Posts Tagged SOPA

In The Wake Of ESA Support For SOPA A New Advocacy Group Arises

We all know that the ESA supports SOPA. This is absolutely horrid. What makes this even more horrid is that the ESA just last year asked for the help of gamers in their fight to stop violent video game legislation. They did this by creating a gamer advocacy group called the Videogame Voters Network. While the ESA and gamers were united in that battle, the ESA has decided to leave those gamers who joined the organization out in the cold on SOPA. These two interconnected events have left a lot of developers and a lot of gamers fuming. You can see an example of this on the VGVN’s Facebook page (look but don’t like).

But something else happened. Something that has the potential to shake the ESA to its very core. This something started with a game company called Red5 Studios and Extra Credits. Yesterday during the anti-SOPA protests, Extra Credits aired a video asking gamers, the gaming press and game development companies to all boycott the ESA and E3 until the ESA drops its support of SOPA. This is a really great message and one that I think every one should live by. When a business or organization is actively out to harm you like the ESA is with SOPA, why should we give them support? This is a question that Red5 asked itself and it is doing something about it.

Earlier this week, Red5 decided to found a new organization, one that brings both gamers and game developers to the same table to fight together for freedom and the internet. This new organization is called the League For Gamers. In its opening statement LFG said:

League For Gamers was founded by Red 5 Studios and Mark Kern, CEO of Red 5 Studios, who serves as LFG’s President. League For Gamers (LFG) was created on January 14, 2012 in order to give gamers, as well as developers, a voice in Washington and an organization that would serve and foster the interest and e-sport of video gamers and our favorite pastime as played on PC/Mac, mobile and console platforms.

League for GamersI think this type of organization has been long overdue. While we have organizations that separately defend game developers, publishers, retailers and gamers, we have never seen any combination of those interests. This is certainly an experiment I can get behind. When we have gamers and game developers sitting at the same table discussing the issues, we can get mutually beneficial results. While I myself am a member of the Entertainment Consumers Association and still very much support their work and efforts, I think the VFG will be a great ally in the fight against legislation like SOPA and PIPA.

I can’t wait to see what this organization gets up to and who decides to join. Let’s hope it gains the power to influence policy debates to benefit both gamers and game developers.

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Anti-SOPA Protests The Aftermath: Gaming Edition

Yesterday was a very interesting day. It marked the first ever anti-SOPA protest to be held online. There was a lot of great stuff happening. I wish I was able to document a lot of it, but sadly between work and sick family, I was only able to watch the protest.

The big things were that sites like Reddit, and Wikipedia were completely blacked out in Protest. Google had censored its logo and was pointing people to information on SOPA and how to contact their representatives in Congress. But that is not what I want to focus on.

On the gaming side of things, we had some really great showings around the web. The Entertainment Consumers Association (action link) had completely blacked out its websites including Game Politics. This was a pretty gutsy move from them as many people (myself included) had hoped they would stay active to document the protest. But hey, they got some more people to contact Congress and that is the important thing.

Gamasutra took a slightly different approach. They posted an editorial on why the site and its writers and editors opposed SOPA. This was the only thing available on the site and the article racked up a nice 100+ comments. I would have hoped that more people would have commented and that there would have been more discussion going on, but that was still pretty good.

Rock Paper Shotgun also blacked out their site. They have been pretty vocal in their opposition for a while now and have even compiled a list of ESA member companies and what their stances are on SOPA. I am really impressed with these guys.

Penny Arcade took the time yesterday to host a special anti-SOPA Extra Credits episode. In this episode, Red5, the creators of Firefall, Extra Credits and a number of other gaming figures put out a special plea for ESA member companies that oppose SOPA to drop their ESA memberships and for all those companies and gaming news sites that oppose SOPA to boycott E3 and other ESA related events. This is something that I will discuss in a separate article.

On the other end of the anti-SOPA spectrum there were a number of gaming news sites that did nothing but express their opposition to SOPA. Other than that, it was business as usual. Kotaku, Joystiq, IGN and many others really didn’t put their hearts into their messages. This was really sad. I don’t know what they were thinking. It is probably to do with the fact that most of those sites have parent organizations that actually support SOPA or that the owners of the sites didn’t want to lose any advertising revenue for the day. That is a horrible shame.

