What is software piracy?

Preface: I recently had some comments in another thread edited by mods to remove a link to a popular archiving site and the name of a group of software archivers. I respect the decision of the mods 100%.

That said, let’s discuss piracy.

Whilst the anti-piracy policy of this site is clearly defined, and well respected, I don’t think it is being as clearly upheld. So I’ve started this topic as I think the issue would benefit from open and frank discussion.

(Software) Piracy is defined as “the unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work”

What constitutes piracy? I asked one of the staff of a well-known online archive whether they consider their archiving activity to be piracy? According to the definition it is if they’ve not got authorization for each and every item. Their response was to ask me, as a computer programmer, whether I consider computer programming to be computer fraud? Of course I don’t. To commit computer fraud there has to be intent and execution.

That was an interesting lens through which to look at the situation.

So where is the line to be drawn?

Not OK?

  • the name of a group of software archivers

  • a web link to a well known online archive


  • talk of a device such as the Everdrive, that is often used to enable “easier” piracy

  • a link to Google, from where you can easily search for and find illegal copies of most software

  • talk of “tons of ROMs”

  • ROM hacks and patches

  • Wii containing pre-installed illegal software

  • the legit ripping thread (I have a Retrode myself)

  • talk about piracy and having participated “back in the classic gaming era”

Usually not linking to pirate or not-copy-authorized software is for legal reasons to avoid getting a site into any trouble.

From a community standpoint, while sometimes anti-piracy can be taken to extremes, at the very least it benefits the discussion of retro stuff to avoid piracy and avoid pro-pirate stances as many of us are spending $$ or $$$ on software that yeah we could just pirate for free.

Thank you for creating this thread. It’s something we have discussed internally for a while now and it’s a tough subject to nail down.

Yes we have everdrives and we all know we aren’t all ripping our own games to use on them.

If you were to write “hey Google x rom pack and you’ll find it” that’s technically fine, Google is a legit website, but if you were to write “go to The Pirate Bay and search it” we would not be ok with that. But how’s it any different? It’s hard to decide.

I’m sure most of the pc98 stuff is abandonwear at this point. No one is going to shut us down for a pc98 rom pack and with the rapid degradation of disks it’s going to be the only way we can obtain these games in the future anyway. We all know how important game preservation is and we respect the efforts of those like archive.org

But what if someone starts linking 3ds or ps4 packs? We can’t allow that. It’s unfortunate but we have to draw a hard line on this. We can’t muddy the waters and allow some things but not others.

Technically I don’t think the linking is illegal anyway. We aren’t hosting anything but we would rather just avoid it. GAF took the same stance for a reason. We don’t want people googling “rom packs” and finding their way to our site.

Outside of retro gaming I spend time on bodybuilding and power lifting sites. They all have a similar stance on steroids. We know most competitive athletes are on peds, they aren’t even illegal in most countries, but we can’t talk about them. If someone googled “where to buy dianabol” and bodybuilding.com was the top result because of their forum it would cause them problems.

Bottom line is the legality of Roms is a grey area and we are operating this website out of the USA who have very strict and, in my opinion, archaic laws when it comes to back ups and home use. Private messages are a great tool, wink wink nudge nudge.

We have some exciting news coming in the future in regards to this website and I think everything will make sense when you see it!

Seems to be a general rule in actual forums with comments that last to just not allow direct linking to sites that host pirated software, even if they are lax about the general nature of talking about them. It’s just not a good look and can lead to legal trouble. It is also the nature of sites that are large/have aspirations of growing and not just being a group of chums chillaxing to keep the rules standardized across the board (so to speak), so even the stuff that wouldn’t lead to any possible legal trouble gets nixed as well.

I’m scared. :c

Good thread.

To me the distinction between the two sections of your list is pretty clear. The top section involves linking to software, while the bottom section doesn’t.

Maybe I’m just accustomed to it, having used forums for many many years now; pretty much any forum I’ve been on has the same stance on this.

Edit: Also creating an archive is not the same as downloading one. I know in some countries you are allowed to make copies of your own software (technically where I am you aren’t even allowed to do that). Hosting it publicly however also throws a spanner in the works.

Here’s the bright line:

Discussing how to create and play your own backups is okay. Discussing how to access backups made by others is not. The waters are not muddy on this issue.

Someone on the forum recently and unwittingly bought a Wii with pirated software on it. That is okay to discuss because he isn’t instructing others on how to do the same. If he were to post a link to a seller who sells similar items, that would be against the rules.

Emulators and flash cart discussions in general are also okay, because they can be used to play your own backups which is perfectly kosher. Discussing where to find ROMs ripped by others to use with said items is not okay.

