The Instigator
Shrek_sDrecKid
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Pro (for)
Winning
12 Points

Emulators For Video Games Are Illegal

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
bluesteel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/28/2014 Category: Games
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,230 times Debate No: 64100
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (3)

 

Shrek_sDrecKid

Con

There are many gamers and developers alike that argue that using emulators to download and play video games is illegal, unethical, and a form of piracy. I would like to argue that while using emulators to download ROM's in order to play said games is illegal, it is normal and legal to use an emulator to download ROM's only for video games that have been officially discontinued by both the manufacturers and the retailers. It is also not considered a form of piracy as most people think.

Emulators themselves are not illegal to use, as many of the games that people play on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and mobile devices all use emulators to play those old games. But downloading ROM's is though. Even though that is the case, this is different as the video games that are being downloaded for the sake of this debate are video games that have been discontinued long ago, such as NES, SNES, and N64 games. I am trying to argue that games that are still continuing such as the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 are illegal to emulate while those that aren't are legal to download.

Emulating in its very nature is not illegal as many mobile developers are able to make emulators of older games and "sell" them on smart-phones and tablets without getting in trouble by the mobile companies or the companies that owned those games. Why? Simply because emulators are not illegal and are perfectly legal to use. And if downloading ROM's are certainly illegal, then why aren't those that show tutorials or videos to brag to others not have their videos and accounts taken down? Why aren't the game developers intervening to take legal action against them? And what about those that admit to such "crimes" and even unintentionally have evidence of committing such "crimes"? Why aren't they getting arrested and charged?

As for piracy, emulating video games is considered piracy because you are basically getting them for free without the developer's consent and using material that was already copied. Yes, it may be piracy, but that applies only to video games that are still being supported through retailers and the manufacturers, and not with the games that aren't. If it is no longer sold through stores, how can it be considered stealing if there is no longer any opportunity to steal it in the first place?

One may also argue that emulating is not only illegal, unethical, and piracy, but also violates the copyrights given to the video games. But since they are no longer supported and were already copied in the first place by the people who originally emulated it to be emulated by others on the internet, how does the copyright even matter by now? And if one has already owned the copy before emulating it, then the copyright is technically void as they have already paid for the video games.
bluesteel

Pro

This is just going to a be a straight up argument out of Copyright Law.

Video games are protected by copyrights (both the specific code used to implement the game and the audiovisual elements of the game). [1] Copyrights last for the life of the person who created the copyrighted work plus 70 years after that person's death. The video game "Pong" and other early games weren't invented until the 1970's so they would still be protected by copyrights. Basically, all games are still copyrighted.

My opponent claims that it is *not* illegal to download emulators and ROMs for "discontinued" systems, like the Sega Genesis, Nintendo, Super Nintendo ("SNES"), and the Nintendo 64 ("N64"). As an aside: an "emulator" is similar to the video game system itself. It is a program that allows you to play games for that specific system. Most emulators are exclusive to only one system, so you can download on PC or Android an emulator for SNES or Gameboy or Sega Genesis or N64. "ROMs" are the games that you download and can play by loading them into the emulator, similar to loading a cartridge into the old video game systems.

Now that we are done with that "aside," the problem with my opponent's argument is that "discontinued" games are still under copyrights, so it is still illegal under copyright law to download them. My opponent claims two things make the downloading of ROMs legal: (1) the games are no longer manufactured and (2) *some* people own the video game whose ROM they are downloading. I will show how *neither* of these makes downloading ROMs legal.

(1) "Discontinued" games

As I'v said, discontinued games are still under copyright (for the life of the creator plus 70 years). It is not legal to download a "discontinued" game, *even if* the creator no longer intends to monetize it. Under copyright law, if you write or create anything it is copyrighted. Period. Whether or not you intend to profit off of it. If you write a letter to someone, your words are copyrighted. If you take a photograph of a building, it is copyrighted. Someone else cannot copy and sell your letter or photograph without your permission or else they are violating copyright law. It doesn't matter that you didn't intend to profit from the letter or photograph. Likewise, the fact that companies have discontinued the SNES or Sega Genesis is immaterial to whether it is legal to download ROMs.

