The problem with piracy on this level comes from interpretation of the law, its intention and it's implementation. Clearly, the laws were set up to protect the intellectual property that was being sold and maintained a certain value at the time of its release (and its re-release, really). When these laws were established, intellectual property was viewed differently. Media was not available in the same form as it is now, and technology has rendered many of the rules obsolete. But despite this evolved climate, people still hang on to the letter of the law just because it is there. Here in the US there are laws still on the books that reflect back to the horse and buggy, simply because there is so much red tape involved in repealing any law.
Considering how many companies allow their games to be freely distributed, it is pretty clear that publishers have adapted the same general mood as the users. It's not across the board, but closer than the media would have you believe.
As for the debate of copying kickstart roms, I look at it this way. For years I have withered the debate surrounding mp3's and copying music illegally. I had to contend with whether I was taking money out of the artist's pockets by downloading the tunes or ripping a friend's CD. At the end of the day, I decided I could be responsible for my end of it. Most CD's I buy are from the used bins anyhow, so the artist doesn't get paid for that beyond what the original buyer contributed. If the artist gets anything at all (considering the deplorable ripoffs the music industry is known for), it certainly isn't from used sales. This same nasty publisher vs. creator standoff existed in game publishing, so the artists typically get the shaft anyhow (the publisher's karma?) So the only person I cheat when I buy a used CD is the middle man. And that is legal. The law is not adequate, so why should I lose sleep over antiquity in due process?