Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

SOPA/PIPA – The Greatest Threat To The Internet And Innovation So Far

Posted by Stropp on January 18, 2012

Last November I wrote a post about the upcoming SOPA/PIPA legislation currently being debated in the US Congress and Senate. I concluded that SOPA would have a negative impact on gamers and on games. I said,

Even worse, because the burden of proof is lowered even further, it may become rediculously easy for game publishers to take out the competition. Just claim copyright infringement. Right now you cannot copyright an idea. But since there is no due process anymore, just a claim that the competing developer has infringed might be enough to close down the competitor. This might not work between two giants like Activision and Ubisoft, but what about Activision claiming against an innovative indie developer?

There’s no way an indie can fight that sort of fight. Right now indie developers are enjoying a golden age as the web has opened up lots of opportunities for them. How easy would it be for SOPA to end all that?

That was a big concern of mine, and while it was directed specifically at indie games, there are all sorts of indie ‘industries’ that SOPA will kill.

Right now the Internet has lowered the entry bar to all kinds of creatives. If you are a musician you can put up a website and let people download your music. If you are a writer you can write a novel and self publish far more easily now than any time in history. An Indie game developer now has access to the tools, content, and resources to make games that would have been considered AAA ten years ago.

I think we are coming in to a golden age of creativity where anyone will be able to create art, both commercial and non-commercial, and find people to share it with. The challenge will be the development of new and innovative tools that enable those connections between creators and fans.

This is a threat to the gatekeepers. The publishers and agents who controlled the means of distribution. They don’t create, they sell what the creatives build and give back small returns. In the past they were necessary, now, not so much.

These gatekeepers have made many fortunes off of the work of others, and they are now threatened. So they are spending large chunks of these fortunes to bribe  payoff lobby politicans, who don’t understand the technology, all over the world to crush that innovation and to retain the old obsolete business models. They have stated that the needs of the wider Internet community are subservient to their own and that it is okay to break the Internet in order to meet those needs.

Not only will creativity be crushed, you won’t be able to have secure web access to your bank and other online accounts, because the DNSSEC (Wikipedia entry) work is regarded as circumvention and will be illegal. (Even Comcast a SOPA supporter has said that their DNSSEC implementation clashes with the SOPA provisions. What a mess!)

Because I’m not a US Citizen I cannot vote in any US elections, I can’t even contact a US politician and let them know how I feel, so Stropp’s World is not going to go dark on January 18th in support of the movement against SOPA/PIPA.

However, I’d love to encourage as many as you who read my blog and live in the US to contact your federal and state representatives about SOPA and PIPA. Find out where they stand and let them know in no uncertain terms how you feel about this evil legislation. Let them know that this legislation is toxic and will cost them votes and possibly their seats.

If you want to go further, and this isn’t limited to US citizens, contact the people you buy stuff from. Find out their position on SOPA, and if they are pro tell them you won’t be buying their products until they change their position (this worked with Godaddy, kindof.) Of course you have to back it up. Make everyone see that the Internet is not just a bunch of ineffective nerds, but a very powerful political force that cannot be ignored in issues such as this.

Your comments are welcome. Tell me how you feel about this.

By the way, I found the image at the front of this post using Google Image search. Is it copyright? Perhaps. If SOPA is enacted, I could lose my site without any recourse at all if anyone, not just the original copyright holder makes a complaint.

 

 

SOPA — Bad For Gamers, Bad For Games

Posted by Stropp on November 16, 2011

This article on the TechDirt blog just came up on my reader.

I’ve been hearing about this SOPA bill that is being pushed before the American legislature for a while now. It used to be called EPARASITE, which seems a fitting name, as it seems to be about to unleash a parasitical attack on the worlds innovative industries.

It also appears to be an attack on gamers, especially those gamers who devote creative activity around the games they enjoy.

Just as people post cute pictures and videos of themselves, their pets and their kids singing and dancing to copyrighted works, gamers of all ages routinely post pics and stream video of themselves during game play. All of these things have, for the most part, been considered “fair use” under the law. Tens of thousands of videos currently available online featuring game play from popular games like Call of Duty, Halo, Starcraft and others could be made illegal under these laws.

