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View Full Version : ROM Hacking and the Law


Djibriel
03-25-2005, 04:48 PM
There is a lot of information floating around on the net about ROM images, emulators, patches and how legal/illegal everything is or isn't. I wanted to know the truth behind all these statements - I've been fooled in the past - so I went looking for a site which could explain the laws I concerned myself with. I found nothing.

That's why I wrote an article on emulation, copyright laws, big companies, the DMCA and abandonware. Just wanted to let ZD's community know. It can be found at my site:

www.tenchinohoukai.greatnow.com

Beware of pop-ups. Any kind of comment is appreciated, especially improvements.

Edit: That some luck for ya; I just stumbled across a site which had some great information on the subject. The main thing is that the it seems that Nintendo/Sony and the court generally sticks to a different interpretation than I and other people had assumed while I wrote the document. Stay tuned for an update later on; comments are still appreciated (obvioulsy).

<P ID="signature"></P><P ID="edit"><FONT class="small">Edited by Djibriel on 03/25/05 01:02 PM.</FONT></P>

Blade556
03-26-2005, 02:19 AM
It is illegal. You're fucking around with copyrighted intellectual property, and can be charged.

Then again, since about 50% or more of the games that are hacked are just being translated, nobody really gives a shit if you do or not, since it just brings more popularity to the game.

Don't really wanna say majority since alot of people hack english games alot too.

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Danoz
03-26-2005, 02:22 AM
It's illegal but we don't care <img src=smilies/thumb.gif>

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DahrkDaiz
03-26-2005, 02:30 AM
`(a) IN GENERAL- Any person who violates section 1201 or 1202 willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain--

"commercial advantage or private financial aid" this line pretty much makes one feel that they are in the clear as long as they're not selling emulators, patches or roms, which obviously isn't the case.

But you must realize, copyright law is a civil law, thus, only the copyright holders can file suit, so the state itself won't crack down on you, only the said creators ;) (correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure this is the case)

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Jathys
03-26-2005, 07:21 AM
In truth, 99% of people break the law on a regular basis . . . If you don't believe this, do keep in mind that speed limit signs are not intended to be mere suggestions, but actual *limits*<img src=smilies/eek5.gif>

The severity of a crime must be proportional with the severity of the consequences (not the *possible* consequences, but the *actual* consequences) . . . In a world filled with school shootings, rape, drug dealing, etc... I'd like to think rom hacking falls on a fairly dim part of the spectrum.

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Evil Peer
03-26-2005, 07:56 AM
Actually, you are wrong about how exactly the DMCA has screwed everything up. It was declared by a judge in one of the bigger cases (think it may have been the one about printer toner) that for something to be protected under the "circumvent" section, there has to actually be something significant to circumvent. The nature of the medium the data is inscribed in is not enough by itself. Nor could they simply throw it in a zip file and call it "secured".

What this means is that the majority of ROMs can be legally dumped and played. The question comes up for those titles that have some sort of security built into them. For example, there are a number of games that can detect if a Game Genie or backup device is being used. So, does emulating these games well enough such that they think they are being played on a real machine break the law? Probably.

Then comes the question of whether the DMCA can overrule past court decisions, since it was designed to be an extension of copyright law, not a replacement. Sony went to court and lost against an emulator company (or maybe two). I do not remember what the court's findings were, but this would at least seem to indicate emulators were considered legal prior to the DMCA being passed.

Patches would almost certainly be illegal if you modified any code that did security checks, but they would probably otherwise pass the DMCA. Where patches may run afoul of copyright is that they may be considered derivative works, which are infringements under normal copyright law. The only thing that would save them is that they are distibuted separately from the original copyrighted work. But since the patch was created with a specific purpose in mind, that may not be enough.

---T.Geiger

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Djibriel
03-26-2005, 12:14 PM
First off, I hope that nobody thought I was going to lecture anybody on what a criminal he is. I don't want to make any kind of statement with the article, just inform.

And how necessary that turned out to be! Only moments after I posted the first draft on the net, I came across some information not unlike what Evil Peer said. Circumvention, according to the current jurisdiction, is more then just working with code. Both Sony and Nintendo have tried to sue emulator authors and failed. The main source I used for writing the article took a much more radical approach in the interpretation of the DMCA, and I didn't find any information that contradicted it.

I'm annoyed that the first release didn't reach its goal, but it did show me how necessary a file like it is; even if you're more or less informed you still can draw wrong conclusions. I'll be posting an update later today. Thanks for your help so far!

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Isildur
03-27-2005, 01:22 PM
In case you aren't aware of them, you might want to take a look at some of the articles on this very site (http://www.zophar.net/articles/), a number of which deal with precisely these issues. Those articles are a few years old, it should be noted, (although the later ones were written after the DMCA was passed) so there might have been additional relevant legislation enacted or legal precedents set in the courts, in the time since they were written.

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Dark Knight Kain
03-28-2005, 11:14 AM
> The severity of a crime must be proportional with the
> severity of the consequences

Just remember that the justice system is corrupt and you can get away with murder if you have enough money or get locked up for years for some petty crime. I can just see the headline, Dragonsbrethren locked up for ten years for hacking a ROM... <img src=smilies/cwm27.gif>

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JCE3000GT
03-28-2005, 11:49 AM
> Dragonsbrethren locked up for ten years for hacking a ROM...

"His partner in crime JCE3000GT was also sentanced for 20 years for coding the application that facilitated in the actual act of hacking the ROM."<img src=smilies/cwm27.gif>

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Djibriel
04-01-2005, 12:31 PM
It's with a feeling of accomplishment that I present you the second version of my article. Again, it can be found at my site, although I made it an actual page this time. I would encourage all to read it, as there's more wrong information floating around than anybody would care for. Feedback, especially negative, is greatly appreciated.

www.tenchinohoukai.greatnow.com

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Evil Peer
04-01-2005, 04:43 PM
After reading some of your article, I revisited the US copyright law. It has significantly changed since I last read it several years ago.

