Emulation:  Right or Wrong?
aka "The EmuFAQ"


copyright (c) 1999 Sam Pettus (aka "the Scribe"), all rights reserved

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We build our computers like we build our cities - over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.
- Ellen Ullman, "The dumbing-down of programming," Salon, 8 May 1998
     This document was originally conceived in late April of 1999 in an effort to find for myself the answer as to whether or not emulation was legal; hence, the title Emulation:  Right or Wrong?  Let me state for the record that I am not an attorney, nor am I an emulation expert.  I'm a former computer consultant (onetime youthful hacker) turned writer and researcher who has used his God-given talents in an effort to put this issue at rest once and for all.  I ask forgiveness from those who may know more on these topics than do I, as I have done my best to keep things simple and straightforward.  I also beg the indulgence of those outside the United States who may be reading this for their own edification, as it relies primarily upon that country's legal system for its examples.

About the Author

     Sam Pettus, better known to the emulation community as "the Scribe" for all of the writing and research that he has done on emulation, is a middle-aged bachelor with a wide and wild history despite his youth.  Reading his job resume is almost like reading an instruction book on computing, becasue he has been involved in almost every major area of personal computer usage from one kind to another.  Whether it be hacking copy-protection schemes on his old Commodore 64 as a teenager or enjoying the life of a freelance personal computer consultant as an adult, he has done just about everything from Apple IIs to the Newtek Video Toaster.  It was in 1983 that he got his literal "baptism in fire" with computers, when his Baptist minister father bought him a Commodore C64 and Datasette on the condition that he write a program to help the neighborhood church manage its membership records.  Since then he has worked with computers in one form or another at every job he has held since his youth, from simple clerical work to vice-president of a computer training company.
     Sam's love of computers almost put him in jail, though, when he and the hacker group that he led narrowly escaped arrest as part of the Operation Sun Devil sweep against all forms of unauthorized computer hacking during the spring and summer of 1990.  From that moment on he made a point of doing his best to stay on the straight and narrow and avoid any further involvement in the burgeoning bootleg videogam software market.  He spent the next seven years involved primarily in the applications and training side of the computer industry, including one full year of unemployment during the industry shakeout of 1991 - 1993, and refused to involve himself with videogames again until 1997.  That was when a friend gave him a shareware copy of DOOM early in the year, and that excellent shooter reawakened his long-dormant interest in a sorely missed pasttime.  He now uses his knowledge of software and systems past and present to help the emulation community, and his sorrow at its current troubles (remembering his own with Sun Devil) were what led him to write the EmuFAQ.

About the Illustrator

     David Lloyd, a.k.a "The Creator" is the heart, soul, and absence of mind behind the emulation's first-ever comic strip, OverClocked.  He is a twenty-something artist, writer, and composer who lives a guilty bourgeois lifestyle in Northern Virginia, USA, where he bosses around his creations, Professor Pretzel and Green, on a regular basis.  In doing OverClocked, he hopes to make
emulation more accessible to those who follow the scene but might not catch everything that's going on.  David likes chocolate, MEKA (a highly regarded Sega 8-bit system emulator), The Clash, NeoRageX (a highly regarded NeoGeo emulator), and Parker Posey.  He remixes videogame music as well, and hopes one
day to score games or even films.  According to him, "I have not been, am not, and never will be 'l33t'."
     The author would like to take this opportunity to thank David Lloyd for granting his permission for the use of selected OverClocked strips in the EmuFAQ.  If you would like to see the complete OverClocked, be sure to check out the official OverClocked website.



___   1999: The EmuYear In Review

(a recounting in brief of one of the most formative years in the recent history of emulation)
Module One:  The Emulator

___   Part 1 - The Basis for Emulation

(the fundamental concept behind emulation; reasons for emulation; a brief recounting of the birth of emulation)
___   Part 2 - Developing an Emulator
(the concept of intellectual property; a brief introduction to patents, copyrights, and trademarks; how the concept of intellectual property relates to emulator development)
___   Part 3 - Releasing an Emulator
(vendor concerns vs. developer desires; the economics of emulation; guidelines to determine the legality of an emulator prior to its release)

Module Two:  The Software

___   Part 1 - Establishing the Software Base

(the economics of "free software" and its implications; the problems posed by software piracy; what the law really says regarding possible intellectual property infringement of computer software; the concept of "fair use" and how it does not justify software piracy)
___   Part 2 - Altering the Software Base
(a look at software bootlegging; common questions concerning "ROMs;" the practice of "ROM" hacking, and " BIOS dumps; implications of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act)
___   Part 3 - Supporting the Software Base
(Internet-related issues; the emulation scene and the "ROM" sites; the issues involved in setting up and maintaining a 100% legal emulation site)

Module Three:  The Implications

___   Part 1 - In Defense of Programming Freedom

(the favorable stance taken by the emufans towards emulation)
___   Part 2 - In Defense of Corporate Assets
(the opposing stance taken by the vendor community against emulation)
___   Part 3 - Reflections
(personal insights by the author into the past, present, and future of emulation)
Y2K Addendum:  The Effects

___   Sony v. Connectix: Analysis and Implications

(an analysis of the court case that legalized unlicensed emulation for all time)
___   The Question of ROMs
(guest author Chuck Cochems tackles the thorny issue of ROMs for personal use)
___   Aftermath
(the author bids a fond farewell to the emuscene)

Case Law Summaries

Emulation Timeline

Here is a list of mirror sites that maintain copies of the EmuFAQ.

     Eidolon's Inn -->   http://eidolon.psp.net

Everything you wanted to know about Sega home videogame consoles can be found here, including the Genesis Game Guide - the Scribe's very first emulation-related FAQ and the definitive catalog to the Genesis/MegaDrive videogame ligrary.
     The Vintage Gaming Network - http://www.vintagegaming.com
Formerly known as Dave's Video Game Classics, this is by far the most popular emusite on the World Wide Web.  Although for the most part dedicated to MAME and other arcade game emulators, it does provide decent coverage of other forms of emulation, and is highly recommended as a good starting point for emunewbies.
     Zophar's Domain - http://www.zophar.net
One of the oldest and best general-purpose Internet emulation sites still in operation, Zophar's is home to the extended Emulation Timeline, A History of Emulation.
     Emulation HQ (EmuHQ) - http://www.emuhq.com
One of the very first NextGen emulation sites, this remains an excellent place to monitor continuing developments in emulation's newest phase of development.

The EmuFAQ (c) 1999 Sam Pettus - section last revised 16 March 2000