From what I can gather, SOPA allows anyone who calls themself a rights holder to issue a notice to an ISP and have any offending content taken down immediately, without any notice or recourse to the originator of the content. The rights holder can also conduct even more draconian action if they wish.

For instance, if I posted a screenshot on this blog of a game I am playing and the game developer took issue with that, they could conceivably not just issue a takedown to my host and get Stropp’s World taken offline, they could also complain to my domain provider and I could lose the domain too. And just like a bad set of steak knives, that’s not all. If I have a donation button on the site, SOPA allows them to go to PayPal and have them block my account.

All without any due process or legal recourse.

Now while that exact situation is a bit unlikely, game devs tend to like fans promoting their products, I wonder if there are situations where a bigger publisher could exploit this legislation to their own end.

Could SOPA be used to take down a blog that put a negative review of a game up? Hey if it uses trademarked phrases and screenshots or video segments it could be fair game. This could be a great way for unethical game publishers to do a bit of reputation management. Complain and the bad reviews just magically go away.

How about the recent trademark fight between Notch and Bethesda? Under current legislation Bethesda had to go to court. Under SOPA all they have to do is to issue a takedown. It doesn’t matter if Notch is in Europe, the domain may be registered in the US. The site may be hosted there. And the payment processor is almost certainly US based. All Bethesda has to do is get in first and Notch wouldn’t have stood a chance. That’s justice right?

Even worse, because the burden of proof is lowered even further, it may become rediculously easy for game publishers to take out the competition. Just claim copyright infringement. Right now you cannot copyright an idea. But since there is no due process anymore, just a claim that the competing developer has infringed might be enough to close down the competitor. This might not work between two giants like Activision and Ubisoft, but what about Activision claiming against an innovative indie developer?

There’s no way an indie can fight that sort of fight. Right now indie developers are enjoying a golden age as the web has opened up lots of opportunities for them. How easy would it be for SOPA to end all that?

All this legislation is being sponsored by politicians who are in the pockets of the *IAA’s and big corporate lobbyists.

Political donations == legalised bribery.

Sometimes I wonder if Americans are fooling themselves by thinking that they are in the land of the free when their freedoms are being eroded inch by inch by the greedy and corrupt.

Good Old Games, You’re My Hero

Posted by Stropp on May 10, 2011

Just saw on Rock Paper Shotgun a little news item that Good Old Games has decided to drop a IP location check for buyers of their games.

This means that Australian gamers won’t be faced with the following.

  • Not being charged a ridiculous premium on games because we live in Oz, as Steam does for some titles.
  • Not being able to buy a game online because the publisher blocks games that didn’t pass our stupid Australian censorship laws.

Both of those are bonuses.

I do like this quote from RPS.

It’s great that GoG are employing trust in their customers this way, because it means they know that no one in Australia would ever dream of breaking this bond by using the lack of IP geo-tracking to purchase a game that’s been censored by their country’s government.

pause in typing

okay. Just excuse me for a second as I pick myself up off the floor. Laughing like that is a health hazard.

As you know I hate censorship. I think it’s the lowest act of government, and a sign of the nanny state mentality that politicians who think they know better than the people who elected them. As an adult I have the right to choose what I read, watch, listen to, or play. No government has the right to dictate that.

So I applaud Good Old Games, even if they are not making a stand against censorship, to at least remove some of the road blocks thrown up assisting the censors.

New Hope For R-Rating For Games In Australia

Posted by Stropp on March 22, 2010

Australian gamers have been wanting an R-Rating category for games for quite some time now. Unfortunately this takes a unanimous approval from each of the state Attorney-Generals, and while nearly every state was for such a rating category, the South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson has been the lone hold-out preventing the implementation of an R rating for games.

This has risen to a head over the last year or so. Atkinsons refusal prompted the formation of a new political party called Gamers4Croydon which put forward a candidate in Atkinson’s seat of Croydon. Croydon however is a fairly safe Labor seat requiring a massive swing against Labor for it to fall to the Liberal party. A petition was also collected and presented to a Federal hearing on the R issue with over 50,000 signatures. A number I’m lead to believe is fairly hard to achieve.

Just a note for international readers: While it’s not entirely accurate, you can think of the Labor party as the Australian equivalent to The US Democrats and the Liberal party as the conservatives or Republicans.