Furthermore, by "discontinued," my opponent means that these systems and games are no longer manufactured. However, the copyright holders *do* continue to profit from selling the copyright. Go to the Android store ("Google Play"). Search for "Sonic the Hedgehog." You will find Sega selling a port of this old "discontinued" Sega Genesis game for use on people's phones and tablets. Go to the Android store. Search "Crazy Taxi." You will find Sega selling a port of this old "discontinued" Dreamcast game for use on phones and tablets. Go to the Apple Store. Search "Final Fantasy." You will find Square Enix selling an iPhone version of this old "discontinued" Nintendo game. Go to the Apple Store. Search "Chrono Trigger." Another "discontinued" SNES game. Go to the Wii store and search for pretty much any old Mario game (e.g. Paper Mario) and you can *pay* to download an older port of the game to your Wii. Go on your PS3. Search for any popular PS1 or PS2 game (e.g. Final Fantasy VII), and you can pay to download a version of this game that can be played on your PS3 or your Playstation Portable. Most video game companies have *not* abandoned the copyright in their works. They continue to monetize these games.

Now go to the Android Store and search "SNES emulator." You will find one for under $5. Now go online and search "Chrono Trigger ROM." You can pirate the ROM for free. In contrast, the official, legal version of Chrono Trigger costs $9.99 to purchase from the Android Store. Now go get a "Final Fantasy ROM" for SNES. You saved $14.99 by not buying it from Square Enix via Google Play. By downloading the SNES emulator and ROMs, you're basically stealing from the developers by not having to pay them for a "license" to use their copyrighted work. This is *illegal.*

My opponent makes some statement about how no one is ever sued for downloading emulators and ROMs so clearly it's legal. However, just because someone does not get sued does not make it legal. The entire Cydia App store (for jailbroken iPhones) is of questionable legality, but there are problems suing those companies. Many of them locate in countries with more liberal copyright laws, so they cannot be sued internationally. Some of them don't make enough total money to be worth suing. It's hard to "catch" someone downloading something in a way that would stick (which is why most people sued for music piracy were on college campuses, which assign a clear static IP to each user). And honestly, even music and movie lawsuits have gone "out of mode." You won't see them very often anymore because they are not an effective deterrent and not worth the effort for the industries involved (because no one can pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties under copyright law (per violation), it's not worth paying lawyers to sue these people). Also, ISP's have not been very compliant with furnishing information on alleged infringers, which makes them hard to find. The bottom line is that the lack of lawsuits is due to many factors, not the *legality* of the conduct.

(2) Owning the physical video game does not give you the right to download a ROM

When you buy a physical game cartridge, CD, or DVD, copyright law gives you the right to re-sell the physical game under the "First Sale Doctrine" [which holds that once someone sells a physical object (a "first sale"), he or she cannot control what happens to the physical object after that]. However, someone who buys a CD does not acquire the right to make copies of the content on the CD. Just because you buy a DVD does not mean you can legally download an illegal version of the movie from PirateBay. The same applies to music. You may have to pay for the same content *twice* because you want it on different platforms (i.e. you pay once to have a song on Google Play, you pay again on iTunes, and you pay again to get access to the same song on Spotify).

(3) Contributory infringement

My opponent says the emulator itself isn't illegal without downloading ROMs. However, it is. There is a doctrine called "contributory infringement," which holds that you can be held liable for violating copyright law even if you don't download any copyrighted material if you're using something that can basically only be used to support copyright infringement. [2] An "SNES emulator" can only be used to play illegal, pirated SNES games, so downloading it is illegal because the emulator has no substantial non-infringing use.

[1] http://www.wipo.int...
[2] http://www.law.cornell.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
Shrek_sDrecKid

Con

Remember that this is an informal debate and I will not be backing up my claims with sources until I gain more skill and experience in debating. Also that one must not take it extremely personal, as Phil Spencer has once said that fanboyism is unhealthy for not only for the video game market (or any market for that matter) and also for the self.

