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LGN-76

Downloading ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs of games/systems you legally own (in one form or another)

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No I'm not asking for ROMs, ISOs, or where to get them. I made this thread for the sole purpose of getting a question that's been bugging me for the longest time answered once and for all.

That question is:
Is it OK to download a ROM/ISO/BIOS for a game/system you already legally own, even if the version you own isn't exactly the same?

A good example of this is:
Is it OK to download the CPS2 Arcade ROM for Super Street Fighter II Turbo if you legally own the game for PC, PS1, PS2, and/or the HD Remix version for PS3?

A few years ago, I wouldn't have had a problem with this at all. But then I got caught torrenting by the Entertainment Software Association. Twice. To be fair, the time span between the two times I got caught was 5 years, but still, I don't wanna get caught a third time.

I'm definitely not torrenting ever again, but it's too hard for me to be an all-around gamer if I can't download ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs. For the past two years, I've been trying to dump them all. But then again, I'm missing out on a lot of my favorite arcade games by doing things this way, and most of the time I'm stuck with their inferior home ports.

A while ago, I asked Capcom themselves for a license to legally download the ROMs for all their Street Fighter Arcade games. What I got was a forum member of an unknown status telling me that, as long as I legally own the games, it's OK for me to download the ROMs.

My original request:
http://www.capcom-unity.com/ask_capcom/go/thread/view/7371/30634581/i-wanna-purchase-a-license-from-you-guys-to-legally-use-cps-roms-i-dont-wanna-download-illegally
The answer I got:
http://www.capcom-unity.com/ask_capcom/go/thread/view/7371/30642657/b

I then wanted to verify this, so I went to MAMEWorld, a M(ultiple)A(rcade)M(achine)E(mulator) community forum, to ask people who know all about this stuff if it was OK for me to do what I wanna do.

Thread #1:
http://www.mameworld.info/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=mamechat&Number=345477&Forum=All_Forums&Words=SpiDoL&Match=Username&Searchpage=0&Limit=25&Old=allposts&Main=345477&Search=true#Post345477
Thread #2:
http://www.mameworld.info/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=mamechat&Number=349095&Forum=All_Forums&Words=SpiDoL&Match=Username&Searchpage=0&Limit=25&Old=allposts&Main=349095&Search=true#Post349095

And of course, I came to you guys about dumping DOOM 64 using my Retrode so that WADGen can recognize it, and you said that it's OK to download the ROM if you own it:
https://www.doomworld.com/vb/source-ports/86668-doom-64-ex-help-using-wadgen-with-a-doom-64-rom-dumped-by-the-retrode/

So, with all that accounted for, I wanna know once and for all: Can I download ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs for games/systems I legally own in one form or another? My gaming life will be SO much easier if the answer to the question is Yes...

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No, you can't. /thread

Each of those releases is a product on its own, buying one doesn't magically make it legal to download the others.
On the other hand, I have a hard time believing anyone cares about ROMs of ancient video games.

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RexFesto696 said:

So, with all that accounted for, I wanna know once and for all: Can I download ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs for games/systems I legally own in one form or another?

Well, you certainly can download them, but not legally. Publishers hold exclusive distribution rights to their software, and unless some third party is explicitly granted such rights then they cannot disseminate a product that is not theirs for profit or otherwise. And it does not matter if you already own a copy.

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Ya the big thing legally is the distribution. That unofficial forum member had to be the one to answer you because if capcom had told you it would be legally ok they would be forfitting some legal control on their ip, so they're definetly not going to do that. I will say if they had a problem with it they would swiftly respond with an opposing answer.

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Back then I got ISOs of games I physically owned that required the CD in the drive so I wouldn't have to deal with said CD drive (or the disc wearing out). Thank fuck we're digital now.

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RexFesto696 said:

So, with all that accounted for, I wanna know once and for all: Can I download ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs for games/systems I legally own in one form or another? My gaming life will be SO much easier if the answer to the question is Yes...

Not our choice. You either download it or don't. It's only a simple click.

If you live outside the USA, it shouldn't be much of a problem. Who cares? If you do legally own a copy of a game, then I guess having an illegal copy is justified.

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I have always been under the same belief - if you actually OWN it, you can download it. The people who should get in trouble in this particular scenario is the uploader / host of the file(s), as they are the one doing the distributing.

I'm more than likely wrong though.

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In my eyes, if you legally own the physical game then you're legally allowed to have a ROM or ISO version. I'm guessing the problem is the distribution of these files, because hell, anybody can make their own ISO from a game.
Is that kind of how it works?

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RexFesto696 said:

A few years ago, I wouldn't have had a problem with this at all. But then I got caught torrenting by the Entertainment Software Association. Twice. To be fair, the time span between the two times I got caught was 5 years, but still, I don't wanna get caught a third time.

Is there some sort of organisation in your region that actually somehow monitors if you use torrents? That's very unusual for me, because where i live you can use torrents and pirate stuff without any problems and nobody will do anything to you. My government did block access to some notorious torrents sites, but those still can reached by using certain special means.

On topic, it's question of your own morality. If you think that downloading ROMs and ISOs of what you already own is right, then go for it. I personally think it's right, but that's just my opinion, an opinion of someone who regularily pirates music. :)

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Don't ask people on a game forum for legal advice if you want a definitively correct answer; ask a lawyer. Even then, ask multiple lawyers because one may not necessarily be correct, especially given different specializations. Most will answer a simple question for free and even if they want to charge you it's not something that's going to eat up a lot of time, so the cost would be dirt cheap. Also lawyers are a dime a dozen so you can afford to tell the first 10 that want to charge you (if any even do) to screw off and still be totally fine.

