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Are ROMs and Emulation ethical?

IndigoClaudia

The Fool
Pronoun
Ask; Try She/Her
So the other day i was downloading a ROM and then this question came to me. What are your opinions on this?

My opinions are this:
  • I will never download a ROM that could still be regularly bought. For example, i wouldn't download nintendo switch ROMs, but I could download a 3DS game.
  • I will never download a ROM if it's not something i would spend money for or feel like i've spent enough money already. For example, i spent 50 dollars on Fire Emblem warriors and then never used it, so i don't have a problem downloading fire emblem fates.
  • I try to only download ROMs when it is the only way i can get DLC/Mods/Rom Hacks/Special Editions.
What are your thoughts?
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Pronoun
she/her
i feel like if a game is no longer commercially available, all bets are kind of off. if i pirate a gameboy game, i'm not even depriving the developers/publishers of a potential sale—the only people who would stand to profit are the secondhand sellers, who don't hold rights to the material and have no entitlement to a profit from it. (this only makes sense under the current framework of copyright/IP ownership etc, which suck tbh, but if you throw that out the window then the point of your question changes entirely)

if it's a rom for something that is commercially available, i think that becomes less a question about the ethics of emulation and more just the ethics of piracy, which is maybe outside the scope of this thread? :p
 

Murkrow

Says "also" and "or something" a lot
Pronoun
he
Emulation is fine, there shouldn't be limits to what you're allowed to run on hardware you own.

The problem is the piracy, the obtaining of software you don't have the rights to. In addition to what Kyeugh said (which also applies to books, movies, etc which are no longer commercially available) there's also the fact the largest video game companies aren't exactly ethical themselves. I'm not going to condemn someone for pirating a game from a company who lays off overworked staff for financial reasons while their CEO is a billionaire, for example. Though that's an excuse and not a justification; better still would be boycotting them entirely, including not pirating. I'm just saying I won't judge people for it in that instance. (Not sure where I stand on buying second hand here though).

Pirating games from indie developers or small studios, that's definitely worse and I will judge people who do that more.
 
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qenya

formerly kokorico
Pronoun
she/her
i feel like if a game is no longer commercially available, all bets are kind of off. if i pirate a gameboy game, i'm not even depriving the developers/publishers of a potential sale—the only people who would stand to profit are the secondhand sellers, who don't hold rights to the material and have no entitlement to a profit from it. (this only makes sense under the current framework of copyright/IP ownership etc, which suck tbh, but if you throw that out the window then the point of your question changes entirely)
This is pretty much how I feel about it as well. I don't like the idea of downloading cracked games when it actually cuts into revenue, especially for indies, but if the developers/publishers aren't actually in business any more, or if there have been so many acquisitions/mergers/etc. that nobody knows who owns the copyright, it's not as if it actually hurts anyone. And there must be loads of older games stuck in copyright hell that would be completely lost to history if not for technically illegal digital preservation efforts.

As regards piracy in general, I think there's probably a valid conversation to be had about the lengths of copyright terms; certainly it's ridiculous that some Disney films are not in the public domain even though everybody who worked on them or acted in them is long dead. But video games aren't really in the same ballpark - anything that someone might want to pirate is no older than maybe 30 years at the most, and the people who made it are probably still around and may even still be making new things based off it.

(I don't know exactly where the line should be drawn, fwiw. Pirating an NES game, or maybe even a SNES game, doesn't seem as "wrong" to me as it would for, say, a 3DS game, but certainly Nintendo can and does continue to make money from them. And I'm even happy to continue paying for them! Managing ROMs and getting software and hardware working just the way you like it is a pain, and I don't mind paying a small fee to be able to play things on modern system without having to deal with setting anything up.)
 

Superbird

Fire emblem is great
(I don't know exactly where the line should be drawn, fwiw. Pirating an NES game, or maybe even a SNES game, doesn't seem as "wrong" to me as it would for, say, a 3DS game, but certainly Nintendo can and does continue to make money from them. And I'm even happy to continue paying for them! Managing ROMs and getting software and hardware working just the way you like it is a pain, and I don't mind paying a small fee to be able to play things on modern system without having to deal with setting anything up.)
As far as I'm concerned, virtually the entire GameCube and Wii library is fair game for piracy at this point. If a game is out of print, not practically playable on modern hardware, and the publisher refuses to make it playable on modern hardware, then I have no other real options to play the game. If the publisher wants to complain about me pirating their game, then they need to release the game themselves in a way that I can pay money for it. Downloading a ROM for something I can get legally and easily on the hardware I can be expected to have access to is morally dark gray, at best, but if I want to play something like Paper Mario TTYD, or Fire Emblem Path of Radiance, what other options do I even have?

Piracy in general tends to be driven mostly by accessibility, I think. For certain TV shows, I'd be happy to pay a fixed price one time to watch just the show I want to watch, rather than subscribing to a service that provides more content that I don't want to see, and is prohibitively difficult to unsubscribe from. But publishers don't give me that option, so I have to seek alternative sources for the things I want to see.
 

Murkrow

Says "also" and "or something" a lot
Pronoun
he
Piracy in general tends to be driven mostly by accessibility,
I would agree with this. Valve said that piracy is a service issue and that instead of using DRM that ends up inconveniencing paying customers more than pirates, they worked to provide a service that is more convenient than piracy.

Unfortunately, this model pretty much only works when there's a monopoly. Netflix was great when it was the new kid on the block and had the largest by far selection of TV shows and movies. But now every media company and their nan is setting up their own streaming service and keeping some things exclusive to draw people in. That makes it more inconvenient and expensive for the consumer and it wouldn't surprise me if it increases the rate of piracy.

It's a hard thing to tackle really because a single company having a monopoly isn't ideal either.
 
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