On January 18, 2012, web sites protested SOPA and PIPA legislation in different ways from going "dark" to black bars over images or text on the site. From left to right: Wikipedia's "going dark" home page, Google's censored logo and a photo on N4G's home page while it went "dark."
The proposed legislation referred to as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act, House Bill 3261
) and PIPA (Protect IP Act, titled "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011," Senate Bill 968
) spawned various online "blackout" protests by web sites on January 18, 2012. Most notably the English language version of Wikipedia protested by limiting access to content while some other sites blocked text or images using large censorship black bars.
The basic idea of both bills, in the tiniest of nutshells, is that, if passed, the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders would have the ability to request court orders against websites - including foreign sites - that infringe on copyrights, which could then result in internet providers being forces to limit access to those sites. Proponents see this as a way to protect intellectual property while opponents view both bills as a form or - or slippery slope to greater - censorship.
I asked indeiPub's own Manager Director of Development, Robert Cassidy, his take on the legislation and what it might mean for game developers.
"I am not completely versed on the policy being proposed but what I do know worries me," said Cassidy. "The ESA (Entertainment Software Association), which is the lobbying arm of the video game industry and holds the E3 Expo each year, has barred gaming sites and game companies from going black or releasing statements that oppose the legislation as they strongly support both PIPA/SOPA and have spent close to $200,000 dollars backing it."
According to Kotaku
, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has spent approximately $190,000 on the Senate version of SOPA last Spring (2011). While the ESA's specific plan or stance is not known, the organization has indicated that it is in favor of the legislation going through
Game developer Mark Kern, in an interview with Hollywood Reporter
, said that gaming sites and game companies "could not go black or release statements to oppose PIPA/SOPA." Kern has co-founded League for Gamers
(LFG) with Red 5 Studios as an alternative to the Video Game Voters Network (VGVN).
A screenshot of the web site SonicStadium which, on January 18, 2012, pretended to redact most of its content in protest of SOPA.
Notable game sites that went dark in protest include N4G (News for Gamers), Epic Games
and Notch's Minecraft.net and Mojang.com
"The hypocrisy here," continues Cassidy, "is that the ESA also operates VGVN which ostensibly represents gamers and also is most known for winning 1st Amendment classification for video games as free speech, in part due to the grass roots support of the VGVN. One look at the VGVN’s Facebook page
will let you know how the gaming community feels about this with their calls to boycott E3 and all ESA events with zero response from VGVN."
On the VGVN’s Facebook page
wall you'll find comments including:
- "The ESA's support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is a direct attack on free speech and innovation in gaming." (Daniel Roose)
- "Incredibly disappointed in Entertainment Software Association and Video Game Voters Network for their endorsement of SOPA. After spending so much time, $$$, and activism against the 'Violent Video Games Bill' to the Supreme Court... they support this? You're either for us, or against us. #BoycottE3" (Kara Behnke)
- "Sorry VGVN, you're either with us or against us. SOPA/PIPA are terrible for everyone, and especially gamers. If you won't support the voters, we won't support you." (Joe Krauska)
"There are many developers who do not agree with the ESA and possibly millions of gamers who oppose SOPA/PIPA," said Cassidy. "As to how this directly impacts indie game developers, I think that any legislation that inhibits free speech and places broad powers to control the internet in the hands of large corporations and the government will have a devastating effect on any small, grass roots organizations and individuals who are trying to bring new, creative and innovative ideas which depend on a free and open internet. Boycott E3 and ESA unless they change their stance on SOPA."
SOPA, a House bill, is currently on hold and the Senate is scheduled to vote on PIPA on January 24, 2012.
I've reached out to the ESA for comments and clarifications concerning the Facebook comments, exactly how much money was used to influence SOPA/PIPA and the organizations official stance the but I have not yet received a response.
UPDATE (January 20, 2012):
Nevada Senator Harry Reid has postponed the January 24, 2012, vote on PIPA, stating, "There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved." (U.S. Senate Democrats
~ ~ ~
SITE: SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act, House Bill 3261
SITE: PIPA: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, Senate Bill 968
SITE: Entertainment Software Association
PAGE: VGVN @ Facebook
SITE: League for Gamers