From what little I understand, being in possession of a rom to a game you own (I would have to assume the same version/console, as owning a game on Xbox One doesn't entitle you to get the game on PS4 for free) is legal, but aquiring it from another person is illegal. That's where the grey area comes from; it's okay to possess the electronic copy of the physical product you own, but how many people have the knowledge and tools to rip the info from a NES cartridge and make a rom out of it? Likely none, but that doesn't make the act of distributing it okay.

Both parties are liable in cases such as that; if I sell you some drugs and the cops bust in, yeah they'll prolly want me more, but you're going downtown, too, even if it's a prescription drug you have a prescription for and so do I.

So the long of the short of it (once again from my limited understanding on the matter) would be that you are only breaking the law when you take part in the distribution process (download the rom); if you get caught red-handed you'll likely just have to take what you get, but given that likely won't happen, after downloading you're likely in the clear. I kinda look at it like that example of prescription meds; once they're in your bottle that has your name on it and that exact pill's description on the outside, who's to say where it came from? (except the metadata, but let's just pretend that doesn't exist, kek)

Still, best to just ask people who study the law and deal with stuff like this on a daily basis (which would also be helpful considering different countries have different laws).

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America made it illegal to make even your own copies of things you own if the media has any kind of copy protection. They even made it illegal to distribute the tools to do it. This is why I got to tell American customers they could not rip their DVDs to their PCs legally. There are a limited number of exceptions to the rule, and those aren't broad enough even to stop bastard companies like HP and Lexmark from using the DMCA to prevent third-party printer cartridges from existing. Ugh.

In Canada I'm sure downloading ROMs is technically illegal, but nobody in government cares what they are. Their stance on things like music seems to be it's not worth the effort to prosecute. We also have some complicated nonsense about it being sort of legal to get a copy of a CD from your friend's original because there's a levy on media, but not to make a copy of the copy or download it. The RCMP at one point really did says they're not interested in the problem.

For official advice, ask lawyers like Fonze said.

From a moral standpoint, I would argue that all media should be ripped and backed up somewhere. Owners die, rights expire, and no, in the long run, I don't think artists deserve any say over the fate of their own work.

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I was always under the impression that it was legal to make a back-up copy of a game you owned. Meaning a direct back-up, on the same system/format.

So if you own a PC game on CD, you can make a copy of that CD and it's ok.
The problem arises when you have a console cartridge, say for SNES, N64, megadrive, or a console that used it's own type of storage CD. You can make a copy of that for backup, but you have to have the equipment to say, make a direct backup of an N64 game. It's not the same if it's just a .ROM stored on your PC, to be 100% legal it would have to be a blank N64 cartridge with the game information saved to it.

But it's not ok to say, pirate Doom for SNES if you own Doom on PC, because they're not the same version or format.

Could be wrong, but I don't think it's ever been as simple as "Do you own this on SNES? Well then you can download a ROM and play it on an emulator free-and-clear!". And the whole "As long as you delete it within 24 hours if you don't own it" thing always reeked of BS.

So yeah, basically it's illegal. Don't talk about it.

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Legally, downloading ROMs is illegal, but pretty much nobody cares unless you're the kind of person who sells them off in bootleg consoles.

It's entirely legal to backup the games you own, but you can't technically distribute them. But again, pretty much nobody cares - especially when it comes to older games.

It's very similar to the whole music downloading business.

But yeah, ask a lawyer if you really want to know all the details of your local laws. Just generally speaking, this is how things tend to go.

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For Americans (ie most of the people here), it's not legal to back them up if they have copy protection. That's been illegal since 1998. Stupid, stupid law, pushed by stupid people for stupid reasons. Hence the nice variety of open-source tools for copying things with basically zero commercial tools available. Funny how that works.

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Hmm... I was hoping the thread wouldn't be split in half like this.

But despite half the people saying No and half the people saying Yes, I'm just gonna not download any ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs, and continue to legally dump and copy as many of them as I'm able to. I may be bummed that I can't play every game I like on everything and everywhere I go, but truthfully I feel much better when I don't have to live with the guilt of downloading and keeping illegal content...

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RexFesto696 said:

Hmm... I was hoping the thread wouldn't be split in half like this.

But despite half the people saying No and half the people saying Yes, I'm just gonna not download any ROMs/ISOs/BIOSs, and continue to legally dump and copy as many of them as I'm able to. I may be bummed that I can't play every game I like on everything and everywhere I go, but truthfully I feel much better when I don't have to live with the guilt of downloading and keeping illegal content...


I don't think you should really care what other people think, do what's best for yourself.

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Aliotroph? said:

For Americans (ie most of the people here), it's not legal to back them up if they have copy protection. That's been illegal since 1998. Stupid, stupid law, pushed by stupid people for stupid reasons. Hence the nice variety of open-source tools for copying things with basically zero commercial tools available. Funny how that works.

Interesting this explains why there was a huge decline on software like Nero among others in the early 2000s

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I have plenty of older game cartridges/discs which I can't use anymore because some of my older consoles are either broken or lost, and quite a few of those consoles are very expensive to buy again nowadays since they are hard to get and no longer being manufactured, I honestly don't find anything wrong with using roms/isos of those same games which I still have and can't use anymore.

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