You keep making arguments about copyright, piracy, and whether or not emulators are illegal, yet you fail to explain to me why many who develop emulators and sell them for free do not get dealt with by the law, or those that sell them but are not in any way associated or working for the company(ies) that made said games and platforms. You also intend to avoid answering to me why those that put up videos, forums, or sites on the internet teaching people how to emulate or show what emulated software looks like also do not get dealt with by the law. Funny how you keep rambling on about those but forget to answer these simple questions. See, I didn't even have to provide sources, statistics, equations, theories, or other complex crap to analyze your flaws, now did I?

I know and understand how long the U.S. Copyright Act lasts, but what if I am emulating it in a country that has a copyright act that lasts shorter or does not apply to video games? Also, PONG is not the first video game ever made and video games first appeared in the late 1960's (though they were never called that until the 70's); pretty irrelevant, but just wanted to get that out for you. So you're telling me, after 70 years of the person's death (actually 75), I can emulate it? Sweet! I'll be living longer than them and with the advancement of science and technology (genetic engineering and cybernetics), I will be able to live long enough to pirate said material when it it no longer illegal.

Sounds to me like you did research and lacked knowledge since debate (better than many fanboys I met) huh? You say it is not legal to emulate until 70 years after creator's death, yet you say that anything created is protected under copyright law? Wow, then by your logic, my rebuttal is now copyrighted; all of my debates are now copyrighted; all of my online profiles are now copyrighted; all of my school notes are now copyrighted... Okay, let me find a cure to cancer and write down the formula...oops! That formula is copyrighted and now not even the NSA can steal it from me and use it to benefit all of mankind and put pharmacies out of business, or else they broke the law and people should just forget about my huge contribution to the world!

Again, you answer some and deny other of my questions of answers! I could get all of that for free on the Google Play, App Store, and Windows Market-Place through emulators provided by random people who do not have any relation to those said companies you mentioned. Why aren't they getting dealt with by the law? Why are they getting away with it scot-free? What about all of those knock-off games?

Funny how opponent is agreeing with me on that yet disagrees with other arguments that are closely similar to this argument. I was never talking about Cydia; we can talk about that another time. You say that the law cannot catch them all because there are too much people committing those acts and the ISP's make it even more difficult, and not because of the legality of the conduct. Now you are just talking random crap that doesn't even relate to emulators and video games. You try your best to cover up your weak arguments with said sources, yet you still make weak arguments, whether or not how well you mask them. See, that's why I don't do that!

Now you are saying other crap that I am well aware of. Bottom line: I can still emulate said games elsewhere; I do not necessarily have to emulate them through emulators and ROM's. Just like with CD's and DVD's, I can stream them through the internet or download them through video sharing websites and convert them to MP3 files. Let's be honest, without those sources and research, you would have lost. I am not going to do research because I will simply beat you with such an unfair advantage, so I am purposely handicapping myself to debate fair and square without any research or sources and simply on my knowledge alone.
bluesteel

Pro

My opponent says very little of substance in the previous round, besides that he didn't understand most of my arguments. I'll try to simplify them a bit to make them easier to understand.

(1) Escaping punishment is different from something being legal

Have you ever broken a traffic law and *not* gotten a ticket? [e.g. turned left without signaling, rolling through a stop sign, driving even though you forgot your license at home]. Traffic laws are hard to enforce. There are a lot of violators and very few policemen in comparison to lawbreakers. The same is true of Copyright Law. There are a lot of violators who download illegal movies, tv shows, music, and software, but very few people willing to enforce the copyrights against them. So a lot of copyright infringement goes unpunished. However, the lack of punishment does not mean the foregoing punishment is "legal." It's just that most people who break the law happen to get away with it.

