New Kodi retro gaming feature not without risks

The latest version of Kodi will be with us soon and amongst the expected new features is the ability to play retro video games. This will no doubt prove popular with Kodi aficionados, but they should beware of the risks of breaching copyright are every bit as high with games as they are with streaming movies and TV shows.

Retro Games on Leia

The newest version of Kodi will be known as Leia and is expected to go live fairly soon. In anticipation of its release, the popular repository TVAddons has published a blog highlighting how you will be able to use the new build to play retro video games.

According to them, this new feature will be available directly through the new build of Kodi without the need for any additional hardware. It is possible thanks to the new built-in emulators that are being included, as well as a new addon known as the Internet Archive ROM, which allows you to download these games for free.

For those not familiar with the terms, an emulator is a programme that emulates an old console such as the Sega Mega Drive or Super Nintendo, while ROMs are the term used for files containing retro game data.

The new function has not been formally confirmed yet but is believed to be in testing. TVAddons claim that the new addon will include games from classic consoles including Nintendo, Sega, and Atari.

Screenshots included in the blog appear to confirm the claims as well as revealing that titles will include such things as Sonic, Mario, and Mortal Kombat.

Debatable legality

As with many unofficial Kodi addons, the big question mark over the legality of this new feature and how copyright holders for these retro games will react. TVAddons are in no doubt that the Internet Archive ROM is legal.

In their blog, they explain that “Since older video games are no longer distributed or sold, they are considered abandonware and are therefore DMCA exempt.”

However, when it has come to using ROMs and emulators on other devices, copyright holders such as Nintendo have been quick to state that they dispute the legality.

Writing about online ROMs, Nintendo has previously stated, “It is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet.” They even insist this is the case if you actually own the original game too.

TechRadar have dug into this matter in a little more detail and quoted the opinions of Jas Purewal, a specialist Video Game lawyer, who told them, “The argument that a video game 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.”

He went on to explain that, “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.”

So, despite what TVAddons claims, the new feature on Kodi Leia appears to be as legally questionable as some of the popular unofficial addons that allow users to stream copyrighted movies, TV show and live sports events for free.

Using a VPN to play retro games on Kodi Leia

So, what should Kodi users do? It will not be known how the copyright holders of retro video games will react to the new Kodi feature until it actually goes live. But if users are planning to use the feature, they would still be advised to take precautions from day one.

The best measure they can take is to use a VPN whenever playing retro games on Kodi. This is standard practice for most Kodi users streaming content using unofficial addons and should be extended to Kodi retro gamers too.

By using a VPN such as IPVanish or ExpressVPN, retro gamers can be sure that everything they do online is encrypted and safe from prying eyes. They will also know that their IP Address is hidden, which prevents ISPs from seeing what you are doing online and make it much harder to trace your internet activity back to you.

VPNs are already an essential tool for most Kodi users and it seems this is going to be even more the case with Kodi Leia. To learn more about which VPN to use with Kodi, take a look at our guide to the Best VPN for Kodi 2018.

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