As you may well know, old Pokemon games are incredibly expensive. As a result, a lot of people turn to software emulation to play these games. So, is it legal?
Using an emulator isn’t illegal, but playing a game on an emulator is illegal. There are a few intricacies to that rule but, generally speaking, playing Pokemon on an emulator is illegal. However, it is unlikely that you will get caught.
We shall go into a bit of depth on this because there is a considerable amount of confusion as to whether Pokemon emulators are illegal.
Is It Illegal to Play Pokemon Emulators?
This is where the confusion is.
An emulator is a piece of software that allows you to play a ROM.
Think of an emulator as being the operating system on a console (in the case of Pokemon games, this will be a Gameboy, Advance, DS, etc.)
Emulators are programmed from the ground up by programmers. They are not illegal to use in the slightest. This is because they do not include any stolen code or anything.
There are absolutely no issues with using an emulator. However, it is pretty useless without the games (ROM), which leads us to the next point.
To check the current price and availability of Handheld Emulators, click here to view the selection on Amazon.
Is It Illegal to Play a Pokemon Rom?
Yes. It is.
There will be some people that tell you that it isn’t illegal to use a Pokemon ROM. They say that if you own the original game, it is 100% fine. However, that isn’t how the law works. The law specifically states that you can make a backup of the copy of the game that you own. If you don’t own it, then you can’t make a ROM of it.
So yes, this does mean that it is illegal to play a Pokemon ROM. You are pirating software. That’s it.
Now, we know that there are some people that will debate that you should be able to play these games since they are no longer being produced. However, please do put all of that to one side, because if the question is ‘is it illegal to play a Pokemon ROM?’, then the answer is always going to be 100% yes.
Is Playing Emulators Legal?
We covered this part earlier.
It is not illegal to play an emulator. It is just a piece of software on your computer.
It is not illegal to play some games on the emulator either. This is providing that the games that you are playing are 100% unique and do not use code or assets from anywhere else.
You will start to run into problems if you play copyrighted games on the emulator, though. Well, at least in the eyes of the law.
As you will see in the next section, this doesn’t really matter too much when it comes to the actual legal ramifications side of things. So, while we are saying it is illegal to play those ROMs, most people do it anyway.
Can You Get Caught Playing Emulators?
Firstly, as we have said twice already, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using an emulator. You haven’t broken the law by using an emulator. You are free to do that as much as you want. The issue comes with the games. That is illegal.
Chances are that you won’t get caught playing Pokemon ROMs, though. Sure, Nintendo isn’t going to be happy about you playing their ROMs, because this does mean that you are supporting businesses that they are not happy with.
However, they are not going to come after a person that is downloading ROMs, because it is rather pointless to do so, even if that person is breaking the law.
It is for this reason that a lot of people download ROMs anyway. They see it as a bit of a grey area. After all, if the games are not normally available through standard means, then why shouldn’t you be able to download the ROMs? It isn’t like Nintendo is going to do anything about it, right?
We are sure that Nintendo does have the means to check who is downloading ROMs, but it is unlikely that they are ever going to act upon that.
Although, we know that there are people in some countries (mostly the United Kingdom) that have received mail that has stated that they have been caught downloading ROMs and, if they don’t stop, their internet connection will be shut off.
Although, to be honest, we have not heard of anybody having their internet connection shut off because of it. It just seems to be something that ISPs do to fulfill their legal obligations and that is about as far as it goes.
Is It Illegal To Share Pokemon ROMs?
Absolutely. It is sharing pirated software.
We don’t know how much you keep up on your gaming news, but Nintendo has come down hard on anybody that shares ROMs. Not the smaller people, but the big groups that are profiting millions from sharing. Although, Nintendo has shut down smaller sites that share ROMs too.
This means that if you do somehow come across a ROM, you should not share it under any circumstances. That is where Nintendo is likely to start taking action against you. While it may not be huge fines, they will shut down your distribution channels…if you are caught.
Using emulators isn’t illegal. Downloading Pokemon ROMs is illegal, despite what some people may say. Although let’s be honest, a lot of people do it anyway because some of the older Pokemon games can be incredibly hard to get your hands on.
We would always encourage you to obtain your games through more legitimate means, if you can. A lot of the older Pokemon games are still pretty cheap on the open market, and it may be worth picking them up. However, if you do use an emulator and a Pokemon ROM, chances are that you are not going to get caught.
If you do share ROMs? You may feel the full wrath of Nintendo.