High Horse: Save Our Internet

High Horse is a rotating opinion column in which GamesRadar editors and guest writers are invited to express their personal thoughts on games, the people who play them and the industry at large.

By now, chances are you’ve heard some of the uproar surrounding the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Introduced to the House of Representatives in October by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), it is designed as a countermeasure to Internet piracy.

So, let’s educate ourselves about it, shall we?

Above: SOPA was introduced in the House by Lamar Smith (R-Texas) on October 26, 2011

What is SOPA trying to do?
Piracy is a problem. It’s straight-up wrong. Stealing movies, games, music, whatever; it’s all wrong. Oh, you have a counter-argument? Sorry, nope. Piracy is bad. It hurts artists, plain and simple.

SOPA is the House’s proposed solution to the piracy problem. Its goal is to put power into the hands of owners of intellectual properties so that they can better police how their product is being distributed. In a lot of ways, its goal is a noble one. It’s looking to protect those who create a work and are essentially being stolen from.

However, SOPA is certainly far from the correct solution. Heck, in my eyes, it’s perhaps the most harmful thing to possibly happen to the Internet since its inception. 

What exactly would SOPA look like in practice?
Upon passing, SOPA would give owners of intellectual property (or the US Department of Justice) the ability to seek court orders against websites that they believe are infringing upon their copyrights. Whether those sites are actively enabling infringement or are simply allowing it to happen doesn’t matter. If your site is perceived as promoting any sort of copyright infringement, it can be shut down without notification. Pretty frightening.

To make matters worse, it also allows the property rights holders to legally demand all revenue to an offending site be stopped, regardless of where it’s coming from. That means no revenue from ads, donations, or even payments coming from online payment services like PayPal or Google Checkout. Essentially, SOPA gives IP holders the unchecked power to shut down a site for an undisclosed amount of time.

Finally, it would require search engines to remove the listings of websites that have been shut down. In effect, for as long as a website is banned, it no longer exists.

Who will this affect?
Everyone that owns a website. From the smallest blogs to YouTube to, let’s just say, GamesRadar, anyone that relies on copyrighted material to run their site could face scrutiny. Theoretically, SOPA could even affect sites that allow comments on their content. If someone were to link to illegal materials on a website, that site could be nailed for enabling piracy. The definition of how websites enable piracy is so broad that it would make websites unreasonably responsible for their user-generated content.

With the possibility of losing all ad revenue and traffic from search engines, the risk of launching a new startup is much higher. From a pure business perspective, SOPA could cripple one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, and one that is creating huge numbers of jobs.

Who supports it?
Well, a lot of groups. Most notable for the gaming community is the ESA, a collection of publishers that includes Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, EA, Ubisoft, Capcom, Sega, Epic and a slew of others.

Outside of the gaming industry, the biggest supporters tend to be those with high stakes in their copyrighted material, such as the RIAA or MPAA. Domain registrar GoDaddy originally supported the bill, but after boycotts led by Reddit – which resulted in huge losses for the company, including the removal of Wikipedia and its subsidiaries from GoDaddy’s servers – the company has withdrawn its support.

Who’s against it?
Pretty much anyone who relies on user-generated content, most notably Google, which owns Youtube. Also against the bill are the Wikimedia foundation, Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter, Tumblr, Yahoo! and the EFF.

Some good news
See those names up there? They represent a huge amount of money in the growing industry called The Internet. If the bill passes – which it seems poised to do at the time of this writing – we can expect a huge amount of resistance to come from those names. At the very least, the bill will face a huge legal battle, if not outright dismissal through our country’s wonderful legal system. There’s a whole lot of money on each side of the issue, so it’s going to be interesting to watch.

What can we do?
Write to your congressperson. Call them. Sign the petition. Vote with your money by resisting the urge to give money to those who support SOPA. Attend the American Censorship Day protests. Above all, educate yourself about what’s going on in Congress right now. SOPA is a landmark bill that could completely change the way we use the Internet for the worse. Let’s fight it.

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  • Manguy17 - January 6, 2012 6:33 p.m. it ok if i pirate from supporters of SOPA...?
  • ScaryEric - January 6, 2012 6:40 p.m.

    I think that makes you a privateer
  • ParagonT - January 6, 2012 7:27 p.m.

    I like the way you think... Although its all a joke lol.
  • Fiirestorm21 - January 6, 2012 7:32 p.m.

    It'd just make it worse. Contributing to piracy in protest hurts far more than it helps, not to even get into the moral/ethical issues that would still be present. (It's not the developers -- the ones investing years of their lives into making these titles -- that are supporting SOPA, it's their publishers.) It just gives the corporations that much more ammo to use in pushing their agendas. "See? It really IS that bad!"
  • ParagonT - January 6, 2012 7:55 p.m.

