Kodi users are being warned about a new add-on craze that could land them in hot water.
Popular Kodi repository TVAddons has published a new blog post detailing how users will be able to play retro games in the upcoming 18 Leia build.
In the post, they wrote: “Retro gaming is the newest feature being introduced in the upcoming release of Kodi 18 Leia.
“Now you’ll be able to play all your favourite video games directly through Kodi, no additional hardware required.
“In addition to Kodi offering built-in emulators, there is a new addon called the Internet Archive ROM Launcher which allows you to download vintage video games on the fly, free of charge!”
TVAddons gives a detailed guide on how to play retro games in Kodi 18 Leia, which currently is in beta ahead of full release date later on.
But there is just one issue – leading video games companies have already warned users about the legalities of downloading old retro games.
To play an old retro game on a PC or Mac, you need two things – emulators and ROMs.
Emulators are programmes that emulate an old console like a Super Nintendo or Mega Drive.
Whereas ROMs are files containing all the data for specific games, like Sonic or Mario, that can be loaded up and played using an emulator.
Emulators are set to be built into Kodi 18 Leia, whereas ROMs will be downloadable via the Internet Archive ROM Launcher add-on.
But Kodi fans tempted to try out this brand new feature need to be aware of the official position from video game companies on downloading retro games.
Nintendo has an in-depth post on their website about ROMs, emulators and the copyright surrounding them.
And discussing ROMs, in no uncertain terms, Nintendo said: “It is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet.”
It’s quite a widely held belief that ROMs are fine to download if you own the original cartridge or disc for the game in question.
However, Nintendo said: “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.”
Discussing emulators, Nintendo added: “The introduction of emulators created to play illegally copied Nintendo software represents the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers.
“As is the case with any business or industry, when its products become available for free, the revenue stream supporting that industry is threatened.
“Such emulators have the potential to significantly damage a worldwide entertainment software industry which generates over $15 billion annually, and tens of thousands of jobs.”
Video game lawyer Jas Purewal, from digital entertainment and technology legal firm Purewal & Partners LLP, previously spoke to TechRadar about the legalities of ROMs.
He said: “The argument that a videogame device manufacturer or a videogames developer can make against emulation is quite simple: emulation constitutes IP infringement, specifically infringement of copyright law and potentially of trademark law principles.
“IP law is not set up to recognise emulation, and consequently almost any type of emulation runs the risk of infringing IP law in some way, shape or form.
“In fact, it gets worse for emulators, because specific laws were passed in the 1990s and 2000s which were specifically designed to stop different types of piracy.
“But they also potentially stop emulation.
“These were called ‘technological protection measures’ or ‘TPMs’. So many countries have TPMs as part of their IP law.
“And so, the basic IP law position, plus the specific legal changes introduced to combat piracy, all mean that the basic legal position is against emulators.”