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The contents of game cartridges can be extracted with special software, creating files known as ROM images for use in emulators. Illegal distribution and trade of these ROM images is hugely popular in software piracy circles, where the files are commonly referred to as "roms" (or even "romz", which has a connotation with "warez") even though the term is technically incorrect. The term is so widespread that it has even started to refer to computer games that do not come on cartridges, but instead on floppy disks or CD-ROMs.
Usage of such files is usually a violation of copyright or sui generis mask work rights unless your jurisdiction has a fair use protection. Many people believe that games that are no longer sold by official companies ("Abandonware") should be allowed to be downloaded, as the company would not suffer profit loss. However, some ROM images are already legal, as they are released as Public Domain. These ROM images are available legally, and can be freely distributed.
The following file extensions have historically been used for ROM images and disc images:
- 32X (32X)
- ADF (Amiga Disk Format)
- BIN (Genesis/Mega Drive)
- CSO (PlayStation Portable) (Compressed)
- EBP (PlayStation Portable) (Bootable image)
- GB (Game Boy)
- GBA (Game Boy Advance)
- GBC (Game Boy Color)
- GCN (GameCube)
- GG (Game Gear)
- N64 (Nintendo 64)
- NES (Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System)
- NDS (Nintendo DS)
- SMD (Genesis/Mega Drive)
- SMS (Master System)