The internet and games journalism under SOPA and PIPA: A sneak preview

So, the draconian, very probably internet-breaking SOPA bill has been temporarily shelved following a vote of no confidence from the White House, rightly voicing concerns about any anti-piracy legislation that "reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet". All good news. But it hasn't gone away. We know there will probably be another attempt to get it through in February. And PIPA, SOPA's sister bill might well get a hearing next week.

That in mind, on the day Wikipedia and Reddit go dark in protest, I've prepared a little sneak preview of games journalism under the proposed legislation. I've started with one of our trademark comedic Photoshop compositions to highlight the key issues:

Actually, crap, sorry, I can't actually do that any more. You see the sheer vagueness of the proposed bills' wording in regards to what counts as IP infringement, and the sheer power given by IP holders to take action, means that I can only really be sure of being utterly safe by not messing about with any game-related art not specifically and officially given to me by a publisher. 

Okay, let me try something else. Here's a chunk of game footage I recorded that I think highlights a nice metaphor for the current situation:

Shit, sorry, this is embarrassing. You see with the rules of Fair Use so open for debate on a case-by-case basis, and SOPA and PIPA so vague in their terminology, it's also really tricky for me to record and broadcast games while being utterly, 100% sure someone isn't going to interpret the rules in order to give the site a massive legal kicking. 

Okay, another idea. Here's a straight video of me talking about the issues in the office:

Shit, I forgot. There's a bloody huge great film poster on the wall behind me in that one, and Cundy was playing a game in the background. And someone had the radio on. That's three potential counts of broadcasting protected material right there, and with the penalties so high if someone manages to argue the case, I'm afraid I can't run that video either. Still, I'm sure I can find something on YouTube to illustrate the point:

Crap, I forgot, YouTube doesn't exist any more, because SOPA is so prohibitive of free-speaking user-generated content that everyone's favourite video community has been pounded into a fine red mist.

Sod it, shall we just bin this whole article idea off and watch some e-sports instead?

Oh shit, I forgot again. They don't exist in any broadcastable form any more either.

Right, screw this, I'm off. I've had enough legal close-calls for one day. I'd better do a bit of corporate boot-licking just to be on the safe side. Maybe I'll do a really negative article on the evils of video game emulation to show the IP guardians that I'm really on-side. Oh crap, I can't. You see even talking about the process of emulation might be seen by someone as promoting it. Good old vague, overly-interpretable legislation.

Oh, and be careful what you say in the comments too. If you quote too much dialogue from any particular game's script, that might count as well, and we could get royally screwed for it. Better leave those Portal lyrics at the door, I'm afraid. In fact be careful what you say about anything. If you end up linking to a site that can be in some way interpreted as contravening the rules, we can get screwed for that as well. Even mention emulating and we might be seen as promoting game piracy. We'll probably have to close the forums down altogether.

Yes, I'm presenting a worst-case scenario here, but the fact is that all of this could happen. SOPA and PIPA are so open to interpretation, and the potential speed, severity and apocalyptic repercussions of punishments for contravening them so great, that they would gut creativity and community in the online gaming world. And that's to say nothing of how prohibitive they would be of the growth of new, innovative online businesses. Want more details? There are excellent articles here, here, here, here and here.

So seriously, don't back down over SOPA and PIPA. If you're in the US, get in touch with your congressman and challenge any and all companies (gaming or otherwise) which currently support the bills. If you're outside the US, spread the word and keep people motivated. This shit needs to stop. Now.




  • DraGGonized - January 19, 2012 8:35 p.m.

    Hey, I'll be playing ---- online tonight. It's a cool new game called ----, you should totally buy it. ----- has an awesome storyline, along with action with the new -------- engine. Point made: SOPA will probably cause a serious decline in promotion.
  • D0CCON - January 19, 2012 8:05 p.m.

    Why, why are laws a thing you can buy? They got paid off, should be laid off, re-election denied Our web means more than lawyers, lobbies, and lies So speak up before the internet dies Speak up before the internet dies I love that. Search youtube for the day the lolcats died if you want to see all of it.
  • Thequestion 121 - January 19, 2012 11:43 a.m.

    Sobering stuff indeed.
  • Japanaman - January 19, 2012 6:26 a.m.

    You're just being plain silly. Publishers hand you guys free games, consoles, and video demo discs all the time. The publishers will give you all the media you need and the rights to record your gameplay, I bet. If not, then how did anyone ever run a game magaszine? You're acting like video game magazines have been illegal for years with their screenshots, their video trailer CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, etc. Even if the web goes dead, magazines like Xbox 360 in the UK with its magazine, book, and video discs will still survive. Game reviewing will continue to exist and if indie reviewers want to keep reviewing bad enough, they'll start their own magazine or write for an existing one. Less reviewers, means higher quality reviews, hopefully.
  • mothbanquet - January 19, 2012 7:31 a.m.