The goals of the moderation staff is not to pass judgment or act like we are holier than thou. We don’t have some grand moral agenda we are trying to enforce where everything has to be played exactly as developers intended it back in the day on OG hardware.

We are only trying to moderate the discussion away from being seen as a site which sanctions content that instructs others on how others can pirate software.

If your post contains directions that lead to to a site or ripping community that pirates software, your post will be edited so that information is removed.

If you simply say, “this game has been ripped and is on the Internet” without any additional details, it will not be edited because you’re simply commenting that something is out there without giving directions on how to find it.

Naming an organization or website that distributes such software without providing a link is against the rules too, because those still constitute instructions on how to pirate stuff.

In other words, err on the side of not disclosing any unauthorized sources of licensed software. Don’t mention ripping communities and don’t link to archives where licensed software is available without consent of the license holder.

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That website contains so much old software, and is well regarded as being legitimate. But is it really? Closer inspection of how they operate has left me a little shocked.

I could link to many classic DOS games hosted there that you can play right now in your browser. Is it not piracy because the game is streamed and not downloaded? Some countries take that view. This makes things even fuzzier than they are already.

Sure, they have a mechanism for copyright holders to ask for their material to be taken down. But that seems the wrong way around? Should it not be there in the first place if authorization has not been requested and given? Again, opinion varies by country.

I’ve always been of the mind that if I can reasonably purchase something (including eBay or Amazon’s used sellers, GOG.com, etc.) then it’s “piracy” if you don’t. It’s available. You just don’t want to pay for it.

Once you get into things you simply cannot buy anymore, and PC98 stuff may fall into that… I think especially if you don’t live in Japan… then it’s a lot more grey.

Sure, original publishers may not get payment on a lot of it now, but that doesn’t make it legal to download it from somewhere for free. It’s still a physical product you could own. I’m not entitled to play Stadium Events just because it’s rare, am I?

Lets not confuse the ethics and the law. I have a strong stance on the matter, that I could talk about for hours, but legally speaking, everything is clear.

The law says that you can’t distribute the work of someone else without their consent. While there are some different technicalities here and there, it’s pretty much the consensus all around the globe. That means you can’t put ROMs on the internet, and you can’t download them. What you can do, however, is anything you want with the objects you own, as long as you don’t distribute the result: you can dump your own ROMs and use it in another device, just like you can turn your PS3 into a grill if you want to. Some country have laws to forbid circumventing copy-protection schemes, but that’s a very recent development in copyright laws and imo very stupid. It’s designed to have another legal tool to incriminate distributors of copyrighted work, but is a real set back for consumer rights.

I just don’t see the point of enforcing this kind of rule on yourself. You are entitled to have fun and play some old games which have been long since out of print. No need to make it any more complicated than that.

Entitled? I would not agree with that.

Well, perhaps entitled is a bad choice of words, maybe a more fitting thought would be to allow yourself to enjoy some of the games you can never afford to play in real life, instead of creating restrictions for yourself, since there are enough in life anyway. My 2 cents is that software piracy for retro games is a different ballgame than for modern games, and since I don’t want to start an argument, I’ll move on.

Entitled or otherwise I generally just don’t care. Yeah I’m not entitled to anyone else’s work nor do I believe I am but if I really want to play it that is enough for me and I’m fine with that. I don’t need any fancy leaps of logic or excuses behind what I’m doing to justify it. I pay for what I decide is worth it to me, and don’t for things I didn’t want to. While also having the common sense not to talk about or link places with the files/software themselves on forums. In fact this is about the most I’ve talked about piracy on a persistent forum ever.


I guess I just find that when I acquire it legally, it’s really exciting and makes the wait worthwhile? Finally having stuff like Cosmic Smash or Viewpoint show up in the mail was awesome. :slight_smile:

Cosmic smash rules

“Cosmic Bus … 727”

“Have a blast”

I generally like to own a physical copy of things I really enjoy, because I’m a materialistic jerk, but I’m not gonna act like the actual ownership, or lack thereof, has improved or made my gameplay experience worse on anything.

I certainly disagree with that. I feel a lot more comfortable when I own something and know I acquired it legally than when it’s in any part of the grey area. Physical or digital, I do like to pay for things so I know there’s no question.

I mean, so much stuff is trivially priced at various times in its lifetime. Today you even have new options like PSX games on PS3 where they go for as little as $1.99. Why not just stay above board?

Not sure what website you were talking about, but I’m guessing it’s something like abandonia. I personally don’t mind downloading games from that website, because I can’t buy it from the rights owner anywhere.

I was talking about archive.org