Game Publishers Are Willing To Destroy The Internet To Stop Piracy


By: Stephen Crane (Photo: Flickr user Abode of Chaos)

[UPDATE: Here is a more up-to-date and complete article about SOPA and PIPA]

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been called many things. Some call it the bill that will destroy the internet, while others are convinced it will create the "Great Firewall of America", and game developers and publishers want to let you know: They're okay with that.

Back in September of this year 350 companies signed an open letter(PDF) to the United States Congress urging them to enact legislation "which targets those who abuse the Internet ecosystem and reap illegal profits by stealing the intellectual property (IP) of America's innovative and creative industries." The letter mentions "rogue sites" and a study that "examined approximately 100 rogue sites and found that these sites attracted more than 53 billion visits per year, which average out to approximately nine visits for every man, woman, and child on Earth." Apparently the sale of counterfeit goods online reached $135 billion last year.

What's interesting is the companies who signed this letter. There is the popular shoe company, Adidas, the Australian Medical Council, and even the Callaway Golf Company. It apparently wasn't that hard to find just about any type of corporation to sign the letter. Some corporations might have legitimate claims also signed the letter, including Nintendo, Sony, EA, and the Entertainment Software Association. Recently, the Business Software Alliance, which includes Microsoft and Apple, also came out in favor of SOPA and similar legislation. [Retraction: Robert Holleyman released a statement earlier today stating that the BSA is against SOPA as it currently stands and is ready to work with the Judiciary Committee to address concerns.]

Normally this wouldn't be such a bad thing, and piracy definitely does have a huge impact on the game industry. The problem is that the legislation in SOPA is going to be profitable for these companies while ruining the internet as we know it. All of these corporations are forming one massive lobby that unfortunately may stand a chance of passing the act into law.

The Stop Online Piracy Act has many provisions that are terrifying for many in the tech industry. It would essentially allow intellectual property holders to shut down any website's online advertising programs and block credit card payments without ever needing to step into a courtroom or confer with a judge. It won't block a website from the internet, but does allow government lawyers to file an injunction against websites and force internet providers to block access to the site.

The bill also gives the government the ability to go after anyone who builds a tool to bypass these blockades. This also means that search engines like Google must be forced to censor searches from providing direct links to infringing sites. coincidentally, opponents to the bill include tech sector companies like Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, and Mozilla as well as human rights organizations like the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

What does this mean for us gamers? Unfortunately it means the active sharing portion of gaming culture may end up extinct. Are you looking for video walkthroughs or live streams of people playing? You won't find any of those videos without the express permission of the game creators. And why should they let players broadcast property they worked on? It doesn't earn game developers any money when players are gaining attention and fame from video reviews or live streams. Everything we love about Justin.tv may be destroyed because of SOPA. What about the sharing of screenshots with silly captions? SOPA pretty much destroys the idea of "fair use" by giving IP holders the rights to remove the content then ask questions later. It poses a serious threat to legitimate content creation. Even if you aren't a US citizen, this could affect you as it may set a precedent for other countries facing similar issues.

What can you do as a US citizen? Raise awareness. Tell your friends about the seriousness of this issue. Read a bit more to educate yourself about exactly what SOPA is and why it's broken. If you go to Tumblr you can enter your phone number and address, then receive a call from them to provide talking points before they connect you to your House Representative to tell them what you think about this bill. Give a call to the businesses who are supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act and let them know that you don't support them or SOPA. Links to contact pages for some of the companies are at the beginning of this article. No matter what your opinion of piracy is, it is vital you keep yourself informed and take action to let the world know that it is not okay to put up walls around the internet.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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