Freely Available Systems

The following systems supported by MESS have had permission granted by their respective copyright owners for free distribution of the system ROMs (and sometimes other software as well). Note that such permission generally does not extend to third-party software or add-ons, and usually still prohibits commercial use. Please read the individual permission letters for specifics and consult an actual lawyer before relying on anything.

Amstrad / Sinclar


>> Forum: comp.sys.sinclair
>> Thread: Amstrad ROM permissions 
>> Message 1 of 1

Subject: Amstrad ROM permissions
Date:    08/31/1999
Author:  Cliff Lawson <>

Andrew Owen sent me the following email about the Spectrum ROMs and said it was being discussed on
c.s.s but I can't see the relevant thread (I have a totally crap newsfeed - Psinet - who only carry
about half the traffic!!). So, anyway, here's my reply about these issues:
"I know you have answered the question of Amstrad's policy on the use of the Spectrum ROMs before but
the debate has come up again on comp.sys.sinclair and as much as I tell people what I believe it is,
they want a definitive answer. So when you have time here are the questions. Thanks!
1) What exactly do you have to do to use Sinclair ROMs in an emulator, such as acknowledgements etc?"
Amstrad are happy for emulator writers to include images of our copyrighted code as long as the
(c)opyright messages are not altered and we appreciate it if the program/manual includes a note to the
effect that "Amstrad have kindly given their permission for the redistribution of their copyrighted
material but retain that copyright".
"2) Can you charge a shareware fee for an emulator that uses the Sinclair ROMs?"
No. No one should be charging for the ROM code because (as a result of the point above) there are
loads of freely available images anyway. If I ever thought someone was charging for the ROM images
then I'd make them available as a free download on the web site. Naturally I imagine
that some emulator writers want to charge a shareware fee for the code they have written and we have
absolutely no problem with that as long as they aren't, in any sense, charging for the parts of the
code that are (c)Amstrad and (c) Sinclair.
"3) Can you modify the ROMs, for instance to enable tape loading and saving, and if so what are the
The ROM code is simply a tool to let the emulator writers make a program that works as close to the
original machine as possible. If they choose to modify the behaviour in any way then that's entirely
up to them (I guess you could say that that is exactly what an emulator IS doing (ie modifying the
screen output and keyboard input to go via the PC bits)!!)
"4) Can you distribute modified ROMs?"
If you like (with that (c) proviso).
"5) Does this apply to all ROMs, Interface 1+2, ZX80, ZX81, Spectrum 48, 128, +2, +2A and +3."
I think Amstrad only bought the rights to Spectrum 48/128 from Sinclair and then produced the
+ machines ourselves. I do not believe the (c) for ZXs or IF1/2 has anything to do with Amstrad.
"6) Does Amstrad own the rights to the QL as well?"
Someone asked me this before and I think our lawyer at that time said that we may have had the
rights to the QL stuff but then sold it on to someone else but I haven't a clue who.
"7) What is the legal position with regard to distributing ROMs from legal Spectrum clones such as
the Timex 2048?"
Ask Timex. We only hold the copyright for code that was written by Sinclair or Amstrad for the
Spectrum machines. I haven't a clue about the Timex deal as it was done in the days before Amstrad
were ever involved.
"8) What is the legal position with regard to distributing ROMs from illegal Spectrum clones such as
the Russian Scorpion and Pentagon machines?" 
Anyone pirating hardware/software should be shot.... though that may be to quick a death for them.
Perhaps nailing them up by the testicles using rusty nails would be the best thing to do to them?
"9) Is Amstrad happy for software owned by Sinclair to be distributed in a similar way?"
I think that the majority of software, even that 10/12 game pack bundled with + machines remains
the copyrighted property of its authors (Ocean etc.). Amstrad/Sincliar merely acted as a publishing
house but I don't think that gave us the copyright to it,  just an agreed licence to make copies
"10) What is Amstrad's policy on the distribution of electronic versions of Sinclair documentation?"
The more the merrier. People scanning, OCRing, HTMLing & PDFing any manuals that are genuinely
(c)Amstrad are actually doing us a favour because if someone asks for a copy we can just point them
at a URL (please keep me informed!! ;-). So we'd welcome as many of them to be put online as possible
if people can take out the time and trouble to do it.
"I sincerly hope this is the last time you will be bothered with such questions. Thank you again for
your time."
Your welcome. It's good to have the opportunity to make our position on this clear and I've cross-
posted this to c.s.a.8 because it applies equally well to all the CPC stuff (though some bits of that
are also (c)Locomotive so you need to seek their permission too - however I don't think there's ever
a problem in so doing).
Cliff Lawson,
Amstrad plc

Sharp X68000/X68030 series


[Note the character generator ROM is not included.]



                     @nifty シャープ・プロダクツ・ユーザーズ・フォーラム





1  使用権の許諾

2  責任

3  問い合わせ






Smith Engineering
12057 Jefferson Boulevard
Culver City, CA  90230
    (310) 821-7880
FAX (310) 306-1739
                                               October 27, 1992

Dr. Myron A. Calhoun
Associate Professor of Computer Science
2001 Dunbar Road
Manhattan, KS  66502-3907

Dear Dr. Calhoun:

I recently received a copy of your letter of September 14th to Milton
Bradley regarding the Vectrex Arcade System.  I am proud to say that
Smith Engineering is the original developer of the Vectrex system and
programmed a number of the original cartridges.  The rights to the
system have been returned to us after production ceased at the Milton
Bradley Company.

