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Are the ROM's here legal?

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Question, are the ROM's here legal? I would like to get into Atari gaming (I love retro 8-bit games) and into the culture as a whole, but I'm wondering where can I get free and legal roms for the Atari 8-bit computer. I'm trying to do things as legal as possible. I know, if I'm not mistaken, that there are a bunch of roms here for various Atari systems, but is legal to download them?

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That's gray area. Some ROMs are considered abandoned but Atari brand name and many of Atari owned games are still being made available in Flashback. So far the rights holder have not taken interest in ordering ROMs removed.

 

Activision and Imagic ROMs are actively protected and AA does not offer them on their site.

 

You should be fine downloading any of them, FBI aren't going to bust the door down for downloading a protected ROM. Just don't share them if you don't want to deal with legal mess.

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Technically every Atari ROM is copyrighted unless that copyright has been specifically renounced. Copyrights are automatic when a work is created and the copyright period is either life plus 70 years, or 95 years total, depending on whether the copyright is held by an individual author or a corporation.

 

However, in copyright law there is the concept of an "implied license". This is where the grey area exists, because this hasn't ever really been tested in court with regard to old game ROMs. But it's been tested in other areas. Basically an implied license exists when the copyright holder knows about a use of their work but doesn't bother to offer an explicit license and does nothing else about it for some reasonable amount of time. The user of the copyright could argue in court that since no action was taken even after the copyright holder knew about the use, they could reasonably assume to have an implied license.

 

That doesn't mean the copyright owner couldn't still demand the ROMs be taken down at any time, just that they wouldn't be due any damages for the time the ROMs were up. An implied license can be revoked more easily than an explicit license, since nothing's in writing to start with.

 

I'm sure that all of the Atari game copyright holders know about AtariAge, yet no action has ever been taken against the site that I know of, though it sounds like Activision and Imagic have revoked their implied license.

 

As an end user, though, you really have nothing to worry about. I'm not even sure you as a user *could* be breaking any law, implied license or not. There are arguments back and forth on this all over the place online, even among actual lawyers, but I've dealt with these kinds of issues for my job and consequently I've read through copyright law a bunch of times myself. Everything I remember in the law talks about things like making copies, distributing them and profiting from them. I don't remember reading anything about downloading a file for only yourself, or even buying a DVD for yourself that you know to be a copy. The law is specifically concerned with people who copy and distribute.

 

A few years ago when the record labels went against individual "downloaders", what they really got them for was *sharing* those works, because when you download from a P2P service, you automatically start sharing and distributing the stuff you download. AFAIK, nobody was even sued civilly for going to a regular web site hosting a file and downloading something and keeping it for themselves, and I have a feeling that's because people who do that aren't breaking any laws at all, civil or criminal. Of course the record labels didn't publicize that, and repeatedly referred to "downloading" music in all their press releases because that's how they wanted to scare people, but the actual lawsuits were about distribution. And that's something AA would need to worry about, not you, but again AA probably has an implied license on the ROMs they do host.

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I agree with what others have said ... the commercial value of Atari 8-bit stuff is long gone, and the current brand holders don't seem interested in monetizing their old stuff. Whether it's "legal" or not is largely irrelevant in this case, in my opinion.

 

If it makes you feel better, there's a good collection of software on Internet Archive, who is more explicit about their legal posture than anyone here:

https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_atari

 

"Some of the content available through the Archive may be governed by local, national, and/or international laws and regulations, and your use of such content is solely at your own risk. You agree to abide by all applicable laws and regulations, including intellectual property laws, in connection with your use of the Archive. In particular, you certify that your use of any part of the Archive's Collections will be limited to noninfringing or fair use under copyright law."

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Really, going through this again? Download them and use them, nobody gives a crap about 30+ year old game roms FOR PERSONAL USE. Nobody is going to report you or knock down your door over it. Now, repackaging them for sales / profit, that is a whole different can of worms.

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free and legal

Pick one, for the commercially released games. Two for most of the homebrew, but it's probably not what you're after.

