Can You Use Emulators On Twitch?

On your quest to carve out your niche on Twitch, you might decide to have a stint on some of the more classic games.

Retro games are some of the best games to stream for newer streamers because they’re nowhere near as saturated as games in the competitive scene.

Trouble is, the older consoles are hard to come across nor do you have the capacity to actually broadcast the game play, without some technical workarounds.

So, you’re really only left with one viable alternative: an emulator.

Will I Get Into Trouble Streaming An Emulated Game?

It’s a very gray area. There’s a ton of misinformation about the legality of emulators online, with digital preservation often cited as justification. So, it’s best to get more specific.

For example, lets say that you’re after streaming an old Nintendo game.

Nintendo is notorious for hunting down YouTube videos with copyright strikes. They’re very serious when it comes to protecting their intellectual property, but they’re even more proactive in fighting against piracy, which is exactly how they view emulated games.

You can read up on Nintendo’s strongly worded stance regarding emulators hereOpens in a new tab..

In short, emulators themselves are loosely legal, but it’s the ROMs which are illegal.

It’s treated as piracy and while you’d think that a game a couple of decades old would be fair game to pirate (as you can’t find them on the shelves these days), US copyright law states that ownership of the copyright is valid for 75 years from the date of first publication. “The current availability of a game in stores is irrelevant as to its copyright status.”

Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to use an emulator without a ROM, but that’s the legalities of it. Whether you’ll get caught, on the other hand…

Streamer Tactics

It’s unlikely that you will be penalized for streaming an emulated game, but I’m sure you’ve heard stories on how inconsistent Twitch can be with their bans sometimes.

Major game corporations would tell you no, you shouldn’t stream emulated games as it’s damaging to the industry. If you were asking whether you could stream copyrighted music in the background of your broadcast, record labels would also tell you the same thing.

The only real issue you’ll encounter is that your VODs may have to be deleted, or if you were to upload your footage to YouTube, it might be swiftly copyright striked which will harm your channel.

The reality is that people are streaming emulated games right now regardless of the rules, retro being the most obvious including the Genesis, Dreamcast.

Twitch requires you to both follow the law and their terms of service. Under the intellectual property section of the Twitch Community GuidelinesOpens in a new tab., it states that playing pirated games is against their guidelines. Assuming Twitch shares the same view as Nintendo, the answer should actually be a hard no – on paper, you can’t stream emulators on Twitch.

They just have to prove that you’re using an emulator, is all.


Stream them at your own risk.

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