SOPA Isn’t the Solution, But Can We At Least Agree There’s A Problem?
You’d think this wouldn’t have to be stated so plainly, but I’m sure I’ll get arguments on this point. I won’t listen to them, though. By making it possible for some segment of the potential paying audience to get a game for free, software piracy makes it that much harder for a game maker to successfully make a profit off of their work, and make them less likely to continue that work in the same way in the future. If you don’t believe me, ask one of the many developers that has fled the piracy-filled PC space for the less piracy-plagued ecosystem of game consoles, or a developer that has devoted its resources to impossible-to-pirate social games run on a server they are in complete control of, or the indie developers who have seen use of pirated versions of their games exceed legitimate use by a factor of 10.
One more time: I think SOPA is a massive overreaction to this problem that gives copyright holders and the U.S. government too much power over the basic structure of the Internet. I might even be amenable to the argument that piracy is such an intractable problem that no technological or legal solution can possibly be effective without having massive unintended consequences for other basic freedoms.
But I’m afraid that those arguments are obscuring the equally salient fact that piracy is still a big problem for game developers. Pirates can use all the justifications and rationalizations they want to try to defend their actions, but that doesn’t change the fact that what they’re doing is wrong, and in some ways is the reason why laws like SOPA even have a chance of existing.
Here’s a thought: If you don’t want the guy to break out the metaphorical flamethrower, stop being a metaphorical cockroach that steals any set of digital bits that aren’t securely tied down.
For its part, the ESA says it’s “mindful of concerns raised about [SOPA’s] negative impact on innovation” and that it wants to “find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation.” But some of those on the other side of the argument seem less interested in finding a balance that protects the work of game companies alongside basic freedoms, and more interested in keeping their access to free, pirated games flowing.
Publishers like Nintendo, Sony and EA have been careful not to lend public support to SOPA, but all three signed on to a Chamber of Commerce letter a month before that specific bill was introduced. In that letter, they stated their case succinctly and understandably.
The United States cannot and should not tolerate this criminal activity. Not only are jobs
and consumers at risk, but rogue sites contribute absolutely no value to the U.S. marketplace. The operators of rogue sites break laws, do not pay taxes, and skirt accountability.
There’s a legitimate argument to be had about the best way to combat this problem while at the same time preventing dangerous, SOPA-style overreach that could limit the freedom of the Internet. But I’d hope that we, as gamers, could all at least agree that rampant online piracy is, in fact, a problem, rather than some imagined situation that game companies are irrationally upset about.