Are sites that let you play Nintendo NES games online for free legal?

Posted on 2009-02-21
Last Modified: 2013-12-26
Are sites that let you play Nintendo NES games online for free legal?

Like this site for example:

If the owner of the site owned the real copies to all the games, made no profits off of having the games available, didn't let the users download the games and if all of the games no longer are being made or sold, wouldn't it be legal?  

It seems like it'd be like allowing people to "borrow" your game but not own it and I think copyright laws say that your entitled to a few copies of stuff like this.

It'd be great if someone could clarify this.  Thanks.
Question by:davideo7
    LVL 62

    Accepted Solution

    Given that this seems to be your site and your timezone is US I'm kinda hesitant to comment.

    Let's start with:
     - Terms of the EULA of the product regarding copying and distribution
     - Copyright holders on the original ROMs and their intellectual property
     - The recoding of copyright material into Flash and use of copyrighted materials and trademarks on a website unlicenced by their owners
     - Distribution of copyright material (- not downloading) distribution means making available for use
     - Application of DCMA (the untested loophole of "fair use" which is the only aspect you may be able to use - applies only to backup media - not allowing people to "borrow" your game but not own it)
    Remember when you buy a ROM what you are actually buying is the permission (license) to use the software and the cartridge containng the software - you do not own "the game" and your rights on how you use it are set out in the End User License Agreement (EULA)
    Against that, it's a great concept, almost altruistic, but that won't be a defense in law.
    Unless the game copyright has been transferred to a GNU (true "abandonware") the copyright holder still has a financial interest in their property. Furthermore the forum that operates on the site might be seen as encouraging the illegal sharing of emu ROMs

    Much as I'd like to say, "yes it's all legal and hope it continues to be successful for you" ...

    All that said the worst that is likely to happen is a "Cease & Desist" from Nintendo or one of the other copyright holders.
    LVL 8

    Assisted Solution

    In my experience, the ROMs are generally okayed for download by the company (such as nintendo) when the game (or maybe it was system?) is no longer available for purchase. However, usually those sites do have a FAQ or something to tell you what you can and can't do. All the ones I read said that you are allowed to download the ROMs only if you OWN the game already. If you do not then you are not suppose to download them (legally).

    LVL 18

    Assisted Solution

    LVL 4

    Assisted Solution

    It's not legal, you don't own it (or any rights to it) or pay a license to distribute it pubicly.

    LVL 8

    Assisted Solution

    Hmm well looks like most of the stuff I found was misleading using the "backup" rule. Reading the link to nintendo via wiki posted above states that you are not allowed to do that even if you own it. I doubt you'd want to take them to court claiming backup reasons or whatever. On the bright side, it looks like nintendo quotes the copyright laws as lasting 75 years. So after that it might expire and you can download them. That is like another 50 years. Ask this question about in 2060
    LVL 5

    Assisted Solution

    It is not legal because the website does not have the permission from Nintendo to distribute the game, whether it be non-profit of not.

    Please award points if this helped.


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