SOPA — Bad For Gamers, Bad For Games

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.

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