EDIT: I have finished my research. Downloading ripped ROMs is illegal even if you own the cartridge and even if you get permission from the company, because you are promoting illegal activity (distributing them is illegal for sure). Dumping them yourself is not. I am going to delete the Banjo Tooie file the next time I use the computer it is on. (I live in the U.S., and here most game dumping devices have been made illegal to sell, too. At least I have an N64 now.)
All right, so as you guys know, I've been emulating Banjo Tooie while owning the cartridge for the past few months. As Flex and Charge will know, the multiplayer gets much more fun once you unlock the speedy little scout, Jinjo, in the single player game, which takes several hours even if you know how to do it, which I didn't.
About a week ago I finally unlocked Jinjo. But hold the fanfare... after ONE DAY of playing with it, while I was on Nintendo's site looking for information about the copyrights of NES games, I happened across their little emulation FAQ. Lies, lies, and more lies... but it looks like their position may be correct anyway, which has saddened us to no end. We just want to blast each other's little jinjos with puppet eggs on our PC, Nintendo!
Let's look at the shameless lies, shall we...
LIE 1 (Nintendo in italics):
What is a Nintendo Video Game Emulator?
A Nintendo emulator is a software program that is designed to allow game play on a platform that it was not created for. A Nintendo emulator software allows for Nintendo console based or arcade games to be played on personal computers. The video games are obtained by downloading illegally copied software, i.e. Nintendo ROMs, from Internet distributors. Nintendo ROMs then work with the Nintendo emulator to enable game play on the computer.
One thing I did find is that emulators aren't illegal, just the ROMs are. Nintendo doesn't say that here, but they do have a history of shutting down sites with no ROMs but a bunch of emulators, saying that they too are illegal, which is a lie.
However, they do say that the video games are obtained by downloading illegally copied software, which isn't true... while it is illegal to distribute ROMs, it isn't illegal to dump your own with a game copying device. You could use that with an emulator.
Can I Download a Nintendo ROM from the Internet if I Already Own the Authentic Game?
There is a good deal of misinformation on the Internet regarding the backup/archival copy exception. It is not a "second copy" rule and is often mistakenly cited for the proposition that if you have one lawful copy of a copyrighted work, you are entitled to have a second copy of the copyrighted work even if that second copy is an infringing copy. The backup/archival copy exception is a very narrow limitation relating to a copy being made by the rightful owner of an authentic game to ensure he or she has one in the event of damage or destruction of the authentic. Therefore, whether you have an authentic game or not, or whether you have possession of a Nintendo ROM for a limited amount of time, i.e. 24 hours, it is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet.
This one is absolutely wrong... they're referring, I believe, to section 117 of U.S. copyright law. However, there are multiple parts of section 117... and only one of them, A2, is about archival copies. Section A says it is legal to make or authorize the making* of a copy if it is for A1 or A2, and A1 is about "using the copy with a machine". So it is clearly legal to dump your own, and it might be legal to download them. They quote one part of an "and/or", the part that benefits them, and act as if the other part doesn't exist.
Are Game Copying Devices Illegal?
Yes. Game copiers enable users to illegally copy video game software onto floppy disks, writeable compact disks or the hard drive of a personal computer. They enable the user to make, play and distribute illegal copies of video game software which violates Nintendo's copyrights and trademarks. These devices also allow for the uploading and downloading of ROMs to and from the Internet. Based upon the functions of these devices, they are illegal.
We cleared up in the above LIE sections that it is illegal to distribute the ROMs you copy, but not illegal to dump them for yourself. Also, Game Copiers have other functions (programmers making legal mods of games) and so they have legal purposes, and are thus not illegal devices. Edit: Most have been stopped from being sold in the U.S. by one of everyone's favorite prementioned video game companies, so here they might be illegal.
That wraps this up. The asterisk in the rebuttal to LIE 2 is the only remaining problem for me... I don't know if downloading someone else's copy counts as making or authorizing the making of a copy for me. It looks like it could... but then it easily couldn't as well. I want to contact Rare LTD and ask for permission, but I can't find a "contact us" on their website, only a "leave your comments to the webmaster".