The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) have definitely gotten the Internet’s attention, but not in the good Elmo orders Taco Bell sort of way. This is more like Rebecca Black announcing she’s obtained the license to the entire library of The Beatles music.
The two bills have lovers of all things Internet immensely concerned, with many people claiming that if either one passes, the current everyday freedoms we enjoy, including unfettered access to Google, Wikipedia, and especially YouTube, would cease to exist as we know them. In reality, SOPA and PIPA target foreign websites that are pirating copyrighted content, but they do so in a broad way that most Internet experts agree would be damaging to the way the Internet functions.
The video game industry would potentially be hit particularly hard, as a major element of the gaming culture is sharing screenshots, streaming gameplay videos, and celebrating over 20 years of video game art and music. This is not only done on a consumer level, by millions of gamers around the world, but is also the backbone of all professional gaming coverage from sites like GamesBeat and countless others.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, “Instead of complying with the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act], a copyright owner may now be able to use these new provisions to effectively shut down a site by cutting off access to its domain name, its search engine hits, its ads, and its other financing even if the safe harbors would apply.”
Many gaming companies have taken action to protest the bills. Below is a listing of all notable anti-SOPA gaming companies and how they’re fighting for what they believe in. And don’t miss our gallery of anti-SOPA protests today.
“Don’t just send a tweet or shake your head in anger. Do something.”
–Good Old Games (gog.com)
Minecraft creator Markus Persson announced via Twitter that he’d be taking down minecraft.net and mojang.com on January 18th to protest SOPA (the day the bill was originally set to be voted on, though that has now been delayed to February).
Persson acknowledged that a large part of Minecraft’s very viral success was due to players posting screenshots and videos of their in-game creations. Under SOPA, each and every one of them would potentially be at risk of having their sites closed down, something Persson, the legal copyright holder, obviously opposes.
“No sane person can be for SOPA,” Persson stated, speaking on behalf of Mojang. “I don’t know if we’re sane, but we are strongly, uncompromisingly against SOPA, and any similar laws. Sacrificing freedom of speech for the benefit of corporate profit is abominable and disgusting.”
Major League Gaming (MLG)
First MLG moved all 100+ of its domains off of GoDaddy, as did more than 30,000 other sites. It then announced it would be furthering its anti-SOPA stance by participating in the blackout on January 18, from 8am to 8pm ET. The entire MLG network will down during that period, and will be replaced by a short message with additional information about SOPA to “help educate our community members about the bill and what it could mean for them.”
Independent gaming blog Destructoid announced it will be joining in on the January 18 SOPA protest by blacking out its site, alongside MLG, Reddit, Wikipedia, and others.
Destructoid founder Yanier Gonzalez wrote, “If you think this blog post is annoying and not about videogames, wait until you can’t reach our site at all because you won’t have the power to decide what websites you can and cannot reach.”
Wikimedia is not a gaming-only site, obviously, but it does play a major role in the way gaming content is spread and digested across the Internet on a daily basis. You may best know Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales from those mopey banners begging for your donations, but he’s opted to take a decidedly more fearsome stance on SOPA. “All US Citizens: #WikipediaBlackout means nothing unless you call your Senators. Do it now! Give friends the number too!” Wales wrote on his Twitter.
The English-language version of Wikipedia will go dark for 24 hours on January 18. The move is not entirely unprecedented, however, as the Italian version of Wikipedia ran a similar blackout protest in October against new libel laws.
Wales also defended the move on his personal Wikipedia page, and considered taking the blackout global as recently as yesterday. Unlike most other sites, where the decision to protest came down from on high, the Wikipedia blackout was proposed to and discussed by over 1,800 users in a 72 hour-period, with the “overwhelming majority” supporting community action against SOPA.
If you absolutely can’t cope without Wikipedia for one day, you can always download the entire site.
Dana Cowley, senior PR manager for Gears of War studio Epic Games, wrote on the official Epic forums to clarify the company’s anti-SOPA stance. “Epic Games supports efforts that would stop overseas websites profiting from pirating our games, but we have to do that in a way that’s compatible with freedom of speech and due process of law. Thus, we do not support the current version of SOPA.”
Cowley also noted that Epic Games is a member of the Entertainment Software Association, stating it was “working with legislators to refine the bill.” That may be sugar-coating it quite a bit, as the ESA is an organization that has come under heavy fire for its official support of SOPA.
