I have heard this said in public and read articles about it. Now for some reason nobody knows who made digital currency, block-chain, Bit Coin, etc. But the idea was in science-fiction a long time ago, it was an idea that might have even been patented or was already in use. So why are there no prosecutions and arrests or the criminals laundering money being exposed in the media? It is white-collar crime mostly, not just street criminals. Investors wanted to not be seen while everyone else stresses out or loses.

These ideas are in the same boundaries as the approach to ROMs and Emulation and the lack of transparency or lack of will to deal with some things that need to be.

I hope for the history of these cultures and for accurate history worldwide there are some things documented. In the late 1990's and early 2000's when emulators and ROMs were becoming more common on Warez sites or more stable and more people were using them: Companies such as Nintendo said things like 'We do not care if you have, make or use stuff from the old consoles (Nintendo and Super Nintendo at the time or old Game Boy Games).' They did not want ROMS for the current systems or the newly released titles. They had to make money and were concerned about bootlegging. They did not want people charging for any ROMs or emulation, because that is bootlegging.

Most people had trouble running the N64 emulators and the games did not usually work because of computer hardware was not that strong. But the other ones worked unless they had malware. Also, Nintendo and the other companies would say things such as 'We have no intention of getting involved with ROMs and emulation or having anything to do with computers.' This seemed to be due to fighting with companies such as Microsoft or companies such as Microsoft wanted too much money and too high of a percentage. The lack of interest in the mobile phone market was similar, but companies such as Nintendo had a hard-time financially in the mid-2000's and had legal problems with other tech-companies.

It would be important for the copy-rights holders, the license-holders, the corporations and who was involved with the projects to document the old approaches and be honest about why they have changed with minds. Usually it is money and how much they think they can make. Management should be honest and think about their customers and the culture that made them money. History should be accurate and the younger generations should know about how it was before instead of not know.

If the digital reproductions are not $0.99 - $2 or less (as said in the article about mobile products) or $5 - $10 or less for all the other consoles/computers: They are not worth it. If the customers and public do not fight the inflations and manipulations of prices you all will be ripped off. These are affordable prices and reflect the worth of the products. You shouldn't waste your money on the physical products either.

Customers and everyone else should ask if companies such as Nintendo or others are trying to control and block access to certain products so they can manufacture and auction off these products for very very high prices when the market is actually flooded due to their held product. E.G.: Companies such as Nintendo have been rumoured to or admitted to finishing old products and manufacturing old cartridges or discs for private buyers. Some say Earthbound/Mother 64 and Earthbound/Mother 2 SNES are an example. Where are these physical products that are used to manipulate the market and auctions? Earthbound/Mother 2 SNES is on the Nintendo Virtual web-site, but how do you know what kind of physical product you have? Is Earthbound/Mother 64 going to be released on another retro-console or digitally? Finally?


Dec 26, 2006
I consider myself a very morale person, but I have no qualms at all about downloading a ROM to a 25 year old game I've previously purchased. Life is too short to worry about such frivolity.
Aug 10, 2018
I'm not buying used games from Ebay hoarders for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and I'm not gonna buy a game if it isn't legally available anywhere digitally or brand new. Sooner or later, used copies of said games will be hard to find, and if a Game Publisher can't have their game available legally, then I'll just torrent said game, and they won't have my money until they do so. There's nothing like supporting developers with used game sales, where none of the money goes to them anyways. With Gamestop ripping people off with used games that are $5 cheaper than buying them new, ripping people off with tradeins that are on the pennies (despite selling the games for 10-100x the amount you got paid for them), and with Ebay sellers selling old games for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, the used game market is very toxic, and I am not going to support that, since used game sales are actually a lost sale, whereas an illegally downloaded ROM was never a sale to begin with.

In regards to things like illegal rom downloads, I think a copyright law should be in place (Just like movies and music), where if there's no legal option to access it from the original creators or licensees, it should be fair game to preserve said work online. This should incentive Intellectual Property holders to not completely abandon their game titles if possible. The only thing that I see being an issue with this is licensed IPs in games.


Jan 8, 2015
While making a ROM dump from an actual cartridge is being touted as the legal way to emulate classic video games, it all depends on the country and it's respected copyright laws. It is still copyright infringement in Australia to make a ROM dump from the original cartridge as the Australian copyright act prohibits the duplication of copyrighted material. Also, the Austrailian Copyright Act doesn't have a "Fair use" exemption. So if you live in Australia there are only 2 ways to legally play retro games.

1:) Buy rereleases in official digital stores.
2:) Track down an original console, the original cartridges, and a CRT screen or adapter.
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