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Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2004) - page 4 / 30





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An emulator is a piece of hardware/software that allows a user to execute game software on a platform for which the software was not originally intended. For example, video game emulators allow a personal computer to function almost identically to a video game console or an arcade game system.


There exist three basic types of emulators—pure software, pure hardware, and hybrid systems21—which are detailed in Exhibit 1.22 The video game emulator, the focus of our research, is characteristic of the pure software form, also known as a ‘true’ emulator. The elements required to create a pure software video game emulator platform are shown in Figure 1.


To create a software-based video game emulator, the operating system of the video console must be either reverse engineered or extracted through a basic input/output

Vol. 2:2]

James Conley,

Universal (and Disney) were an unlawful infringement of legal technology. Universal argued that Sony's new Betamax videocassette recorder (“VCR”) permitted the unlawful duplication of their copyrighted television programs. The case worked its way through the courts, eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court who eventually ruled that private, non-commercial copying of television broadcasts does indeed qualify as fair use: [Even when an entire copyrighted work was recorded, such copying is deemed fair use] because there is no

accompanying reduction in the market for [the] plaintiff's original work . . . A use that has no demonstrable effect upon the potential market for, or the value of, the copyrighted work need not be prohibited in order to protect the author's incentive to create.


for backward compatibility, Sony configured its PlayStation2 (“PS2”) to support games developed for the original PlayStation.17 As the first console manufacturer to offer backward compatibility, it has generated substantial customer good will.18 Yet Sony can do more. In the early 1980s, Sony fought for the diffusion of the Betamax VCR technology that culminated in the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling,

, which held that the delayed rebroadcast of a movie to an individual qualified as fair use.19 Yet now that Sony owns the content (games) and someone else owns the new, threatening technology (emulation software), Sony is using its own legal team to fight the new technology.20 We submit that there is another approach. Rather than behaving reactively by suing emulators until they are driven out of business or are acquired and dismantled, Sony and its fellow console manufacturers need to behave proactively by harnessing emulation to their competitive advantage.

17 18 19


is often cited by “free software” advocates concerning personal duplication of computer



464 U.S. 417, 422 (1984). In this now-famous “Betamax case,” Sony argued that court actions by

software that is not intended for anything beyond private use, and has been successfully used on more than



note 5.

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/EmuFAQ2000 (last visited Apr. 1, 2004). Appendix Exhibit 1: Types of Emulation. (Exhibits are appended; figures are embedded.) 22

one occasion to defend the practice for various and sundry reasons. This is not a successful defense for software piracy, though, since such piracy is direct, not contributory, infringement.

20 21



C o n n e c t i x C o r p . , 2 0 3 F . 3 d a t 5 9 6 ;


2 1 4 F . 3 d a t 1 0 2 2

Sam Pettus,

, EMUFAQ (1999),


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