ESA members Sony and Nintendo all quietly removed their names from a list of official SOPA supporters. This may or may not have had something to do with a petition with over 130,000 signatures telling fellow ESA member Electronic Arts to oppose Internet censorship.
Polish indie game developer Sos Sosowski, with the help of 48-hour game-making competition Ludum Dare organizer Mike Kasprzak, has put together the Stop SOPA Jam. The jam will protest SOPA on January 18 in a very unique way: by making games.
Anyone can join the Stop SOPA Game Jam by making an anti-SOPA game and uploading it tomorrow for public consumption. Minecraft’s Markus Persson has confirmed he will be participating.
“We are extremely disappointed in this misguided legislation.”
–Mark Kern, CEO, Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios
Red 5 Studios, the developer of Firefall, an anticipated upcoming free-to-play massively multiplayer online game (MMO), has taken perhaps the most extreme anti-SOPA stance of them. Not only will Red 5 be protesting on January 18 by shutting down its official website, but also the ongoing beta for Firefall.
“We are extremely disappointed in this misguided legislation,” said CEO Mark Kern. “We are also ashamed of the ESA for supporting a bill which is clearly not in the best interests of gamers or the game industry.”
Firefall, which was the primary sponsor for last year’s PAX Prime event in Seattle (earning promotions and a massive booth front in center during the convention), has pulled all plans for this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). E3 is (arguably) the world’s largest annual gaming expo, and is run by the ESA.
Kern stated that Red 5 is not a member of the ESA, and never will be given its stance on SOPA. Instead, Red 5 has established the League for Gamers, a non-profit alternative to the ESA with the goal of “protecting gamers and developers from anti-industry legislation.” You can read more about the LFG in GamesBeat’s exclusive interview.
Kern also noted that bills like SOPA would be especially detrimental to smaller companies “who will not have the legal resources or lobbying presence to protect themselves from unwarranted shutdown.”
Story continues on the next page.
Top image via Destructoid
Bungie, creators of the record-breaking Halo series, made the following statement on its official forums:
At Bungie we tend to keep our collective nose out of state affairs. We can’t even come to a consensus on which bus line to take into Bellevue in the morning, let alone arrive at any unified conclusions regarding our equally congested political roadways. But we all agree that SOPA sucks. And we’re not alone.
In a clumsy effort to curtail online piracy, this messy piece of legislation will, if passed, negatively impact both the games we make and the people who play them. If that sounds like very bad news to you (and it should), we encourage you to take a few moments to learn more about SOPA by reading the bill itself, by visiting the Electronic Frontier Foundation for more information, and by contacting your representatives in United States Congress and the Senate to make your voice heard.
Bungie is opposed to any legislation that curtails free speech, stifles innovation, and prevents the open sharing of information on the Internet. SOPA fits that bill. If it passes, it will hurt our community, the gaming community at large, and it could very well cripple the kind of games we love to create and play.
Just like online piracy, that would be downright criminal.
“Official forums and potentially even in-game chat could be taken down or have their features reduced based on user behavior.”
–Brandon Beck, CEO, Riot Games
League of Legends
Riot Games, responsible for the highly successful League of Legends multiplayer title, has taken a firm stance in opposite to SOPA. Addressing the millions of LoL players in the game’s official forums, Riot CEO and Co-Founder Brandon Beck made the following statement:
We’re not usually inclined to comment on politics. We’re a game company, and making games is just a whole lot more fun.
But there is legislation under consideration today by the United States Congress that gives us serious concern.
Called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the “PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA) in the Senate, these bills are a misguided attempt to curb the illegal piracy of copyrighted content (like movies, music and games). Preventing piracy of copyrighted content is a laudable goal, and Riot supports legitimate efforts to combat these activities and protect content creators (like us).
However, SOPA/PIPA goes far beyond simply addressing piracy. This proposed legislation actually threatens any website that features user-generated content. In effect, any copyright holder could file a claim that a streaming website is hosting unauthorized content (such as a song in the background of a League of Legends stream). Under the law, ad networks, payment providers and internet service providers are now potentially liable for their user’s infringement. These services could then be compelled to immediately remove support for a streaming website or face a costly legal battle – at a minimum cutting off financial means, and likely shutting off the site entirely.
How would SOPA/PIPA impact League of Legends players?
- Kills streaming. If any single streamer plays copyrighted music (or alt tabs into a movie or other owned content) on their stream, there is a significant risk of the entire streaming service being taken down. In some cases, it could even result in criminal penalties for the streamer.
