Pirating videogames I already own

This is a complicated moral issue, so hang in there with me. I will try and be as direct and simple as possible.

I purchased a handheld videogame device that is made privately by tech enthusiast’s. Think a garage built Nintendo gameboy. This device is legal to sell and own. The device has software that allows it to play several types of games from game boy to super Nintendo to Sega to PlayStation. This software is also legal to sell and own.

It’s basically like having all your favorite classic videogame consoles on one modern device.

These games are loaded on to the device as digital files. You can get these digital files online for free. It is illegal to distribute or download these digital files because of copywriter law.

Since the handheld I purchased came with several games on a memory card already, I was planning on only playing the games that I own a physical copy of. I own dozens of classic games. It is illegal to play these digital files even though I own the physical games. Unless I create the digital file myself.

So to abide by the law, I would need to create my own digital copy from my physical copies. This will be quite a redundant journey. Most of these games are 20 to 30 years old, and some of these games you can only play illegally because they don’t make the games anymore. You can buy these games digital which I have several of them, but I can’t centralize them on to one console like I’m trying to do. Unless I use the illegal digital files.

The question is now, is it a sin to use the illegal digital copies of games that I did not create myself, even though I still have the physical copy? Or am I just violating a redundant copywrite law that is in place to prevent abuse of software?

Thank you in advance for taking the time to offer your insight.

God bless

1 Like

Your name being “obsessive morality” makes it seem like you are perhaps scrupulous and as such, I would suggest speaking with a priest


I may be way wrong here morally. And I am a bit of a zealot on this, so caveat emptor. But here it goes.

The DMCA and the way it has been interpreted and enforced (look up ‘Right to Repair’ sometime) to me is just rent seeking by the corporations who use it. They have zero compunction tracking you, selling your data, or even harming your machines (See Sony Rootkit scandal).

Sure, you are violating the letter of the law and the way they enforce it. But given that their enforcement is done through the use of lobbyists who warp things I don’t see how you can get a fair shake on that score.

You are adhering to the spirit of the law. You have paid the creators of the code. You could get the data to this game laboriously. You are simply choosing to do it more expediently.

So no, I see no sin here. Stealing is a sin. You aren’t doing that.


One of my parent’s friends tried to copy Startrek DVDs and it didn’t work.

With video games I think that you can safely play games 20-30 years old without getting arrested. I don’t think it is a sin either.
I play on my dad’s Gameboy sometimes.

1 Like

I’m going to say that if you already paid for the game then it’s not stealing to pirate a copy for your own use - after all you’re not depriving the developers of money since you did buy it legally first.

There are legitimate reasons to do this; sometimes a game is extremely buggy and the pirated version fixes those bugs, or sometimes a game was made with obnoxious or game-ruining DRM which the pirated version removes. Or sometimes a game won’t be released in your language but the pirated version is. Or maybe the game wasn’t released for your region and just won’t work on your computer, and you’re not willing to buy a whole new computer just to abide arbitrary restrictions when the pirated version isn’t region-locked.

As much as game companies like to pretend digital pirates are all evil, usually they’re as much at fault. Electronic Arts is not a bastion of moral purity, as it turns out.


The name does raise some eyebrows, but I’m gonna go with the other posters here. If you already paid the owners for a copy of said game, there’s no reason to expect more payment for the same exact product. Companies that expect this are more wrong than those that try skirting around those regulations.


The rule of thumb I follow is that if it was ever possible for me to legally own a copy of the game (in my region) I need to make a good faith effort to get an actual version before I start getting into other methods. That doesn’t mean that the money has to go to the original creator (because that’s often not possible), nor does it mean I have to pay 5x the original price because the cartridge is now a collectors item. It might mean tracking down a badly ported version so I have an official release.

The thing about “piracy” is that there are some legitimate arguments for it (unavailability, translations, fixes, upscaling, etc), but they are often used to mask theft for convenience’s sake. By making the effort I can take the convenience element out of the equation and make sure the rest actually are legitimate reasons and not excuses.

1 Like

I don’t think so. You already bought it, it’s not being supported anymore, no provision was made for backward compatibility, and the IP owner has apparently abandoned any expectation of gaining further income from new sales. You’re just trying to continue to use a program that you already paid for.

I’m a staunch defender of intellectual property rights, and putting myself into the place of the IP owner can help clairfy questions like this for me. If I were the owner, what you’re doing wouldn’t bother me at all.

So I decided to spend $100 some odd dollars to get a device that “dumps” or copies cartridge games to my computer. So now I can legally obtain copies of my physical games. However there’s a new dilemma; I have several digital games that can only be played on specific devices. I tried several times to convert the files, but it turns out Sony has encrypted the files, and the programs I need to reverse the encryption are no longer available (psxtract). Psn eboot.pbp to .bin. they’re encrypted.

So I asked a few tech gurus and just waiting to here back. I feel like this would be one of the reasonable scenarios you all have described.

Also I don’t understand the eyebrow raising comments about my screen name? Is it bad? Lol

Search for the term “scrupulosity” within Catholic resources.

1 Like

That does sound like me, lol. Dysfunctional.

Maybe I’m off base, but I see inconvenient laws like this as just disciplines from authority to follow. It doesn’t have to make sense, I just keep it. Violating a law like this, especially for something that is not a necessity, so no lasting and genuine good comes of it, seems to be a sin.

One thing… are we sure the copyrights are still valid on these games? The only reason I ask is that there’s a ton of abandonware out there and I’ve been enjoying playing old games online or through emulators.

*** Edit. I took down the links because it was pointed out to me that the old games are still copyrighted.

1 Like

Maybe I’m just being obtuse, but I can’t see a problem with this. You paid for the games fair and square. If your ingenuity allows you to find a new way to play them, then no harm done, you’re not stealing anything.

Sometimes I will find a PDF of a book I already own. The PDF is easier to handle and search. So I download and use it. Same principle. I’ve already paid for the book. How I use it, is up to me.


Abandonware game are 99.9% still copyrighted. " Those ignorant of copyright law have incorrectly taken this to mean that abandonware is legal to distribute, although no software written since 1964 is old enough for copyright to have expired in the US.[82] Even in cases where the original company no longer exists, the rights usually belong to someone else, though no one may be able to trace actual ownership, including the owners themselves. "

It is just people have decided to pirate them. It isn’t really different from pirating a new game, people have just decided a game seems old enough and abandoned to them, so it fine to take.


I didn’t know that at all! Thank you so much!

1 Like

I have no problem paying for intellectual property, but like the OP, I do not pay for it over and over, unless I have to, which I do. A lot. Games more than music.

Metroid, Final Fantasy, Zelda, are a few of the franchises I have kept afloat buying multiple platforms. Using the Golden Rule, I would never expect anyone to make multiple purchases of anything I had. Legally, what constitutes fair use in the mind of software companies, software users, and the courts, is not always the same. So do what you think right based on the Golden Rule, and worry not. Pony up if you have to.

1 Like

I was at a comic con last year and came across one booth that had this device which came preloaded with hundreds of classic games. It was designed to plug into your tv.

I tried it out at the booth, but I had moral qualms about purchasing it after thinking about it for a few minutes. I knew these games had to all be under copyright. Did the designer of the device seek out copyright permission for all these games? Seemed unlikely to me. Further research when I got home confirmed my hesitation.

I don’t think I was being scrupulous about this. Copyright laws are not inherently unjust, and video games are a luxury, not a necessity. If there wasn’t a way to ensure the copyright owner was duly compensated, for the purchase of a product I didn’t really need, I felt the only moral choice was to do without.

1 Like
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.