How the Stop Online Piracy Act could affect you

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SOPA

We at Lazygamer have made our stance on piracy quite well known; we detest and abhor the theft (and it is theft!) of software. We understand the need for IP holder to protect their rights. That said, there’s no way in hell we can support the controversially vague Stop Online Piracy Act and its evil little cousin the Protect IP act. In case you’re unaware, SOPA and PIPA are currently trying to work their way in to US legislature, and could very well end up changing the face of the internet as we know it.

While they sound noble – both of them seek to curtail online piracy, especially those sites not directly within US jurisdiction – the way in which they go about it is a little nefarious, and ripe for abuse. SOPA, if passed in its current state, would allow companies and corporations to block access to websites they believe infringe on copyrights; with little in the way of procedure or due course. It also makes sites like YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook et all responsible for user-posted content, curtailing freedom of speech much like the Great Firewall of China.  In fact, the very header image you see above this is probably an infraction.

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Besides no longer being able to access your favourite games website, how does SOPA affect you as a gamer?

As a gamer, here’s what you stand to lose if SOPA passes, according to Gameranx:

* Mods
* "Let’s Play" videos
* Video replays
* Video reviews and commentary
* Unofficial game guides
* The taking, hosting, and sharing of screenshots, artistic or otherwise
* Image forums (Reddit, 4chan)

Worse is that the gaming companies you love (and love to hate) are largely in support of this act, through their links with the Entertainment Software Association – the trade organisation that organises E3 every year and, hypocritically, lists “Combating governmentally imposed video game censorship and regulation” as one of its duties and wholly supports the act. Here’s the ESA’s most recent statement on SOPA:

"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," the group said in a statement. "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."

The ESA is funded by its members, who include  Atari, Capcom, Disney Interactive Studios, Eidos Interactive, Electronic Arts, Konami, Microsoft, Namco Bandai Games, Nintendo, Sega, Sony Computer Entertainment, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, THQ – and more. Some ESA members, like Epic games,  have spoken out against SOPA, at least in its current form.

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Here’s Epic’s statement on the matter:

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.

We are members of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), a trade organization that is working with legislators to refine the bill.

Destructoid’s Jim Sterling has put together an open letter to the ESA and its members, urging them to withdraw support for the bill. He’s also rather handily supplied a list of Industry email addresses to send the letter to. If you care about games, the internet and personal freedoms, have a look – and maybe you’ll be compelled to fire of a mail or two.

Last Updated: January 5, 2012

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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