3 Kinds of Legal (and Illegal) Software for PSP

Woman playing a PSP
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If your child has a hacked Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), there are things both good and bad they might be doing with it. One major reason for hacking is to play unlicensed software on the PSP--namely, games that weren't approved by Sony, but that can still be made to run on the system with custom firmware.

Some of these games are perfectly legal to own and run; others could land you in hot water if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) finds they were downloaded in your home.

Here are the three main classes of software that will run on a hacked PSP, with examples and information about the legality of each. Keep in mind, hacking the PSP may void the warranty.

Please note that this article is accurate as of 2010. Sony's PlayStation Portable was discontinued in 2011).

Freeware

As the name implies, freeware is software that is free to own and use. The license agreement for such software explicitly states that it is freeware (or, alternatively, open source--meaning that users can make changes to the program's code and distribute that new code).

Freeware isn't "malicious" code just because it is free. A good freeware application won't do any harm to your PSP system. Sometimes, the developer of a once-commercial game (such as an MS-DOS game) will re-release it under a freeware license, which makes it legal to put a copy on your PSP for free. This is not always the case, however, so users should always check the license agreement to be sure.

Game ROMs

A game ROM (or ROM file) is a copy of a game's code, taken from flash-memory media like old game cartridges. The PSP can play a great variety of ROM files through emulators, like those of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo 64. These are very small files, and they may be found easily with a simple Internet search.

ROM files of commercial games are only legal to own and play if you have a paid copy of the game in question, whether it is a digital download or a physical copy. If your child downloads ROMs of games protected by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), your Internet Service Provider could issue you a stern warning, so be careful.

ISOs

ISOs are backups of CDs and other optical media. On the PSP, this most often includes PSOne games and PSP UMDs. As with ROM files, having an ISO of a game you don't own is illegal, and downloading one could garner you a warning from the ESA. However, PSP game demos from any region, which can also be found on the Internet, are legal to download and play for free.

There are homebrew programs that allow you to make backups of your UMDs with a PSP-1000 system, which you can then play from your Memory Stick. It has even become possible to play such backups on the PSPgo system, which lacks a UMD drive. For more information, check out The Advantages of Letting Kids Hack Their PSPs.