It is a great pleasure to hear from a group of dedicated Vectrex users.
Obviously, it is a great favorite of ours and has a significant place in
our Hall of Fame of toy and game products.  We are happy to grant you
the right to continue your personal hobby of using and enhancing the
game system, as long as it is for your personal use and not a commercial
enterprise; in fact, we would be anxious to see your improvements.  This
permission extends to the right to copy and distribute the instruction
booklets and service manuals, and to duplicate and/or create game ROM's
for your personal use.  When the opportunity arises, please send us a
ROM sample of your work.

At some point in the future I would be happy to discuss the history of
Vectrex and some of the stillborn ideas to further enhance the system.
At one time we had considered a color version and there were even plans
for a handheld version.  Unfortunately, neither came to fruition.

I look forward to hearing of your progress.

                                             Sincerely yours,

                                         [signature of Jay Smith]

                                             Jay Smith

cc: Ms. Eileen Mooney
    Hasbro,Inc., Legal Department


Myarc Geneve 9640

According to Michael Zapf, everything belonging to the Geneve 9640 (Boot EPROM and Geneve OS) Myarc Inc. transferred all rights to a third party by a buy-out in the nineties and these current active maintainers gave their consent to redistribution.

Psion 2 Organiser and others

The Psion 2 Organiser Emulator (ORG2.EXE) published by Paul Robson circa 1998 came with a statement in the READ.ME file which stated about the included ROMs that “These Psion 2 Organiser ROM Images are distributed by kind permission of Psion Computers Ltd. Please do not include copies of these images on your own site. Copyright of these ROMs is retained.”

We have already asked Paul Robson who he had emailed to obtain this permission, but his email records do not date back that far. However, he verified that he had emailed someone within Psion Computers Ltd. and they did not see anything wrong with distribution but did not release them as public domain.

Intellectual property rights of Psion Computers Ltd. these days are, we believe, in the hands of Motorola.

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A and TI-99/8

Supposedly Texas Instruments can grant websites permission to distribute TI-99/4A BIOS ROMs, cartridges, other first-party software, and even manual scans for personal use (at least) though definitely not extending to the third-parties that also made software for the TI-99/4A.



For those titles that TI owns the copyright in,
TI does not object to your distribution. If the software title
contains a copyright statement indicating TI copyright ownership
you may be able to assume TI ownership.
Herbert W. Foster
E&PS Business Services
However, it is believed there is an even older permission granted somewhere, included with one of the early TI-99 emulators as a included document, perhaps.

Other TI-99/4A emulator authors supposedly with permission include Classic99 (See the author's explanation here) and also PC99 (who actually sells them all on a DVD with other associated documentation).

Furthermore, Texas Instruments granted permission to distribute TI-99/8 ROMs to this guy:

TI is pleased to grant you permission to copy and distribute any TI
copyrighted program written specifically for the TI-99/8 home
computer, including the ROM for the console. This permission is
conditioned upon your agreement not to alter the copyright notice in
the program and to include the copyright notice with each copy you
make and distribute. This permission does not apply to any program
bearing the copyright notice of any party other than TI. You agree
to include a separate notice with each copy you distribute that such
distribution is made under license from Texas Instruments.

TI makes no warranty with respect to the program and is under no
obligation to provide any support or assistance with respect to the
programs. TI is under no obligation to provide upgrades to the

TI accepts no liability with respect to your use, coping or
distribution of the programs.

Herbert W. Foster
Manager, E&PS Business Services

Also, has permission to distribute scans of TI-99/4A manuals:

From: Abbott, Fred
Sent: Monday, September 27, 1999 5:46 PM
Subject: Putting 99/4A info on Web Site

I just got the word back that your putting obsolete manuals on your
web site would not be a problem for us.

Fred Abbott

However, in the past Texas Instruments has also sent cease-and-desist letters and/or DMCA takedown notices regarding their graphing calculator ROMs and signing keys, so this does not extend to other intellectual property of theirs.

In addition, it should be noted that with regards to the distribution of Texas Instruments TI-99/4A ROMs, software or manuals, we still need to contact them and ask for permission to distribute them. We cannot take someone else's permission (Classic99's, PC99's) as our own.

Finally, this permission (if granted) only covers the ROMs and software and manuals that Texas Instruments holds under copyright for the TI-99/4A and TI-99/8. This does not extend to third-party software for these platforms, although it is believed that a few third-party publishers also stepped forward over the years to offer permission to distribute their software freely as well (which requires further investigation).

It appears the department to talk to regarding permission is TI's Educational & Productivity Solutions Division, Business Services department.

It's unknown if Herbert W. Foster is still there. According to the DMCA takedown notices of 2009-2010, he was still with them then. We could try contacting:

Texas Instruments Incorporated
Herbert W. Foster
Manager, Business Services
Education Technology Group
(972) 917-1522

That said, if that does not work, we would instead need to drill through their customer support: