Monday, January 16, 2012

SOPA Failscade

"SOPA is misguided. 
"SOPA is nuking from orbit.
"SOPA is just so dumb.
"SOPA is legislation that, at its very base level, is contrary to human interaction. Human interaction is what my employer, as a game publisher, thrives on. We design whole universes around it."

I didn't expect to write another post on the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act so soon, but events changed over the weekend.  On Thursday night, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D, VT), the co-author of PIPA pulled back on the measure that would allow courts the ability to issue injunctions against the use of a domain name while an investigation into illicit content use occurs.  This was followed by six Republican senators who had voted to approve PIPA in the Senate Judiciary Committee writing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) asking that PIPA not be put onto the floor on 24 January as planned.  Sen. Reid plans to hold the debate and vote as planned.

Over in the House, Leahy's action was followed by SOPA author House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R, TX) who issued a statement Friday stating he would remove the foreign DNS blocking language from the bill.  On Saturday, House Oversight Committee chairman Dan Issa (R, CA) announced he was cancelling his planned hearings on the DNS provisions in SOPA after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that the House will not vote on SOPA until there is "consensus" on the bill.

With the chief authors of the bills retreating in both the House and Senate, the Obama administration issued a statement Saturday favoring the opponents of SOPA and PIPA.  I'm sure that the Obama campaign has looked for a way to delay this fight between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, two of the campaign's major financial backers, until after the elections and it appears to have gotten its wish.  While the statement did favor opponents (i.e., Silicon Valley), the statement also leaves some wiggle room for anti-piracy measures that Hollywood wants.  But given the language in the statement, I really don't see anything occurring this year.

However, I hope the pressure against the legislation continues.  Bill Reader of PJ Media read both SOPA and PIPA and led me to another reason for gamers to oppose the bills.
"Title Two of SOPA is well known on the internet because it offers censorship of a completely different kind. Pages 54-59, right at the beginning, enumerate a number of changes to Title 17 and 18 of the U.S.C. which, if they passed, could do some very nasty things to copyright laws in the United States."
"The biggest concern is that this change will be used to stymie critiques of games, movies, et cetera. This change alone would certainly wreak havoc on several internet cottage industries, including sites that do “Let’s Play” game playthroughs, or certain song reviews. Potentially even reviews of short games would be affected, with more possibly following depending on strictness of interpretation."
And since the whole SOPA/PIPA fight crosses party boundaries on both side of the debate, I'll just leave you with a conclusion from Mr. Reader on a possible reason for that to occur.
"I find it hard to disagree with those arguing that both bills could be exploited to censor foreign internet sites. Censoring of foreign sites being one of the signature policies of China, I think that the largely bipartisan backlash I’ve seen is fully justified. I also think that some aspects of the bill, such as the “punishment first, appeal second” approach, which is very much in the spirit of “guilty until proven innocent,” resonate as wrong with a wide band of Americans on both sides of the aisle.
"So, while I didn’t see some of the specific loopholes I’ve heard mentioned, the takeaway is that there are definitely plenty of ways both bills could be exploited in the name of censorship, both foreign and domestic. And there are enough loopholes that no simple editing session is going to fix these bills.
"The only remedy: they’ve both got to go."

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