    I like the whole noble thing, I agree, but isn't it just as damaging as not purchasing their games as a sign of protest? Because wouldn't low sales start making them cut developers and pay? unless under contract of course, then this is nullified. No matter what happens it's going to affect the developers. As innocent as they are, you can't expect people not to boycott or do anything to them just because of developers and others. It's apart of the job description. When people do anything to hurt the top brass or stockholders of a company, they take it out of the lower ranks pay and begin firing. It sucks, but it's how it works. This of course only pertains to "combating" a company. I totally agree with not pirating one-hundred percent, because it never helps, but morally its not the best logic.
  • trackstar007 - January 6, 2012 6:39 p.m.

    great to see this on a mainstream gaming site. of course the news won't cover things like this; we need to get as many people educated about this as we can
  • TheFabricOfTime - January 6, 2012 6:40 p.m.

    (Holds up memory flag) If I can recall, you said that Nintendo, Sony, and EA vanished from that list of supporters.
  • D0CCON - January 6, 2012 6:53 p.m.

    Said Companies removed themselves from the list, but are still members of the ESA. Epic seems truly against it, but I bet others only formally removed support as a PR stunt.
  • PolarBearsInHeat - January 7, 2012 7:31 a.m.

    Seeing as Epic lost something like 890,000 copies of gears 3 to pirates, it's pretty darn good of them to oppose this bill.
  • Manguy17 - January 6, 2012 6:54 p.m.

    They removed themselves from the one group of supports, but still support it, there just not going out of thier way to say so now they have spotted the public reaction, cant remember the exact details on this though.
  • pr0tostar - January 6, 2012 6:52 p.m.

    Between this and Wall St, I feel truly disgusted with my country for the first time in my life. Everyone in it for themselves. I will sign the petition.
  • The_Ouroboros - January 6, 2012 7:04 p.m.

    I think the most shocking turn of events is that there is a White Republican from Texas named Lamar.
  • kit07 - January 6, 2012 7:14 p.m.

    so let me get this straight... say they found some vid on YouTube tthat they wanted to take down, would this mean they just shut down the link to that particular vid or would they shut down ALLLLL of youtube? if it's the latter, then i don't know what i would do with myself.
  • Pwnz0r3d - January 6, 2012 7:19 p.m.

    Pretty much, yes. The fact that practically every video on youtube is performing some form of copyright infringement (be it minor or major) doesn't help, either. However; Youtube's current handling of copyright infringement (no matter how incredibly annoying it is) should keep it safe should this bill pass.
  • BlindMarksman - January 6, 2012 8:34 p.m.

    I absolutely hate it when people try to justify their piracy acts. Man up to the responsibilities of your actions! I do not agree with SOPA (Too extreme for my taste), but don't go saying that because of the act, you will pirate like there's no tomorrow and will feel proud about it like your some modern day Robin Hood. After all it is most likely YOU (the pirate) who caused the to make this stupid decision. You wanted your free games, music, videos, etc... But now WE'RE ALL GONNA PAY FOR IT!
  • BlindMarksman - January 6, 2012 8:40 p.m.

    By the way, i just wanted to clear up that i DO wish everything was free, i'm actually in the process of putting out a free EP, But unfortunately that's not how the world works right now, so we have to deal with it for now. After all, In this Money driven world regime, you wouldn't like the sweat of your brow to be spilled without reaping a reward for yourself, wouldn't you?
  • J-spit - January 6, 2012 10:14 p.m.

    Send me links to your music?
  • BlindMarksman - January 6, 2012 10:38 p.m.

    Haha! Sorry dude! I said i was in the PROCESS. Right now they're still demos 'n stuff, rough sketches that i want to polish before i actually release them. Now about the time of release... i'm not really sure. But i hope it's during this year. I wanna get better recording equipment and the like, but that might take some time. Sorry to get you intrigued. :( But i'll try to let you know if anything happens.
  • MCBadong - January 7, 2012 12:01 a.m.

    Do NOT let this bill pass. Otherwise you are contributing to the eventual dissolution of true democracy and are helping the US, and the internet world, slowly creep into a dystopian-type government where those with influence, power and money control everything.
  • Desired_Effect - January 7, 2012 3:22 a.m.

    Some of us are old enought to remember making mixtapes and recording songs off of the radio. Does anyone else remember the tapedeck was gonna 'take down' the music industry? Did it? You look at some of the biggest releases of the past few years in film/music/gaming and how many sales records have been broken. Yes piracy is a problem, but not as big a problem as we're being made to believe. For the record I use torrents to download some music and films but I also own 600 dvds/blurays and over 200 cds, I go to plenty gigs, buy merch and am an avid cinima watcher

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