Now the South Australian state election was held over the weekend (Aussies always vote on Saturday) and there was a massive swing against the government, something like seven percent. Unfortunately, noone yet knows who has won. It appears that the winner will be decided by postal votes, and that will take a few more days to find out. Still, the predictions are that Labor will retain government by the slimmest of margins.

It also looks like Gamers4Croydon did pretty well in Croydon. They picked up 587 votes at the polling booths. Out of over 16000 ballots cast, that’s 3.7% of the vote, and isn’t too bad for an independant party, especially one formed only a few months ago and running on a single issue.

So why the title of the post, New Hope For R-Rating For Games In Australia, if Labor will be returned?

Well, the reason for the big swing against the government was predominantly a sex scandal involving the state Premier, but there has also been widespread disatisfaction with the government especially Atkinson. So while Michael Atkinson was returned to parliament with 64%, he has decided to stand down as state Attorney-General.

This means that the single greatest obstacle to the implementation of an R-Rating for games is no longer an obstacle.

This doesn’t mean of course that the new rating will be automatic. There’s going to be all sorts of political processes that will have to happen first. And we also don’t know which way Atkinson’s successor will lean on the issue. It’s possible that it will remain blocked.

Still, things are looking a bit brighter for Australian gamer choice.

Idiots!

Posted by Stropp on January 22, 2010

Regular readers will know that I periodically rant against stupid censorship laws, being a strong believer that people not only have a right to make up their own minds about what they read, watch, or play, but that they are generally capable of making those decisions being adults.

Still, sometimes one must wonder.

One of the big gaming issues in Oz at the moment is the undemocratic blocking of an R rating for games by the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. I’ve made a few comments about that on this blog, but that’s not what I want to rail at now.

Apparently, some in the gaming community have been sending death-threats to the AG, not only threatening him, but his family.

Are these idiots really so dense as to believe that a death-threat will make someone in a high-level government position cower in fear and change their position?

If anything this kind of stupidity only entrenches the opinion and position of your opponent. Worse still, it turns the reasonable members of society who may have been leaning towards supporting our position against us. It can only harm the cause of getting an R rating for games, and supports the position of the censorship advocates. Idiots!

The point of being anti-censorship is to support a system where everyone has the right to express themselves freely, and where everyone can choose what expressions they partake in. One of the constant features of repressive societies is the censorship of expression, often through the use of violence or the removal of individual rights.

Someone who chooses to threaten someone with violence or death in order to get his or her own way isn’t choosing the path of freedom. They’re choosing the road that dictators and censors so often like to take.

Maybe there really are some in the gaming community who should be denied access to games.

Idiots!

CrimeCraft Mugged By Aussie Censor

Posted by Stropp on December 1, 2009

Once again, yet another game has fallen victim to the South Australian Attorney General, Michael Atkinson — the man unelected by the majority of the people that he has control over — and the OFLC.

CrimeCraft, an upcoming MMOFPS game, has been refused classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification not because of violence or sexual content, but because the names of the in-game drugs come close to those of the real world. You might remember that was the reason that Fallout 3 was originally refused classification too, the healing drug was called morphine. The developers later changed the name and the game was approved.

It’s a ridiculous situation in Australia at the moment. We have a R classification for movies, but not for games. The argument by Atkinson is that children can get a hold of and play a R rated game despite the best efforts of parents. The problem is that children can get a hold of and watch R rated movies despite the best efforts of parents. I even snuck into an R rated movie when I was 17 — Friday the 13th Part 3 — it wasn’t that hard. If kids want to do something badly enough they’ll do it.

The worst part of all this is that the rating system, more than anything else, is a guide for parents, and by not having an R classification some games that deserve an R are getting classified as MA15.

Then when 16 year old little Stroppy comes to mum or dad with a copy of  Death to Hookers: San Francisco rated MA (with the Iced Coffee mod in place), the parental unit looks at the rating and thinks it’s okay, despite the rather obvious signs of adult content. If the parent had the correct information, they might not be so quick to buy it.

Of course, the Australian rating system only applies in Australia, and games are only refused classification if they are submitted to the OFLC in the first place. My suggestion to game developers: Unless you really want a box on the shelves of Australian stores and your game has the potential to be RC, don’t submit to the OFLC. Just get the classification done in your own country, and put the game up for digital download.

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