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Game industry unrest swells as SOPA hearing approaches

Opposition for the proposed "Stop Online Piracy Act" has gained momentum throughout the games industry, with some developers even preparing to shut down their games and websites in protest.

Tom Curtis, Blogger

January 13, 2012

3 Min Read

As the U.S. Congress prepares to vote on the "Stop Online Piracy Act," major game developers and companies are publicly opposing the legislation, with some even promising to shut down their websites and games in protest. Dissent against SOPA has snowballed since the Entertainment Software Association voiced its support for the bill last week, and companies such as Mojang (Minecraft), Red 5 (Firefall), Frozenbyte (Trine), Runic (Torchlight), GOG.com, and Nvidia are among the latest to speak out against the contentious anti-piracy legislation. Some of these companies are following Reddit's example, and are staging organized blackouts for their games and sites on January 18, coinciding with the House Committee's hearings on the bill. According to a Twitter post from Mojang founder Markus "Notch" Person, the acclaimed Minecraft studio will shut down both minecraft.net and mojang.com in protest of SOPA. Firefall developer Red 5 is taking similar action, proposing to close shut down both its website and the currently running Firefall beta for a full 24 hours. The studio also plans to protest against the ESA for supporting the bill, and told Shacknews that it has canceled its plans to attend the ESA-operated E3 Expo. "We are extremely disappointed in this misguided legislation. We are also ashamed of the ESA for supporting a bill which is clearly not in the best interests of gamers or the game industry," explained Red 5 CEO Mark Kern. Finnish game developer Frozenbyte also spoke out against SOPA on its website, noting that even though the team operates beyond United States borders, it wants to encourage its community to censorship around the world. The Polish PC game vendor GOG.com also joined the international SOPA opposition, arguing that even with the legislation's far-reaching implications for online content, it will likely fail to stop piracy in the first place. "SOPA works in a fashion similar to DRM, if you ask us: it only will have an effect on people who are, by and large, honest consumers. Pirates who torrent via P2P methods will not be inconvenienced in the least by SOPA and PIPA [the Senate's 'Protect IP Act']; people who post 'let’s play' walkthroughs of video games on YouTube, though, may be," the site's organizers explained. Mark Gerhard, CEO of the recently acquired RuneScape developer Jagex, added his voice to the chorus, and told gamesindustry.biz (registration required) that SOPA "will essentially create a national censorship firewall for American internet users, specifically this could crush the community element of online gaming and could result in a huge lack of freedom of speech, creativity and opinion sharing." Torchlight dev Runic Games announced its opposition on its official forums, and said that the bill gives too much power to large corporations, and limits the rights of individual citizens. In addition, Nvidia's Bob Sherbin explained, "We oppose piracy, as it hurts our game-developer partners. However, we do not support SOPA. We don't believe it is the right solution to the problem." The company also alleged that it was not contacted by the ESA regarding its position on SOPA, despite being a long-time member of the organization. Over the last few weeks, other companies such as Riot Games, Epic Games, Trion Worlds, and 38 Studios all joined the growing crowd of game developers standing against the proposed legislation. The U.S. Congress' SOPA hearings are due to take place January 18 -- keep an eye on Gamasutra for continuing coverage of the bill and its further effects on the games industry.

About the Author(s)

Tom Curtis


Tom Curtis is Associate Content Manager for Gamasutra and the UBM TechWeb Game Network. Prior to joining Gamasutra full-time, he served as the site's editorial intern while earning a degree in Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

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