Heya folks. It’s been a while. Been busy dealing with Life and the Universe, and everything those two clowns have been throwing at me. Been a lot of real bad stuff going down- but we’re not here to talk about that. We’ve more important things to speak about; bigger fish to fry, as it were.
This is going to be slightly different fare from some of the other pieces you’ve seen on my blog- it’s gonna taste just a touch more bitter.
SOPA- the Stop Online Piracy Act. You’ve all heard of it by now, I’m sure. You know, the bill that’s being pushed through by the corrupt, hopelessly out of touch Lamar Smith and his cronies, the bill that’ll eliminate the safe harbor rule and make it so virtually anyone can be guilty of infringement, the bill that protects old, out of date business models, the bill that might Falcon Kick free speech in the soft spot with steel-toed boots- and devastates the Internet in the process
Yeah. That one. It’s little sister, the Protect IP Act, isn’t much better. They’re both strikingly similar to China’s 1998 legislation- you know, the bill that resulted in the Great Firewall of China?
I’ve been doing a lot of research on these two convoluted bits of legal refuse, and while everyone’s fairly obvious on how SOPA’s going to devastate New Media and cornhole Social Media into oblivion(in addition to, y’know, killing everything else that’s great about the internet), there hasn’t been a lot about how it’ll affect the gaming industry. So I decided to do a bit of digging. Guess what?
Oh, sure, the games themselves are going to remain the same (no they aren’t). We’ll still be able to play video games (hopefully). We’ll still be able to buy video games (presumably). Pirates will still be able to download video games. (ironic, isn’t it?) You know what’s going to end up suffering?
Not the people the bill originally tried to stop, but the community that’s evolved around gaming, the online message-boards, help sites, and walk throughs. That’s right, SOPA is every single ham-fisted piece of invasive DRM taken to its logical extreme. It’s an attempt to solve a complex equation by smashing things with a hammer until someone gives you the answer out of fear.
It’s not even a solution- it’s a temper tantrum thrown by a bunch of outdated executives who don’t understand that their time has passed.
Let’s Play Videos, strategy guides, video replays, video reviews and commentary, hell- game reviews themselves can all be subjected to infringement laws. A business doesn’t like a review gaming blog X posted? Copyright infringement. A producer decides their official, printed guides aren’t selling well enough because everyone goes online? Copyright infringement. A developer doesn’t want people fiddling with their programming, even though people are making mods that are better than the original game? Copyright Infringement.
Oh, and say goodbye to screenshot sharing and image forums, too. Because, y’know, Copyright Infringement.
And what of Indie games? What about them? Given how easy it is to accuse someone of copyright infringement in the current legal environment, I wouldn’t be surprised if indie developers die out altogether, leaving giants like EA and Sony to traipse forward over their battered, broken remains with sequels, sequels, and more sequels.
That sounds positively mad, right? I’m fear-mongering, I had too much rum in my Irish coffee this morning, I’m smoking something, someone spiked my tea with Opium.
I’m dead serious, actually.
Remember the whole debacle where Bethesda (or, more accurately, the squad of chimpanzees they refer to as lawyers) accused Mojang of copyright infringement because their latest game was called Scrolls? Under SOPA, Mojang could have been completely cut off from the ‘net. Doesn’t matter if they didn’t do anything- they’re guilty unless proven innocent.
Because that’s how SOPA works.
Think about it. Rights-holders already abuse the law. We’re giving them more power. We’re handing the keys to an Abrams tank to bunch of guys who’ve already blown up a building with a grenade. Not even developers are going to be safe from the abuse. Viacom’s already proven its willingness to twist things around, ordering YouTube to take down a video that belonged to Naughty Dog, simply because Naughty Dog happened to show it at the Viacom-run Video Game Awards. Universal Media had content removed from YouTube because it contained artists speaking about going independent.
If SOPA passes, it’s not just gamers that are going to suffer- the whole industry will be damaged.