This is but a very small part of the whole anti-SOPA protest. I wish I could document everything that happened. The good news is that those who participated in the protest made an impression in Washington and support for SOPA and PIPA is falling. However, we need to keep this up. There is no reason to rest on our laurels now that we have won this small battle. We still have a war ahead of us. We need to keep our representatives held to their word. Those that still support SOPA and PIPA need to have their minds changed. We cannot rest as long as the internet and the freedom it embodies is threatened.

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ESA Fully Supports SOPA; EMA Supports PIPA

Some interesting news has come along the wire today. The ESA has officially come out in support for SOPA. I received an email stating as such today and shortly afterward, everyone else is reporting on it too. Here is the entirety of its response:

As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection, and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive. Rogue websites – those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy – restrict demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs. Our industry needs effective remedies to address this specific problem, and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective. We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation.

This is bad news, although not something I really didn’t see coming. What this means now is that every game company that the ESA represents now supports SOPA by proxy. This is bad. This means that even though Sony, Nintendo, EA etc have not come out specifically on SOPA, they are still considered in favor of this horrible legislation because they are members of the ESA. Even though EA claims to have never taken a position on SOPA it still supports SOPA by proxy.

What needs to happen now is for every gamer, every game developer and really anyone, to write these member companies and the ESA and demand they stop supporting SOPA. no more beating around the bush by these companies. We need to demand answers. If you want some pointers on contacting these companies, you should check out some great advice from Mommy’s Best Games or over at Destructoid.

On a related note, the Entertainment Merchants Association has contacted me to reaffirm their support for PIPA in the Senate but have not taken a position on SOPA.

EMA has endorsed the PROTECT IP Act, for the reasons stated in our news release. However, we have not taken a position on SOPA.

This is almost as bad as supporting SOPA. SOPA has been out for several months now and any lobbying organization should have come to a conclusion about SOPA, especially if it has one on PIPA. I would recommend calling on the EMA and retailers it represents to oppose SOPA as well.

So there you have it. Two of the primary video game industry’s lobbyist organizations and their position on SOPA. I would hope that these companies would come to their senses and switch to opposition to SOPA and PIPA. Both pieces of legislation are bad news for the internet and even gamers. Why anyone would support them is beyond me.

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Did EA, Sony and Nintendo Pull Support For SOPA? Maybe Not

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?

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ECA Agrees, SOPA Is Bad For Gamers

Recently, we censored our blog title in protest to legislation proposed in the US. SOPA and PIPA threaten the very foundation of the internet, all in the name of stopping a few “rogue sites”. Since the introduction of these bills, many consumer rights groups have been vocal in their opposition.  Now the ECA has added their voice to those in protest.

In November, I had the opportunity to seek a guest editorial from the ECA on behalf of Techdirt. In this editorial, Jennifer Mercurio raised a few objections to this legislation from the point of view of a gamer. There are many aspects of the legislation that would be harmful to gamers. One of the more controversial portions is the felony streaming provision of SOPA. This would make it illegal to post videos of copyrighted works for display publicly. This would essentially make it illegal to post videos of your gameplay sessions.

There are many other issues raised within the editorial and I recommend that you read it.

More recently, Hal Halpin wrote in an IGN blog that most of the issues that SOPA are based around really boil down to a problem in customer service. In this article, Hal tells of Valve and their efforts in providing a better customer service experience for gamers. This business philosophy has done wonders for Valve which is the leader in online sales of games.

Expanding on this view Hal says the following:

Think about it objectively: the reason for any recent company or brand’s success of late stems from your affinity for the good or service that’s provided. Zappos is a great example. Online shoe ordering….really?! Books? Sure. Sneakers? Didn’t see that coming… The sole (no pun intended) reason for their success isn’t that they create something amazing. In fact, the thing they do create that is amazing is customer loyalty. They create an affinity bond between their brand and their consumers and anything that impedes that – to them, philosophically -is a threat to their core business.

This highlights exactly how a content provider can provide a level of service that not only competes with other similar businesses but also with pirates. If you are not only providing the product your customers want but also an experience that leaves them wanting to come back, you can certainly expect more sales. This is not rocket science. This has been the foundation of business from the rise of capitalism.

