I am a big fan of emulation, because it allows me to play a lot of games that I used to love. Even when I own the game in question, I usually prefer to play it via emulation because it's a lot more convenient. So while I do have a copy of Devil's Crush for the TurboGrafx-16 in my basement, when I want a dose of satanic pinball I'll fire up an emulator and play it. I still have my TurboGrafx-16 (complete with CD-ROM attachment) but I don't have the room to keep it hooked up to a TV, and I don't particularly want to have to sit in front of the old console to play the game when I could be playing it on my computer or my PSP.
But I'll have to admit that I don't own a lot of the games that I play in emulation. It is true that most of these games are still under copyright and it is probably against the law to play them this way. However, I've always rationalized it by saying that these games are long out of date and can no longer be purchased in any way that benefits the holder of the copyright. In other words, even if I went out and bought each and every one of the games I play in emulation, the companies that produced the games wouldn't see a cent of that money, because they can only be purchased on the secondary market.
However, Nintendo has announced that the Wii will allow you to download and play older games from the NES, SNES, TG16, Genesis, and Nintendo 64 for a fee. Only a selection of games from these systems will be available and the exact prices haven't been released yet, but it looks like it will be around $5 to $10 for each game. This puts playing these games in emulation in a bit of a different light, since presumably Nintendo has arranged licensing agreements with the copyright holders of these games. Of course, you still won't be able to play them on your PSP, PDA, or computer, so they aren't nearly as convenient, but at least they are available.
What do you think? Is playing games in emulation stealing, even though the games can't be bought anymore? What about the games that Nintendo makes available for the Wii?