Hello

I've been looking for advice/clarification on what is quite a tricky legal area regarding Emulation in general as far as using emulation in a commercial, mass produced commercial product.



So, there are a lot of 3rd party devices you can buy on Amazon or Ebay that emulate classic consoles - a quick search shows loads emulating Sega Genesis and SNES era consoles, at ever reducing prices, usually with several hundred games included, etc. I'm not talking about hobbyists kitting out a Rasberry Pi to allow emulation of all types and selling for $75-to $150+, but small - mass produced units that have been transferred to PCB's and are being mass produced and aimed at the cheaper end of the market.

I've been looking into the possibility of trying to develop such a product utilising PS1 emulation, however - while I know I could design a prototype, with working emulators - and I've a basic understanding as to how I could get that transferred for mass manufacture, I keep coming back to the whole legal issue with regards to Emulation, the game roms and in particular with the PS1, the BIOS.

My brief understanding is that creating a product that utilises an open source PS1 emulator isn't illegal. Packing in a load of ROM's, well that's a grey area, and the thorny issue of the BIOS is that you're absolutely not allowed to redistribute the official BIOS's that may or may not be available to download on the web.

Now, I know both Sega and Nintendo have actually cashed in on this market themselves - there are lots of licensed Genesis emulators consoles, and Nintendo themselves have had great success with the NES and SNES mini, but I've not heard about either of them (surprisingly not even the Big N) taking legal action against unlicensed devices - and there are literally loads of them. They work straight out of the box, deliver a reasonable playing experience and usually contain all the games you'd expect.

To me it seems natural that the PS1 is next in line for products of this nature, and significantly, being that it was the console that put gaming on the mainstream map, it's surely going to be a big money spinner.

So, here are the crux of my questions;

1) Firstly, will Sony take a different view than Sega and Nintendo's fairly lenient stance? As I said above, this is the console that bought gaming to the masses - a low cost, 3rd party dedicated emulator based console ought to be popular. Would Sony sit up and take notice of the revenue that is being made on it by other companies?

2) Assuming they don't, presumably the next biggest legal hurdle would be this business of the BIOS. Am I right in thinking that it would be illegal to distribute a 3rd party device with the official PS BIOS already pre-installed? Has any emulator ever come up with a legal workaround for this? I've read about some early PS1 emulators utilising some kind of simulator BIOS, but got no idea how that works. Interestingly, my son has a gaming tablet with a PS1 emulator on it that worked straight out of the box - I didn't have to find a BIOS to use with it. It's a BlazeTab, I'm just wondering how on Earth they got around this tricky legal problem.

So, that's the kind of thing I'm trying to clarify before going to far in terms of research and development of a product that might turn out not be saleable. Obviously, in keeping with the rules of this forum, I don't want to know about the known illegal ways of doing things as I've only just joined the forum and don't want to get banned!!! But I'd be keen to know exactly how far you can stretch the law to achieve this without the risk of being horribly sued!!!!