Nintendo Wii Roms
Legal status of ROMs
ROMs themselves are not illegal per se. This section gives a general discussion of the legal status of ROMs as regards the various uses to which they may be put, though this should not be construed as legal advice.
Games owned by the user
In some countries, it is legal for an individual to personally make backup copies of a game they own. Individuals may make backup copies for various reasons, perhaps as insurance against losing the game or as redundancy in the event that the original game's medium becomes unreadable. See the section on ROMs and Preservation.
However, in the U.S. it has been illegal since 1983 for a user to create their own backups of video game ROMs. This was decided in the case of Atari v. JS&A-JS&A manufactured a "game backup" device that allowed users to dump their Atari ROMs onto a blank cartridge. JS&A argued that the archival rule allowed for this. The court disagreed, noting that ROM media was not subject to the same volatility as magnetic media (for which the law was created). Thus, not being so relatively vulnerable, ROMs were not applicable under section 17 USC 117.
Some games companies, such as Nintendo, print warnings inside their game manuals that they do not allow users to make backup or archival copies. Whether or not these warnings in this specific form can be considered valid contracts is legally questionable. For an overview of relevant issues, see user agreement (EULA), shrink wrap contract, clickwrap, Fair Use, Fair Dealing and DMCA.
Officially licensed ROMs
It is, of course, legal to purchase a ROM image which has been licensed to you by the rights holder. For example, Atari now makes 27 of their original arcade games available in ROM format which is compatible with the MAME emulator through the online ROM retailer Star ROMs.
Freely licensed ROMs
The vast majority of computer & video games from the history of such games are no longer manufactured. As such, the copyright holders of some games have offered free licenses to those games, often on the condition that they be used only for non-commercial purposes. For example, two of the games emulated in MAME, Gridlee and Robby Roto, have been made available under such licenses. As such, they are made freely available from the MAME Home Page.
Abandonware is a fairly new copyright concept that attempts to bring in the theory of abandonment from trademark law into copyright law. Supporters of abandonware claim that, if a copyright owner no longer offers a particular piece of software to the public, it should be deemed "abandoned" and open to free copying and usage by users. Supporters believe that, while it has no basis in copyright law, it should be considered morally more acceptable to trade in so-called abandonware since copyright holders are, by definition, no longer profiting from the sale of the work in question.
However, the concept of abandonware conflicts directly with the fundamental copyright concept of awarding a copyright creator a finite term during which he/she may enjoy a monopoly on reproduction. Under copyright law, a copyright owner has the right to profit or not profit on their creation. The basis for this right in the United States is the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution, which empowers the United States Congress:
Because of abandonware would conflict with the stated goal of granting "exclusive right" (irrespective of profit), it is not recognized in the United States or by signatories of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty. Currently, for copyrights to be abandoned, the owner must clearly release the copyright in a writing (which has been done).
In 2003, the United States Supreme Court made copyright law more conservative in deciding Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, which affirmed the legality of the Copyright Term Extension Act, an act that extended the current copyright terms by an extra 20 years. The decision noted that, so long as a copyright term is finite, it is permissible under the Constitution. Thus, a copyright in the United States is protected by the full strength of the law until it expires, between 70 and 120 years after initial creation.
While some games which no longer make any profit fit into the category above, the vast majority are no longer available in any form. The legality of obtaining such games varies from country to country. Some countries have special exceptions in copyright laws or case law which permit (or discourage less) copying when an item is not available for legal purchase or when the copying is for non-commercial or research purposes, while other countries may make such practices firmly illegal. There is often a distinction drawn between distribution and downloading, with distribution being seen as the greater offence.
Commercial distribution of ROMs
Commercial distribution of copyrighted games without the consent of the copyright holder is generally illegal in almost all countries, with those who take part in that activity being liable for both criminal and civil penalties.
Download Wii ROMs
More than 1,000 Revolution (Nintendo Wii Codename) controller development kits have been sent out to various software houses in order to familiarize studios with the workings of the device.
Confirmed Wii Emulated Games
Bonk's Adventure TurboGrafx 16 New Adventure Island] TurboGrafx 16 R-Type TurboGrafx 16 Super Mario Bros. NES Super Mario World SNES Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis Super Mario 64 Nintendo 64
Virtual Console is the name of a new video game download service offered by Nintendo, accessible to users of the company's upcoming console, the Wii. Described (by CEO Satoru Iwata) as “the video game version of Apple’s iTunes music store”, the service will feature classic titles from past Nintendo consoles (from the NES to the N64) as well as from formerly competing systems, such as the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16. Virtual Console may also offer new and original content from independent developers. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has indicated that new small-scale titles could be developed and sold through the Virtual Console at a price of between ¥500 and ¥1000 (approximately US$4-$9, GB£2-£5), and that free downloads may be offered as a bonus with the purchase of specific Wii titles.