One of the worst pieces of legislation to hit the US this past year was the Stop Online Piracy Act. This bill, if passed into law, would allow for private companies and the US Attorney General to censor the internet, break its security and stop the growth of new internet technologies in their infancy. It does this all in the name of stopping piracy of US intellectual property online. I have been working on an article that discusses the games industry’s view of SOPA based on the information I have at hand, but I think I need to address one piece of that now.
Prior to the creation of SOPA, EA, Nintendo and Sony, along with a number of other businesses and organizations, signed a letter expressing interest in a law similar to SOPA.
We urge Congress 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. These rogue sites—those websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy—put American jobs, consumers, and innovation at risk.
This is pretty much at the heart of SOPA. While this letter never named any specific bill, it would seem that these businesses would support SOPA as well as the general idea of it. However, this is the one and only instance we have of these three companies supporting anything SOPA like. They have yet to send a press release or make any public comments regarding SOPA itself.
What is really surprising to see over this weekend are a bunch of headlines around the internet stating that these three companies, EA, Nintendo and Sony, have dropped their support for SOPA. Some news outlets are coming to this conclusion based on the absence of these companies on the House Judiciary’s official list of SOPA supporters. While it is true that these three companies’ names are not found, excluding the Sony Music division’s presence on the list, they have never actually claimed to be in support of this specific legislation.
If they never officially expressed support for SOPA, how can we honestly say they dropped their support? As far as I can tell, they are still very much in support of SOPA like legislation, but have yet to get more specific than that. Can we honestly say that if SOPA were to pass that these companies would be indifferent or even against that? There is not enough information to be entirely sure.
However, we do have one other issue to contend with here, the presence of the Entertainment Software Association on the Judiciary list. The ESA is a lobbying organization that works on behalf of many of the major game companies including Sony, EA and Nintendo. Are we to really believe that if the ESA is still actively supporting SOPA that its member companies are not behind that? The ESA is not an entirely autonomous organization. Its member companies have a tremendous voice in the direction it takes. I doubt the ESA would take up such a position without the knowledge let alone the blessing of its member companies.
So with all this out there, can we really say that EA, Sony and Nintendo have pulled support for SOPA? I don’t believe so. Not without an official response from these companies. Until then, the only thing we can say for sure is that these companies support SOPA like legislation and their lobbying group still strongly supports SOPA. So why are we jumping to conclusions based on such weak evidence?