The lights are on
Power Member - Level 7
There have been a multitude of blog posts in the last week or so regarding SOPA, what it is, and how it affects gamers. I won't retread that territory that so many others have done such a good job covering and I won't rehash the recent past since the SOPA and PIPA bills have been effectively stricken down. Instead I'd like to take a look at how the creation and failure of these two bills will impact the future and what that means for us as gamers.
First off I'd like everyone reading to pat yourselves on the back. Go ahead, I won't watch. We as a community deserve to congratulate ourselves because contrary to what The Clash sings, we fought the law and the law didn't win. The Internet as an entire community rose up and collectively screamed "No!" in the faces of every Senator and Representative in Congress. Just take a minute to think about how unprecedented this is. We proved that together we're strong enough to force changes in how this country is ruled and governed. Even more impressively, we did it in a short amount of time and in a relatively peaceful manner. Petitions were signed, e-mails were sent, phone calls were made, and in the end the evil monster was slain.
However, like any good boss fight, it appears that SOPA and PIPA were just the first form in a much longer battle. The government may have abandoned the original language of SOPA and PIPA but you can bet that they are far from done in trying to find ways to accomplish the original aim of the bills, eliminating internet piracy. There's just too much at stake for them not to. When a company sees that millions of people are playing a game it produced for free they can't help but feel cheated out of sales that could have potentially been theirs. You can argue that a stolen game doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as stolen revenue but when a producer sees that millions of copies of a game have been stolen how else are they supposed to react? Imagine if it was your money sitting on the line. Wouldn't you lose sleep over how much potential revenue you could be losing?
My point from all of this is that publishers will continue to lobby the government to better control piracy despite the defeat of SOPA and PIPA. These publishers have a lot of money they're willing to throw around to influence the political process and at the end of the day money talks. Don't believe me? Just look at the recent shutdown of Megaupload, a website that was notorious for hosting pirated videos of TV shows and movies. This was done without the need for any kind of additional legislation and spooked several other file sharing websites into putting into place more strictly enforced anti-piracy measures to avoid the government's attention.
What's interesting about this is that despite how connected the Internet community was regarding its hate for SOPA and PIPA it's much more divided when it comes to dealing with online piracy in general. Even Game Informer's official response to SOPA and PIPA spent half its time detailing how wrong piracy is and I would be curious to see if major game news outlets like Game Informer would support a revised SOPA bill that isn't as vaguely worded but would put provisions in place to allow the government to better enforce against online piracy. I strongly suspect that they would support it. On the other side of the coin lies the companies and individuals who support piracy on the internet and believe it can be used to expose more people to games and ideas that they wouldn't normally be exposed to. As connected as we all are now I wonder if this inevitable oncoming fight regarding online piracy will fracture us as a community and pit gamers against gamers in a war on piracy.
In the end I think it's important to realize that change is coming and that the best way to deal with change is to stay as informed as possible. There are a multitude of opinions on SOPA/PIPA and online piracy that you can read about here on the Game Informer blogs and on various other sites throughout the internet. Explore both sides of the issue and don't be afraid to let your opinions be known. Hopefully, we can come through the changes ahead intact and never forget the tie that binds us all together. We are gamers.