My opponent demands that I explain exactly *why* there aren't a lot of lawsuits against Emulator Developers. I *already* did: difficulty of finding their true identities, them being judgment-proof (not having enough money to pay any court judgment), the high cost of the attorneys fees of prosecuting copyright violators, etc.... There *have* been lawsuits, however, or threatened lawsuits. There was one N64 emulator called UltraHLE. The emulator developers pulled their product off the internet after Nintendo threatened them with a copyright infringement lawsuit. [1] Nintendo recently sued a developer of a Nintendo DS emulator in Japanese court (for copyright infringement) and won. [2]

However, suing individual gamers who emulate is a bad strategy. As the music and movie industry saw, such lawsuits just piss their customers off, while doing nothing to ebb the flow of illegal downloads. As James Conley, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management (at Northwestern University), explains, "[Video game companies] can follow in the footsteps of the music and film industries and use litigation to stifle and shut down the innovation that is emulation. This approach will be quite costly, and it will neither endear them to their customers nor ultimately stop emulator proliferation. In the opinion of longtime industry critic Timothy White, this will only delay the inevitable. Alternatively, they can take seriously the customer demands that fuel emulator popularity and chart a different course. Rather than making legal action the sole response, they can adopt a more nuanced, sophisticated approach in which they co-opt the market by entering the business of emulation themselves. By listening to their customers and thinking creatively about their business models, game console manufacturers and software publishers can protect their markets, their brand equity, their intellectual property, and . . . consumer good will." [4] Basically, just because emulation is illegal does not mean that vigorous litigation against people who emulate is a good *business* strategy. It's better to tap into that market by offering ports of old games on phones, for example, rather than simply suing anyone who downloads an emulator of your video game system. Brand loyalty is important in the gaming industry. You don't want to piss off your customers by suing them.

(2) Other countries

First of all, I assumed my opponent meant in the United States, since he did reference in Round 1 his own *flawed* understanding of US Copyright Law. I think it's fair to limit this debate to the United States. If you saw a topic on DDO that said "murder is not illegal" and your opponent seemed to be discussing US law, it would be safe to assume that your opponent would not later say, "haaa, there is no murder law in Southern Sudan!! I win!!!"

Second, more than 160 countries agree on basic copyright principles because at the Berne Convention, they all signed a treaty to honor basic copyright protections for copyright holders. [3] While the intricacies of local law are sometimes enough to deter a major US or Japanese company from suing some small emulation developer in the Netherlands, for example, copyright protection still transcends national borders. [3] So pretty much no matter where my opponent travels to, downloading ROMs and emulators would be illegal.

My opponent drops my other points. I extend them by implication, but need not reiterate them here.

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk...
[2] http://www.dailytech.com...
[3] http://www.rightsdirect.com...
[4] http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
Shrek_sDrecKid

Con

I'm back after a long day at school! I was tired the other day because it was near 10 so my brain started to stop thinking straight for me. But now that I am thinking straight again, let us continue this debate. I did understand most of your arguments, but I wasn't thinking straight since my brain was shutting down on me as a reminder that I should stop using the computer and go to sleep. And if you still think I do not understand your arguments, then I think I need to end my life.

So maybe you did answer those questions that I assumed that you never answered, but there are still some other questions that you continue to ignore or just being extremely vague to. Yes, you answered why those emulator developers are getting away with the law scot-free, yet you still fail to provide a specific and complex answer for my other question. What about those that show videos of using or teaching people to download and use emulators? Why aren't the moderators or administrators of such video sharing sites such as YouTube not doing anything to intervene and stop them for copyright infringement? I have seen from a second-hand perspective that many gamers that upload walkthrough videos of video games developed and/or published by Sega of Europe get their videos taken down, even though that is clearly fair use, specifically Cobanermani 456's walkthrough videos of Mario & Sonic: Sochi 2014 for the Nintendo Wii U being taken down. So if video game companies are strict with that, why not the videos with emulator demonstrations and tutorials? Heck, Nintendo even forces YouTube to take down any videos with their music in them, regardless if it is considered copyright infringement or not unless with video game reviews, of course.