    Funny though.
  • Nahtay - January 19, 2012 7:48 a.m.

    I think his point was that whilst he may have access to their material, the definitions are so broad under SOPA/PIPA, that if he doesn't portray their material in a positive light, he opens himself up to being savagely sued for copyright infringement. at least thats how I see it. And we all know what happened over at Gamespot . . . .
  • killemall - January 23, 2012 12:47 p.m.

    you can't be serious? do you know how much capital it costs to create a published magazine in the US? Where do you think websites like this got their start? they didn't start by getting free games from developers they started by reviewing games and getting practice writing reviews that people would read without the permission of developers/publishers. this law makes it possible for what they did before they got famous to become illegal. it can make things like my little pony and spider man memes illegal. or at least if people don't like your review they can claim infringement and have your site shut down until you can prove it wasn't. Clearly you haven't read the law thats being proposed or your wouldn't be talking in such a way.
  • raidramon0 - January 19, 2012 2:16 a.m.

    Well done. The black videos and pictures speak for themselves. I've read that many members of congress are pulling the plug on their support for this abhorrently retarded legislation. Nothing like this has happened in Canada yet, but if it does, we'll make sure it doesn't come to pass.
  • killemall - January 23, 2012 12:49 p.m.

    the bill is dead in the water but not dead, they're hoping that people won't pay attention to it and lose interest in it so that they can pass it later with as few changes as possible we need to keep our eyes open and stay aware of these two bills.
  • CaffieKuriboh - January 19, 2012 1:17 a.m.

    I strongly disagree with PIPA, or SOPA, or PEPSI, or whatever its name is. Stopping creativity is wrong and goes against the constitution and the bill of rights. All this bill will do is send us into another dark age (like the one before the rennisance). And I think its inmature of them to be so concerned with this and not concerned with maybe getting the economy up and running again. Last I heard, its been on a slight incline, so why waste time, money, and resources on trying to censor the internet instead of fixing the economy while its in an upswing? I doubt this bill will pass but still, the nerve of some people trying to pass this sort of thing! But thats politicians for you I suppose... Also, as kind of a joke (I know this is serious but still), protesters should start dressing up like video game characters, that'd be cool. XD
  • killemall - January 23, 2012 1:11 p.m.

    i agree with you completely please call your senator
  • oryanbelt - January 18, 2012 8:39 p.m.

    I honestly think that ------- --- ----- --- ---- and that the government can't ---- ------- ----- -- ------ --- -- no matter how much they wish that --- ------ -- ------ -- --- -----. I hope that my point has been made.
  • mothbanquet - January 19, 2012 7:33 a.m.

    No, your point is utter ------- ------------ --------, you ----- ------- ------. You should ---- off a ---- ------- --- and ---- - ------ --- with your mother's ------ and a ------------ -- --- scissors.
  • D0CCON - January 19, 2012 8:01 p.m.

    You know what, ----- ---- ------- all of this and ---- ---- --- with a platypus for the love of ------ ----- ----. I'm going to go play ------ now.
  • farsided - January 18, 2012 8:12 p.m.

    Hey David, I don't know if you've seen this video yet, but I think it would be really awesome if you joined with your fellow games journalists and hit the ESA (who are supposed to represent your views) where it hurts- by boycotting E3.!
  • DICEs - January 19, 2012 5:35 a.m.

    E3 is one of the largest video game shows in North America, and is organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The ESA is a staunch supporter of the SOPA and Protect IP legislations, spending over $190,000 dollars to support the controversial legislation. Groups such as the LFG (League For Gamers) have sprung up to offer an alternative to the ESA and it’s subsidiary, the Video Game Voters’ Network (VGVN)
  • ThisIsMyFuckingThirdAccount - January 18, 2012 7:49 p.m.

    YOU SAID PORTAL. I'M TAKING YOUR ASS, SON. Also, anyone find it funny that a UKer had to write this article? None of the US guys felt compelled to write about this... you know... US bill?
  • Craza - January 18, 2012 10:29 p.m.

    Though I see your point about a UKer posting this, SOPA/PIPA would affect just about every country. Even if you live out of the country, a lot of the content accessed originates from the US, so you wouldn't be able to view it.
  • ThatGamerDude - January 18, 2012 7:45 p.m.

    SOPA and PIPA getting passed is probably why the world is gonna end in 2012. There is still hope people!
  • lionmaruu - January 18, 2012 7:22 p.m.

    (A') Breakin' rocks in the ... hot sun I Fought the Law and the ... law won I Fought the Law and the ... law won I needed money, 'cause I ... had none I Fought the Law and the ... law won I Fought the Law and the ... law won I left my baby and I feel so bad I guess my race is run Well, she's the best girl ... I've ever had I Fought the Law and the ... law won I Fought the Law and the ... law won (...)

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