Are Emulators And ROMs Illegal?

There are plenty of emulators available on Cydia. In fact, system emulation is one of the reasons many people decide to jailbreak their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. However, Apple has never let a single emulator onto their official App Store. Is there a reason for this? Are emulators illegal? What about ROMs?

This is kind of a mixed area in terms of legality. Emulators themselves are not illegal. It is impossible to get in trouble for having an emulator installed on your device, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely legal to use. Infact…

ROMs themselves are illegal. And after all, what use is an emulator without games? There isn’t much of a reason, really.

Why are ROMs illegal? Most areas of the world have copyright protection put into place, which prohibits duplication or downloading of copyrighted content. ROMs are generally illegal rips of the original game, and since they’re copyrighted, it’s illegal to possess them. There are exceptions to this rule however, you may use a ROM if:

  • The ROM was publicly released by the copyright owner.
  • You received the ROM from the copyright owner.
  • The game’s copyright has expired (hasn’t happened for any game yet)
  • You are the copyright owner.

As you can see, none of the above occur very frequently.

Emulation FAQ

Is Downloading A ROM Legal If You Own The Game?

No, downloading a ROM is still illegal, even if you own the game. You are still downloading a copyright protected copy, which is illegal. Think of this as the duplication rule with movies – even if you own the movie, that doesn’t mean you can duplicate it legally.

Is Downloading A ROM Legal If The Game Is No Longer In Production?

Even if the game is no longer in production, it’s still illegal to download ROMs. As mentioned earlier, as long as the game is protected under copyright, you can not download illegal copies of it.

Do The Developers Even Care If You Download ROMs?

Probably not. If the game is no longer in production, the developer is likely not making any more money off of it. Sure, there are used copies still being bought and sold, but the developer isn’t getting anything from that.

Is It True That It’s Legal To Download ROMs If You Delete Them Within 24 to 48 Hours?

No, that’s not true. It’s illegal to possess a copyright protected ROM for any period of time.

If you have any other questions, please scroll down and add a comment. I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability!

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. More importantly, I am not your lawyer and do not take any responsibility for your actions. 


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