Hal also lays some of the responsibility on the gamer. This is something that I can agree with. As gamers, or really consumers of any digital good, we hold a responsibility to follow the law. However, as a business, they hold a responsibility to appeal to their fans and provide a level of service that will benefit their customers. SOPA does not accomplish that. SOPA effectively declares that all fans are potential criminals, which is something that fans are not fond of.

The ECA is certainly one group that understands the current digital climate and their views are very much in tune with gamers. I have grown quite fond of their efforts and will continue to follow and support their work. If you would like to support them in this effort against SOPA, I recommend that you visit their action page on the SOPA.

Disclosure: I am a comment moderator to the ECA’s political blog Game Politics. I am also a member of the ECA and a former Chapter President.

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Why Is Our Logo Censored?

You may have noticed that our logo is censored with a link pointing to American Censorship. There is an interesting story about it.

What is happening is the US government at the behest of a number of media companies such as the RIAA, MPAA and the ESA are working to pass some of the worst copyright legislation in US history. These two bills are titled “Stop Online Piracy Act” in the House and “Protect Intellectual Property Act” in the Senate. What these bills hope to accomplish is a reduction in movie, music, game and software piracy as well as reduce counterfeit goods from entering the US.

They hope to achieve these goals by giving sweeping power to the US Attorney General and copyright holders the ability to prevent ad providers, credit card processing firms and DNS providers from working with websites that are “dedicated to infringing activities”. These bills would also make it illegal to stream or upload any video or song that is covered by copyright that you do not have rights to.

Sadly, these bills will be used to censor a lot more than copyright infringement. Under these bills, sites like YouTube, Twitter, Flicker, Facebook  and any other site that allows users to upload content will be liable if anyone uploads copyrighted materials without permission. That means that if someone uploads a video to YouTube that infringes a copyright, movie studios would be able to have all of YouTubes services cut off and whole swaths of legal content will be censored as a result.

That isn’t even the worst of it. Currently under the DMCA, copyright holders can only ask for certain content to be removed. If the site owner removes said content they maintain what is called “safe harbor” protections. This prevents the site owner from being sued for copyright infringement for something a user of the site did. This is a good thing for sites like YouTube because safe harbors have allowed it to continue to operate and be a vessel of free speech for millions of people.

Under SOPA, all that goes away. Now, it doesn’t matter what the site owner does, they will have no safe harbor to protect them. If only one person uploads a copyrighted song or video, the whole site is gone even if the rest of the millions of videos are perfectly legal.

Additionally, SOPA and PROTECT-IP have no punishment for false accusations. A copyright holder can have a site removed and if it turns out to be a completely legal site, there is no punishment for the false takedown. Nothing happens to that copyright holder. That is beyond bad. There should be some kind of punishment such as a fine of $150,000 per false takedown. But no. They can get away with it.

One last thing I would like to share is that under these laws there is also no court involved. Copyright holders can just fire off letters at will to ISPs, DNS providers, Credit card companies and ad companies and those companies have to follow the law or they can be prosecuted for copyright infringement that had ZERO to do with them. This is absurd on a major level. These companies are completely neutral in all this but they run the risk of being prosecuted themselves if they don’t comply. Not with a court order, but with a letter from some random person or company. If a court were involved, these copyright holders would have to prove that the site is actually infringing before anything could happen, but the content industries don’t want to have to get a court order. They feel it is too much work.

In the end, these laws are not about stopping piracy. These laws are about unloading the burden of policing the content of copyright holders like those under the RIAA, MPAA and ESA onto third parties that have absolutely no power to control what users of the internet do. They don’t want to have to do the work themselves.

These bills need to stop now before they can be voted into law. Using the link provided at the beginning of this post and that can be found by clicking the black bar over our logo, you can contact your Senators and Congressman and tell them not to vote for this legislation. Tell them that you like our internet as it is.

You can also Contact those in Congress and support an organization that is dedicated to gamers by visiting the ECA:

Don’t Let Congress Censor the Internet

You can find more information about these bills at the following location:

The Definitive Post On Why SOPA And Protect IP Are Bad, Bad Ideas
Congress considers anti-piracy bills that could cripple Internet industries

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