Posted by : Unknown Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let me start off by saying that piracy is killing the Game Development industry and I'm kinda passionate about finding ways to eliminate it.  So, the idea of something like the Stop Online Piracy Act(SOPA) sounds interesting...but everyone I talk to is angry about it.  So, I realized today that most of what I know about it has been passionate discussion and I decided to start looking into it myself.

I started by attempting to read the actual act itself and quickly found myself falling asleep...stupid politicians.  I swear most of these things have to get passed because no one can actually understand what they are signing up for.  I then decided to read over the Wikipedia page for it which was much easier to digest.  The bill makes unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime with five years in prison for 10 such infringements within six months....seems reasonable to me. But the heavy handed part is that places like PayPal are barred from doing business with these sites and search engines can't link to them.

People For It Say

  • It protects intellectual property for Americans
  • It will create more American jobs
  • Stops flow of revenue to foreign sites
  • Provides protection against buying counterfeit prescription drugs
People Against It Say
  • Threat to online free speech
  • Negative impact to online communities (Etsy, Flickr, Vimeo)
  • Impacts to Cloud linking of data
  • Weakening of "safe harbor" protections for websites
  • SOPA wording is broad and could kill e-commerce (no one will invest because of legal liability)
  • Threat to users who upload content
  • Threat to internal networks
    • targets an entire website even if only a small portion does something illegal
    • includes VPN networks
  • Ineffectual against piracy (sites will just reopen elsewhere)
  • Invasion of privacy (IP blocking and deep packet inspection)
  • Lack of transparency in enforcement
Okay, after just reading this list of pros and cons I have to admit that I'm a bit concerned with it...but I still want to get more details on what people feel is going to happen if SOPA passes.  I've been hearing about several protest actions so I was curious what exactly was happening on that front.

Apparently Go Daddy had initially announced support for SOPA and then users from Reddit organized a boycott in protest.  Later Wikimedia announced it would move all of it's domains so go Daddy withdrew their support until it's supported by the internet community.  This short lived support caused a mass exodus of users from their site.  Personally, their quick change makes me hesitant about their company and I may have to move my domains elsewhere as well. 

Reddit announced a blackout of it's site for 12 hours on January 18th and other sites like Major League Gaming are joining in as well.  A bunch of higher profile companies like Google and Facebook are also considering this blackout...I would be very interested to see what that looks like.

Now I feel like I have a decent overview of what the issues are and how people are passionate about it, but I still feel like I don't have enough meat into exactly WHAT they think is going to happen.  I'm going to start reading some articles to get their individual perspectives.

I just read a NYT article saying the white house opposes the bill. They agree that piracy is a huge problem in America but the bill as-is reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk and undermines the global internet. Now for some detailed concerns, they say the bill handcuffs search engines and payment processors like Paypal. It also allows private citizens and companies to sue to stop what they BELIEVE to be theft of protected content.  I don't know about you...but the amount of lawsuits that already happen because they CAN is incredible.  This could get out of hand fast.

Hitting closer to home...Bungie came out in opposition of the bill citing the same reasons in the list above.  While they didn't talk in detail about how it will affect the Game Development industry, they agree that it certainly will if passed as proposed.  Other companies like Epic Games, Riot Games and Red 5 Studios have also come out in opposition.

The thing that is consistent here is that everyone agrees that piracy is bad...they just don't agree with SOPA as it currently is written.  It seems that major revisions would have to be made for it to get into any kind of a state that will help actually solve the problem without changing the American way of life.  I'm really glad I took the time to look into this for myself tonight and have learned that I am firmly on the side of SOPA opposition...until they fix it.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. My thing when this first came up, was how much of it is just the usual people griping because they feel they have some "right" to pirate stuff.

    Looking further into it though, it does seem fairly broken. Something tells me it'll be a long time though before anything is agreeable enough to pass.

  2. I think the only major companies (gaming) that support SOPA are EA, Sony and Nintendo. Most others have stayed out of it.

    The issue I had with it was that it would put a HUGE limitation on the modding community and those of us who use things such as SDKs, CryEngine, UDK, ect for the betterment of education and portfolio work.

    There are far better ways to go about protecting ones intellectual property, and the vagueness that is SOPA is wrong. I think Ubisoft was onto something with the inception of their implementations, but we are still far away from that type of technology.

    But here is a kicker, IF someone purchases a game, and the disk gets broken beyond repair, do they have the right to turn to a torrent; use the SAME serial key and be fine?

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