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.




  • McSpermie - January 18, 2012 5:25 a.m.

    Great article sir, though I think you're preaching to the choir here.
  • 4fromK - January 18, 2012 5:35 a.m.

    did you guys see this video yet penny-arcade[dot]com/patv/episode/stand-together-the-gaming-community-vs-sopa-and-pipa ? and if so are you going to support the ESA by attending or covering e3, because a lot of people are boycotting I swear its not spam, just replace the [dot] with .
  • Mooshon - January 18, 2012 5:37 a.m.

    I better go delete them old fan arts forthwith before I get bummed...
  • ShortFuse - January 18, 2012 5:38 a.m.

    Consider it shared. It's truly a shame that this kind of legislation is even considered or put forward in the first place- Especially from a country so proud of it's much mentioned liberty, thankfully the majority see sense. Seen Rupert Murdoch's tweets about it?! Strange man.
  • MsSmith - January 18, 2012 5:39 a.m.

    IF SOPA PASSES THEN SCREW THEM!1 WE'LL BUILD OUR OWN INTERNET!1!!1 But stupid posts aside, great article.
  • 8bitBaby - January 18, 2012 5:41 a.m.

  • hellodesdemona - January 18, 2012 6 a.m.

  • taokaka - January 18, 2012 6:18 a.m.

    No don't do that. Oh crap, just realized my user name and profile pic could get this sight in trouble, from now on refer to me as "name01" and I'll change my profile picture to a square of my choice of colour.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - January 18, 2012 6:26 a.m.

    Seriously, you joke about the avatar, but similar stuff HAS come up in copyright cases before.
  • taokaka - January 18, 2012 7:19 a.m.

    who said I was joking??!??? :P
  • mockraven - January 18, 2012 5:02 p.m.

    I just wanted to warn you that if SOPA or PIPA passes, your yellow avatar may be considered a violation. I'm not sure if you've heard of "Blue Monochrome," which is a painting of solid blue done by the French artist Yves Klein in 1961, but it's a fairly famous panting. This leads me to another artist named Richard Aldrich who painted "Yellow Monochrome" (possibly influenced by Klein) in 2006. While your yellow is a lighter shade than Aldrich's, it does resemble his painting quite a bit. I would suggest solid white or solid black, but I'm not sure if those colours have already been used either. Maybe try a picture of your name and hope it's not a character's name in a book or film?
  • MattOfSteel - January 18, 2012 6:09 a.m.

    Forget SOPA. We'll build our own internet! With BlackJack and hookers ... in fact, forget the blackjack.
  • perdedor - January 18, 2012 7:28 a.m.

  • soggysage - January 18, 2012 6:11 a.m.

    The US Government really can't stupid enough to pass SOPA in its current form can it? I mean wanting to stop internet piracy is something I can get behind but this would break the internet full stop.
  • BladedFalcon - January 18, 2012 7:59 a.m.

    "The US Government really can't be stupid enough" Um... you really don't want to test that statement...
  • ThatGuyFromTV - January 18, 2012 10:11 a.m.

    Take a second to think about the stupid shit the US government has done, then read that statement again. Remember, this is the same government that's run by people that try to sell open Congress seats. They are quite clearly stupid enough to try to pull something like this. Take it from someone who lives there.
  • Lurkero - January 18, 2012 6:32 a.m.

    The moment Youtube and Facebook go down is the moment the internet breaks
  • CitizenWolfie - January 18, 2012 8:11 a.m.

    Society would probably find it easier to rebuild after nuclear war than if YouTube and Facebook went down
  • OneWithWaves - January 18, 2012 7:30 a.m.

    Is GamesRadar still planning on covering E3 this year despite the ESA's support of SOPA?
  • ThatGuyFromTV - January 18, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    With the amount of copyrighted stuff there? If this bill passes I'd be surprised if anyone tries to cover it.

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