 

Overall, if you still have some sort of moral qualms, think of it this way: without people playing these games "illegally" over the decades, and in doing so keeping the whole retro gaming hobby and community alive, the modern Atari right holders wouldn't be making profits off their assorted "legacy" products.

 

That applies to most of teh romz/abandonware btw.

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If you want to be as legal as possible, buy the Atari vault on steam for $10 while using the resources here. Flashbacks are sold out; what more can you do?

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Thanks, guys, for all your responses. I appreciate them greatly, especially this one:

 

Technically every Atari ROM is copyrighted unless that copyright has been specifically renounced. Copyrights are automatic when a work is created and the copyright period is either life plus 70 years, or 95 years total, depending on whether the copyright is held by an individual author or a corporation.

 

However, in copyright law there is the concept of an "implied license". This is where the grey area exists, because this hasn't ever really been tested in court with regard to old game ROMs. But it's been tested in other areas. Basically an implied license exists when the copyright holder knows about a use of their work but doesn't bother to offer an explicit license and does nothing else about it for some reasonable amount of time. The user of the copyright could argue in court that since no action was taken even after the copyright holder knew about the use, they could reasonably assume to have an implied license.

 

That doesn't mean the copyright owner couldn't still demand the ROMs be taken down at any time, just that they wouldn't be due any damages for the time the ROMs were up. An implied license can be revoked more easily than an explicit license, since nothing's in writing to start with.

 

I'm sure that all of the Atari game copyright holders know about AtariAge, yet no action has ever been taken against the site that I know of, though it sounds like Activision and Imagic have revoked their implied license.

 

As an end user, though, you really have nothing to worry about. I'm not even sure you as a user *could* be breaking any law, implied license or not. There are arguments back and forth on this all over the place online, even among actual lawyers, but I've dealt with these kinds of issues for my job and consequently I've read through copyright law a bunch of times myself. Everything I remember in the law talks about things like making copies, distributing them and profiting from them. I don't remember reading anything about downloading a file for only yourself, or even buying a DVD for yourself that you know to be a copy. The law is specifically concerned with people who copy and distribute.

 

A few years ago when the record labels went against individual "downloaders", what they really got them for was *sharing* those works, because when you download from a P2P service, you automatically start sharing and distributing the stuff you download. AFAIK, nobody was even sued civilly for going to a regular web site hosting a file and downloading something and keeping it for themselves, and I have a feeling that's because people who do that aren't breaking any laws at all, civil or criminal. Of course the record labels didn't publicize that, and repeatedly referred to "downloading" music in all their press releases because that's how they wanted to scare people, but the actual lawsuits were about distribution. And that's something AA would need to worry about, not you, but again AA probably has an implied license on the ROMs they do host.

I didn't know about that all. Thank you Spacecadet

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Here's a conviction for downloading (not uploading/distributing). It's illegal but might not be criminal. Don't take legal advice from lawyers, only a judge determines if something is illegal.

 

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7122133/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/teen-convicted-illegal-net-downloads/

 

Distribution is a much more serious crime however. So be carefull with torrents. If you have active torrents you're uploading/distributing.

 

The implied license argument might be a bit of a stretch because it depends on the copyright owner's inaction and not anything that they did to imply a license. You need some case law precedence to support it either way.

Edited by mr_me

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I think it's worth pointing out that the Parvin Dhaliwal case was 13 years ago, there was a huge amount of material being distributed, including unreleased movies, which he was selling.

 

The FBI found more than $50 million in music and movies on Dhaliwal's computer. The illegally copied property included movies that, at the time of the theft, were available only in theaters. They included "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Matrix Revolutions," "The Cat In The Hat," and "Mona Lisa Smile."

A federal task force that monitors the Internet caught on to the student and got a warrant, Garza said, adding that Dhaliwal was copying and selling the pirated material.

 

I wonder how a prosecutor would value the ROMs on this page? Thrift store value? Original retail prices? Atari stock price?

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The article says he was only convicted of "posession of counterfeit marks or, unauthorized copies of intellectual property". Maybe It was part of a plea bargain that more serious charges be dropped or maybe there wasn't enough evidence to convict him of other crimes.

