Forums  /  Streaming / Recording / Equipment  /  Silly question about emulators and their legality

I was wondering is using emulators and roms legal?

I read somewhere that emulators themselves are fine, but games have copyrights.

I know this is nitpicking and everyone uses them anyways, but i was curious how the thing is in legal perspective.

Merry christmas!



Some emulators are allowed, some other ones are banned because of being too inaccurate compared to consoles.
If you're curious about which emulators are banned, or usually allowed, you can check this old, but good topic :

But asking about emulators being allowed, and if so, which ones when learning a game can be a good idea as well.

As for the legal perspective :
Technically the emulators themselves shouldn't be illegal, however for the roms themselves, that'd be different.
Though roms that came from official shops (for example: Virtual Console on eshop) aren't affected : you buy them, it runs an emulator that nintendo or whoever made the console you're playing on made with the rom inside it.

Merry Christmas.


As far as I know roms themselves are illegal. But if you own the respective game getting that rom is fine because you own the game. I’ve heard some mods will request a game dump or something to prove you own the game. Most games like Nintendo games have emulators like feucx banned and zsnes banned because the timing isent true to the actual game as if you were playing on a Nintendo or Super Nintendo. Check the rules of the game you want to speed run. I’ve been told if it doesn’t clearly say that emulators are banned and which ones then you can use them because I’ve asked those questions myself. Merry Christmas!!

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Emulators are legal as long as they do not officially package any copyrighted content, including BIOS, other firmwares, official logos, fonts and ROMs without being authorized to do so by the relevant copyright holders
ROMs are legal to make as long as it'd done within the laws that rule private backups in whatever country you live in, some country deem bypassing DRM at all to be illegal but then you'll have to argue what exactly is a DRM measure and what isn't which gets complicated (such as Nintendo arguing a cart constitutes one by itself), and obviously if the original copyright holder is involved he can distribute it like any other copy of said game.
Downloading a ROM is never legal, not even if you own the game yourself, the fact that no one is realistically gonna go after you for doing so doesn't change that.

So technically if you want to use an emulator legally you just have dump your own BIOS / firmware / ROMs (provided it is legal to do so where you live), but in practice there's very little probability that you would ever get in trouble if you're just a simple user (except maybe in Japan which has exceptionally hard sanctions against anything vaguely related to piracy) as long as you're not doing anything exceptionally stupid about it.

As for speedrunning it's up to individual communities how they handle emulator usage and whether proof of ownership is actually a thing they'd care to enforce (I'd wager a lot of communities for older games don't actually care that much that you don't actually own the game besides the impact emulating / backup loading has on the run time not to mention the fair few communities that will outright give you a link to the game if you ask for it, whereas any community for somewhat recent game especially indies would probably react a lot worse to a runner admitting they have not bought the game they're running)
There's other factors relevant to speedrunning when it comes to dumping or acquiring ROMs besides legality as some dumping methods and many already existing ROMs are not necessarily good copies of the original which might or might not affect the way it runs (usually not or at-least not in a way that's easily observed), and that's without considering the large quantity of prepatched ROMs that aren't labelled as such floating around

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Thank you all for the info!