- Threatens independent content creation. Services we all use to create and share League of Legends related content, such as YouTube, Reddit, DeviantArt, streaming websites such as Own3d and Twitch, and more would be at risk of shutting down or greatly restricting the scope of legitimate content allowed on their sites.
- Attacks our community. Aspects of our service such as the official forums and potentially even in-game chat, could be taken down or have their features reduced based on user behavior.
- Other harmful effects. SOPA/PIPA undermine established intellectual property legislation like the DMCA, raise serious constitutional free speech issues, and could even compromise the basic security infrastructure of the internet.
Congress will reconvene at the end of January, and with a long roster of supporters on both sides of the aisle, SOPA/PIPA could actually pass. The likelihood is so great that technology giants including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have gone so far as to publicly consider a simultaneous blackout in protest.
Riot Games is opposed to SOPA/PIPA in their present form. While we do support efforts to prevent online piracy, the current form of this legislation comes at far too high a cost for us, our players, and online communities across the internet.
Help us take a stand. Write your congressperson today and voice your opposition to this misguided and harmful legislation.
Riot Games also took to Reddit, where its attorney opened up a post allowing readers to submit questions and suggestions regarding the company’s anti-SOPA activities. (Note that Reddit will be shut down on January 18 in protest of SOPA.)
And lastly, U.S. Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado, a devout League of Legends player, contributed to the anti-SOPA discussion in the forums. “I’m particularly concerned that SOPA might stifle the kind of innovation that brings us games we love, such as LoL,” Polis wrote. “The bill makes it far too easy for angry competitors to sue good law abiding companies out of existence.”
Good Old Games (GoG)
GOG is a Polish-owned sales and distribution site focusing primarily on “classic” PC games. The company announced their stance on SOPA and PIPA last week in an official statement:
…the more we see that it looks like the US Congress may pass SOPA or PIPA, the more we feel that we need to speak out. It’s impossible to say what impact that legislation could have on a global company like GOG.com, but we have a platform that can reach out to many gamers who will be effected by this, so we need to let you know about what SOPA and PIPA are and why, if you’re American, you should be worried about them.
What are SOPA and PIPA? These are two different bills that have a stated goal of providing the US government and various IP rightsholders with tools to curb piracy and copyright infringement online. Many web giants, including Amazon, Google, Twitter, Reddit, and eBay have stressed how worried they feel about SOPA and PIPA, because while it is a method to reduce piracy and infringement, it is probably not a good one.
Will SOPA/PIPA work? It might, depending on your definition of “work.” It will put the power over what content is available on the Internet very firmly into the hands of people who are rights-holders–or who claim to be. It will restrict the scope of legitimate content allowed on websites in ways we probably don’t even know yet. A few examples of what might change if SOPA is passed: it could kill streaming of game footage or even game-chat, radically alter how your favorite user-generated content websites–including the GOG.com forums–function, and finally, it may well undermine the basic structure of the Internet.
Will SOPA/PIPA stop piracy? No. SOPA works in a fashion similar to DRM, if you ask us: it only will have an effect on people who are, by and large, honest consumers. Pirates who torrent via P2P methods will not be inconvenienced in the least by SOPA and PIPA; people who post “let’s play” walkthroughs of video games on YouTube, though, may be.
GOG.com is opposed to piracy and copyright infringement, but we know that there are good way to try and reduce piracy and bad ones.GOG.com will always oppose anti-piracy methods that threaten user privacy and freedom. We will always stay DRM-free and apply ‘same game-same price’ policy. We will always put trust in our users as the best method of fighting piracy.
SOPA is not the way to fix the problem of piracy. If you agree with us, don’t just send a tweet or shake your head in anger. Do something. Contact your congressperson or representative and tell them in no uncertain terms that you oppose this bill. There’s a chance that SOPA won’t be as bad as organizations like the EFF and Wikimedia foundations say it is, but you only have one chance to stop this before it happens.
SOPA is especially directed towards non-US sites, giving the United States government China-esque censorship abilities to block foreign sites from appearing on the “American Internet,” so to speak.
Trine developer Frozenbyte took to YouTube with this (mostly) silent video explaining their stance on SOPA (while also shamelessly plugging the official soundtrack to their game).
If you know of any other game sites and companies partaking in anti-SOPA protests, please comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be added to the list.