Edited by mr_me

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The article says he was only convicted of posession of "unauthorized copies of intellectual property". Maybe It was part of a plea bargain that more serious charges be dropped or maybe there wasn't enough evidence to convict him of other crimes.

 

Yes. Plus he was a young person with a first offense. Nevertheless, we haven't seen many high-profile convictions of this kind of thing. I suspect the courts don't want to jam up the legal system with noise, and ISPs don't want to cut off the hands of its users for doing what they do. I think the takeaway is that the ROMs on this site are mostly harmless.

 

post-2410-0-12542000-1528139474_thumb.png

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Yes but the question was, is it legal; not will you be prosecuted. Someone coming to this site might think the rom files are here with the permission of the copyright owners, and some of the rom files here do have that permission.

Edited by mr_me
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You could pick up "Atari 80 classic games in one!" for PC and play a bunch of classics in emulation on your computer or you could pick up an Atari Flashback off ebay or your local Target, Best Buy or whatever and play on your Television. All totally legal.

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Here's a conviction for downloading (not uploading/distributing). It's illegal but might not be criminal. Don't take legal advice from lawyers, only a judge determines if something is illegal.

 

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7122133/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/teen-convicted-illegal-net-downloads/

 

Distribution is a much more serious crime however. So be carefull with torrents. If you have active torrents you're uploading/distributing.

 

The implied license argument might be a bit of a stretch because it depends on the copyright owner's inaction and not anything that they did to imply a license. You need some case law precedence to support it either way.

Apples to oranges. The kid was actively selling bootleg copies of the stuff he'd downloaded and making a profit. If they'd just been taking up space on his hard drive, nobody would have come a knocking.

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Apples to oranges. The kid was actively selling bootleg copies of the stuff he'd downloaded and making a profit. If they'd just been taking up space on his hard drive, nobody would have come a knocking.

 

Right, but as mr_me points out, "is it illegal" is technically a different question than "does anyone care?"

 

I was hung up on the latter as well!

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There were lots of cases of copyright harrasment in Europe back in the day, not sure about now:

 

The computer games industry, worth an estimated £2 billion, also sought compensation for copyright infringement. Five major game companies: Atari, Codemasters, TopWare Interactive, Reality Pump and Techland, sent notices to over 25,000 UK Internet users they feel have breached their copyright by downloading or sharing games on file sharing websites. The companies demanded a payment of £300 in order to settle the matter out of court, warning that non-payment would result in legal action. In what was a landmark case in terms of file sharing, one company, Topware Interactive, took a user, Isabella Barwinska, to court over copyright infringement of its game Dream Pinball 3D, which had been illegally downloaded, uploaded, and shared with many other users. The court found in favour of Topware Interactive and imposed a penalty of £16,000. Following this case Topware Interactive began planning action against those Internet users known to have downloaded the game from Mrs. Barwinska even though there was no financial gain involved.[10]

 

 

Even the PC sacred cow CD Projekt Red got into this in some point, sending nice letters about that Witcher copy you might've downloaded. Or, might've not, since this method is based on IP records, so it did not discriminate between your flatmate or somebdoy hitching on your wireless.

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As long as you do a "get" you are OK in the US. Distribution [let say sharing] or intent to distribute is a no no. So if you grab via link click [wget] or usenet download there are no issues. Torrents would be a rather bad idea as inherent to them is sharing. So unlike what you parents taught you as a child sharing or intents thereof is bad

Edited by JL

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That's like saying if you only speed by no more than 15km/h on the highway, you should be okay.

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That's like saying if you only speed by no more than 15km/h on the highway, you should be okay.

 

115km/h in germany :)

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136km/h here in Texas.. icon_smile.gif

 

..Al

I didn't think there were any kilometers (or metric anything) in Texas, land of the ten gallon hat and all that.

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I didn't think there were any kilometers (or metric anything) in Texas, land of the ten gallon hat and all that.

 

No, but I did the conversion. :P

 

..Al

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136km/h here in Texas.. :)

 

attachicon.giftexas_85.jpg

 

..Al

 

Don't forget in Germany we have Autobahn areas with "Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger" which means NO tempolimit at all. Now make the conversion of that. :D

Edited by AW127
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