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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.
Sosowski initiated the movement with a single tweet: “Let’s protest against #SOPA the best way we can! Make #antiSOPA games on January 18! Join the #sopajam! Let’s do this!”
“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