Amazingly, nowhere in the US copyright law does it actually describe what an "archival" copy constitutes, nor what its fair purpose and use should be. What is even more interesting is that it no longer seems to contain any laws concerning the process of making archival copies (such as, you must make the copy yourself, you must make the copy from the original you own, etc).

While I did see "adaptation" mentioned a few times in the US code, it was not defined or described at all either.

The "librarian of congress recommendation" you mentioned primarily applies to the circumvention you talk about in the question below it.

"The SNES is no longer manufactured, but reasonable available in certain corners of the commercial marketplace, such as on-line marketplaces such as eBay or vintage gaming stores."

If you read section 108.c.1, you will note that an archiver is not required to buy a used copy of a work for purposes of replacement. While the law is not specific about whether or not a regular user receives the same treatment, and while this is in reference to the work, not the device which renders the work usable, it could be argued that it establishes intent. IOW, it is implied that if you cannot reasonably get your hands on a new SNES, the system is more or less obsolete.

---T.Geiger

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Blade556
04-04-2005, 02:35 AM
You should include some of the court cases between Sony and Connectix, who made VGS for the Playstation.

But I have a question. Now that Sony isn't allowed to sell Playstation, would it be illegal to pirate their games since they aren't making any money in the United States? Here's a link to an article about it.

http://bpm-today.newsfactor.com/bpmtechbrief/story.xhtml?story_title=Sony-Fined-US---M--Ordered-To-Halt-Sale-of-PlayStation&story_id=31858&category=bpmtechbrief

Maybe it is, but only because I'm not sure if sale of the PSX is halted, or the games for it altogether.

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The 9th Sage
04-04-2005, 03:51 AM
> But I have a question. Now that Sony isn't allowed to sell
> Playstation, would it be illegal to pirate their games since
> they aren't making any money in the United States? Here's a
> link to an article about it.

This sounds to me like the situation where the people who created the GIF picture format suddenly decided that they wanted to sue people over using it like years after they created it. I don't know how this is possibly going to play out in their favor....I don't understand though. I mean, isn't force feedback basically public domain at this point, or is Sony using specific ways of rendering that force feedback that is similar to what Immersion created? I mean, what makes force feedbak in Sony DualShock controllers different from that in a GameCube controller, or the N64 Rumble Pak?

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AkaneJones
04-04-2005, 04:00 AM
It's the Dual-Shock controllers that infringe on the patent not the PSX it's self they have to stop selling games that use that feature inspeciffic ways like Ape Escape or Final Fantasy 10. They don't have to hault PSX production just pull all PS sold with Dual-shock, and games that take advance of the patents in the contoler. While I don't know what would happen to the games I can bet Sony redesigns the controller to not infring the patent and release a new version on sale. As the controller is used in both PSX and PS2's

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AkaneJones
04-04-2005, 04:06 AM
I'm not sure but it's how things use it since only a hand full of games are listed in the lawsuit that would get pulled. And I can't think most Playstation 2 games not useing some sort of rumble feature, since most console games use it now days for verring things.

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The 9th Sage
04-04-2005, 04:10 AM
> I'm not sure but it's how things use it since only a hand
> full of games are listed in the lawsuit that would get
> pulled. And I can't think most Playstation 2 games not
> useing some sort of rumble feature, since most console games
> use it now days for verring things.

Yeah, well that's what I was thinking...if it's not Sony's tech specifically, what's to keep them from suing Nintendo and also Microsoft as well? Since I've not seen anything about them suing either of them, I'm kinda assuming it's something Sony specifically is doing...what that is, who knows.

But anyway, you're saying it's how the games are using it? How can they sue for that? That's almost like Nintendo suing every company in existence for making games with "Z-Targeting" type features.

"Oh, we made stuff rumble in that way ages ago, give us money!" <img src=smilies/upeyes.gif>

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AkaneJones
04-04-2005, 04:33 AM
> Yeah, well that's what I was thinking...if it's not Sony's
> tech specifically, what's to keep them from suing Nintendo
> and also Microsoft as well?
They did with Microsoft it's just that they settled out of court and MS bought half the company in the process. I assume the Rumble pack and the Rumble feature work differantly though, or they already payed licency fees for it correctly.

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Blade556
04-04-2005, 12:57 PM
> what's to keep them from suing Nintendo nd also Microsoft as well?

I think Sony may have deliberately copied the technology from Immersion, the suing company, and Nintendo (Along with Microsoft) developed their own fearing a sue from Sony.

While that may not be the case at all, Nintendo didn't build their rumble technology directly into the controller. They designed the rumble pak. And Microsoft's rumble feature uses 4 different motors that make it vibrate, so that's completely unique.

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Evil Peer
04-04-2005, 03:27 PM
> Now that Sony isn't allowed to sell
> Playstation, would it be illegal to pirate their games since
> they aren't making any money in the United States?

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050327-4739.html

So, in short, yes. It is still illegal. Besides, there are plenty of consoles and software titles still available at your local retail store.

---T.Geiger

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The 9th Sage
04-04-2005, 06:40 PM
> They did with Microsoft it's just that they settled out of
> court and MS bought half the company in the process. I
> assume the Rumble pack and the Rumble feature work
> differantly though, or they already payed licency fees for
> it correctly.

I must've missed that part about MS. Just so long as they don't sue Nintendo, I'll be alright. :P I mean, not that I want Sony to die (even though as a company they are rat bastards *feels a rant about the PSP and Sony's custom formats for everything coming on*, they do have some pretty good games).


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