If it really is extremely difficult as opponent has proven to catch such criminals, then as the example provided above, why do companies like Sega and Nintendo are daring enough to take down videos that are considered fair use under U.S. and international law (i.e., walkthrough videos, animations, how-to videos, etc) yet don't even attempt to take down videos of emulators of their games. Websites that allows content to be shared among users have moderators and administrators that will constantly monitor the activities of users and will take action if deemed necessary. It's funny but sad how these people are able to penalize users for spamming, trolling, and harassment, but not things like piracy and emulators. I have joined many gaming forum sites over the past few months (February 2014 to be approximate) such as IGN, GameSpot, Escapist, GiantBomb, just to name a few, and I have left each and every site, mostly because of being banned for reasons less serious or severe as emulators, piracy, and copyright violations. (Other forums was because I was bored of them, but that is not the point I am trying to prove). So if these mods are willing to punish me and others for minor "crimes" like these, why not the bigger "crimes" which aren't as common compared to examples said above.

Okay, I admit that you have successfully explained to me what video game developers are doing as an alternative, but that still doesn't accept the fact that it is possible to track down and punish all violators that emulate said material. As stated above, if I can get permanently banned for being a dick to other people online, then those that show how to emulate or demonstrate such illegal activity can too. I understand that one cannot punish a person that brags or admits to pirating or emulating without evidence, as with other crimes (except for terrorism and threats), but why are developers too lazy to punish them but not others with less severe crimes? For more information about what the hell I am even talking about, go on YouTube, search up "ReviewTechUSA", and watch his video which says "Dear Sega, SUE DSPGaming!" and then you will understand. (I know that I said I will never use sources in my argument, but since you want proof so bad, I will just give you some to you just for this situation. He actually makes such good arguments though, so do watch!) There are many strategies that they can use to punish them, but if they don't plan them out strategically (pun intended), then I guess they are just prolonging the inevitable (such strategies will not be discussed as they can be used against me).

And about brand loyalty. There are so many companies out there that don't give two craps about their consumers as long as they gotten their money. They don't care if you are happy or not, as long as you get brought to "justice", as long as their property is protected, and as long as they were loyal to you right before you bought their items and left the store. Such companies do not care about their fanbase and are terrible with their customer service. And such companies include Sega, Microsoft, and Sony, and believe me, there are many PlayStation and Xbox owners that are extremely mad at them yet they don't care one bit since they know Nintendo will never convince them to join them and leave Sony and Microsoft. Sega was like that when they were still around after the Genesis and during the CD/32-X, Saturn, and Dream-Cast era, but now they are better, but still, that's what killed them to become the losers they are today. (I know that I am contradicting myself, but I am trying to prove to you that such companies do exist that don't care about brand loyalty after consumers have bought their products that they wanted to sell to them.)

As with the other countries argument, I never assumed the United States; I actually meant North America as I am Canadian (and yes, ISIS did retaliate due to Harper's stupidity; no, you're American, so you have no right to argue about that) and thus assumed this was both countries. Since I am in Canada, the copyright act is similar to the American one, except that it is only 50 years instead of 75, and I think that it can be 50 years after the item's publication and not 50 years after the copyright holder's death, so sucks to be in America (no offense though). And no, it's not fair to limit it to the United-States; North America certainly, but not limited to America as I am Canadian and I'm not going to cross the south border just to emulate some video games. Also, remember that this site it www.debate.org, not www.debate.com, so although it is very American-like, it is technically North American (which is international by the way). And I'm not even going to discuss about international treaties, maybe we can debate about that another time of why those that sign such treaties still break them (China and Russia on human freedoms and rights maybe)?

So you contradicted yourself yet again. Funny how almost all of my opponents contradict their statements yet always seem to ignore it and/or assume that I will never know about them. You say that my past rebuttal had no substance now you say that many of my points have successfully defeated yours; and I will not use sources!
bluesteel

Pro

My opponent makes three general points in the previous round:

1) He says that I have adequately explained why emulator developers and people who download ROMs do not get sued, but have not adequately explained why Youtube videos involving emulators don't get taken down.

2) He says that brand loyalty is not important in the video game industry.

3) He says the topic should include Canadian law.

