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In Defense of ROMs, A Solution To Dying Games And Broken Copyright Laws

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In Defense of ROMs, A Solution To Dying Games And Broken Copyright Laws

Postby MrFredPFL » Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:14 pm

Story :

Various game emulation sites are pulling down their software libraries, or ceasing to exist entirely, following a lawsuit filed by Nintendo against one of the largest of their kind. This is hardly tantamount to the erasure of all unauthorized copies of older video games from the internet, but it’s still gotten a lot of folks talking about the conundrum of ROMs—that is, the need to balance copyright protection with the preservation of history.

For going on two decades now, it’s been trivially easy to go online and, within a few minutes, be playing the classic video games of yesteryear on your PC. That this occurs without the consent of the copyright holder seems to not matter at all to the millions—billions, probably—of people who have at one point or another touched an emulator. Publishers see emulators as enabling unfettered piracy. Players see them as a solution to the problem of scarcity.

This divide will likely never be truly crossed, as neither of these arguments has a monopoly on truth. What is certainly true is this: Though it may not have been the goal of those who initially started coding emulators and dumping ROMs, emulation is absolutely vital to the preservation of gaming history. And by that I don’t just mean making sure that a copy of every game exists somewhere on a dusty library shelf, but that the history of games is something that everyone can experience, play, and learn from.

At the heart of the debate are not emulators per se (which a federal court has ruled are legal), but “ROMs,” the term for the software that they play. ROM stands for “read-only memory,” the type of computer chip on which early video game data was stored. When early hackers started to pull the data off of these chips and save them as files on personal computers, they called the files “ROMs.” Emulators grew up with the Internet in the 1990s: as more and more households got online, they discovered a wonderland of gaming delights, all there for the taking.

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