(1) Youtube walkthroughs

Video game companies don't sue Youtube channel owners for the same reasons they don't sue people who download the emulators: it's a better business decision to try to tap into the demand for emulated games, rather than pursuing litigation tactics. The DMCA in the United States certainly entitled copyright holders to issue takedown notices, but I've never heard of someone who made a "walkthrough" of a game getting a takedown notice. Most developers benefit from "walkthrough" videos because it's free advertising (showcasing gameplay to those that don't have the game) and it benefits people who *do* have the game by providing them useful advice when they get stuck (so they don't end up hating the game as being "too hard"). My opponent's refusal to provide sources makes this point difficult because I can't check into his specific examples and why the developers claimed they were issuing a takedown in those cases. It's not a general practice though.

(2) Brand loyalty

Brand loyalty is hugely important in the video game industry. In the "console wars" between Microsoft and Sony (Xbox One versus Playstation 4), a huge contingent of gamers were going to jump ship from Xbox because Xbox was going to: (1) have an "always online" feature that *required* you to log into your online account in order to play your games [with no "offline" play allowed at all], and (2) was going to implement measures to prevent people from playing used copies of games. The fan-base absolutely revolted. Everyone was going to buy a PS4. Microsoft quickly backed off and got rid of these new features. My author from last round -- Professor James Conley -- also reiterates that brand loyalty is important in the gaming industry. The fact that companies do not respond to *every* user demand (on random online forums) does not prove that they don't care about brand loyalty.

(3) Canadian law

It's fine if we include this. As my opponent says, Canadian law is the same as US law in almost every regard.
Debate Round No. 3
Shrek_sDrecKid

Con

Shrek_sDrecKid forfeited this round.
bluesteel

Pro

Forfeit. Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Shrek_sDrecKid 2 years ago
Shrek_sDrecKid
Challenge me to another debate - I will win for sure. And I will have @Blade-of-Truth to give me the upper hand in voting and @Airmax1227 to delete any trolled votes and comments.
Posted by Shrek_sDrecKid 2 years ago
Shrek_sDrecKid
Oh, sorry - I sucked back then. Now I am much better and would win this debate if I did extensive research, not just through the internet, but also through the library.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
Also forfeiting a round doesn't equate to forfeiting the debate. I can't blame you for trying in the final round, but it was unnecessary.
Posted by Wylted 2 years ago
Wylted
"Remember that this is an informal debate and I will not be backing up my claims with sources until I gain more skill and experience in debating. "

Don't expect anyone to accept your word for facts. Cite the facts.
Posted by EmmaWeston 2 years ago
EmmaWeston
I doubt that developers care about games that came out 10-20 years ago.
Posted by Shrek_sDrecKid 2 years ago
Shrek_sDrecKid
Oh, and I have a cousin who is a lawyer. So I can get legal advice for free, but she's currently studying more law in England...damn, she won't be able to give me any advice. But if she did, I would certainly win the debate no matter what you say; yes, it is cheating!
Posted by Shrek_sDrecKid 2 years ago
Shrek_sDrecKid
Oh, and when I do research, I usually research over 10 websites, think about what I've learned, and then rebuttal against opponent. Unlike a certain opponent I know that I am currently debating against...
Posted by Shrek_sDrecKid 2 years ago
Shrek_sDrecKid
Oh yeah, I usually do not argue this bad, but I am very tired, so shut up! And you can see my other debates so that you can see how much better I can actually debate...
Posted by TheSymbiote 2 years ago
TheSymbiote
This is gud
Posted by Shrek_sDrecKid 2 years ago
Shrek_sDrecKid
Oh, and I am not going to provide sources or use formal language. Let's be honest, if I can't even debate properly without it, how am I going to debate well with it? What's the point in learning how to ride a bike if you don't even know how to walk yet? This debate is going to be informal, so I do authorize the use of personal pronouns and opinions into the mix.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
Shrek_sDrecKidbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by Benshapiro 2 years ago
Benshapiro
Shrek_sDrecKidbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro was able to show that emulators do violate the law and escaping punishment does not mean that this escape is legal. Pro used sources to back up arguments.
Vote Placed by Imperfiect 2 years ago
Imperfiect
Shrek_sDrecKidbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: sources and conduct for ff, pm me if disagree that arguments should be tied and ill consider it... I feel Pro really had a point and that Con only won because Pro didn't do last round.