The creative industries have the ear of the US government right now - but they're whispering the wrong things

There are certain topics that it's extremely difficult to discuss intelligently and reasonably. Every walk of life has its own version of these - immigration, for example, is almost impossible to discuss in British political circles without rapidly being mobbed by a crowd of straw men and buried under the sheer weight of prejudices masquerading as logical arguments, with both sides of the debate equally guilty of rapidly dragging it down into a nasty gutter brawl.

In the games business, piracy is one such topic. A great many words are expended on the question of piracy, of its impact and of possible solutions to the problem, and not very many of them are remotely useful. "We need, as an industry, to have a full debate about piracy" is a line you hear every now and then at conferences, which is simultaneously totally true and a completely meaningless statement. It's not that there is no debate around piracy, nor is it the case that there aren't a lot of voices being heard. Rather, it's the case that the debate isn't very good and most of the voices are shouting and stupid.

It's not that there is no debate around piracy. Rather, it's the case that the debate isn't very good and most of the voices are shouting and stupid

Never has this dismal state of affairs been more apparent than in the discussions around SOPA, the USA's latest legislative effort at protecting copyright online. Any discussion around SOPA rapidly degenerates into two polarised sides with precious little common ground between them and precious little logic supporting their arguments. On one hand, defenders of SOPA shrilly exclaim that "something" must be done about copyright, and decry opponents of the bill as thieves and anarchists. On the other, opponents of SOPA characterise the bill's supporters variously as corporate shills, luddite dinosaurs, and profit-seekers so blinded by avarice that they can't see the dangers posed to free speech and expression by the bill's measures.

The problem is that there's a measure of truth on both sides of the argument, which gets completely buried by the polarised nature of the debate. Something does need to be done about the scale of piracy, absolutely - it just might not be legislative in nature and definitely needs to be more considered than a knee-jerk reaction from terrified industries. Many of the opponents of SOPA are unhelpful in that they promote an unrealistic view of a world where everything digital is available for free, and in doing so further ghettoise those on the other side of the debate.

Yet the opponents of the bill are themselves correct about two very important (and seemingly contradictory) points. Firstly, SOPA won't work. It will do precious little to impede internet piracy, which remains at the cutting edge of distribution technology, far beyond the reach of any of the measures enshrined in the law. The Internet itself militates against attempts to restrict content distribution - it's now a cliche but remains entirely true to say that the distributed architecture of the network, originally designed to allow military communications to continue in a time of nuclear war, interprets censorship as damage and routes around it accordingly.

Secondly, while it won't impede piracy in any meaningful way, SOPA's provisions could have far-reaching consequences for freedom of expression online - something which has been increasingly under threat in recent years both from censorious approaches from national governments and from corporate efforts to limit "net neutrality", in effect threatening to create a multi-tier Internet in which not all traffic is treated equally and, ultimately, not all users may have access to all services.

The basic provision of the legislation, which has caused so much controversy, is that it allows websites to be "shut down" without any judicial oversight, on the mere accusation of hosting copyright material or enabling piracy. I say "shut down"; the actual provision allows for the DNS system, which resolves a website address like "" into a computer address like "", allowing the network to find a route to that resource, to be shut down for specific sites. Were this site to be shut down, for example, it would actually still be on the Internet and accessible at the numeric address, but the human-readable domain name would stop working.

Anyone with the slightest technical knowledge can see how this is largely a pointless measure in stopping piracy - many popular piracy methods don't even rely on websites hosting files any more - but could have huge implications for freedom of expression and, due to the lack of judicial oversight, serious potential for abuse. We already see earlier efforts at copyright protection being routinely abused, as in the steady flow of cases in which copyright holders have unfairly and abusively asserted claims over material on YouTube or other websites which either doesn't belong to them, or is legitimate parody or simple fair use. SOPA would give a much blunter and more damaging tool to the kind of firms engaged in this behaviour.

The ESA withdrawing its support would utterly infuriate those publishing and development executives who rage at their own impotence in the face of BitTorrent and its ilk

Those two factors are key reasons why many of the more savvy entertainment companies have been backing away slowly from SOPA. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, and I have more sympathy than most for the position of organisations like the ESA - which has been left as the games industry's official pillar of support for the deeply flawed bill, even after most major publishers have withdrawn their seal of approval. Few in the games business has argued that SOPA is good law, or even that it'll actually work - but there's a sense of frustration and anger at the scale of internet piracy, and that, sadly, translates into a burning desire to do something, anything at all, to combat the tide of copyright transgressions online. The ESA angers the public and fails to represent many of its members by remaining an official supporter of the bill, but withdrawing its support would utterly infuriate those publishing and development executives who rage at their own impotence in the face of BitTorrent and its ilk.

It's incredibly important, at this juncture, for more moderate voices to be heard. A lot of work has been done in the USA in lobbying a bill to support copyright industries through to this point, and nobody wants to waste that effort, but the bill on the table right now is the wrong one. The solution to online piracy simply isn't going to be a legislative one, at least not in terms of the kind of negative legislation that cracks down on sites and users. There just isn't any technical way of doing that effectively - not without imposing the sort of censorship and invasion of privacy that all of us so deplore in nations like China or Middle Eastern dictatorships. Nobody should be willing to go that far in order to protect the revenue of copyright industries - not ever, and certainly not when there are other ways forward.

Yet with the legislative support of the US government, and of the European Union which will inevitably tamely follow the lead of whatever is passed in SOPA, think what else could be accomplished. Industries need to find new distribution and revenue models, and to weather the storm as they move to systems which discourage piracy or render it irrelevant. Government could support that rather than carrying out pointless crackdowns on offshore websites - and in the process, they'd be helping to build up a new digital economy, which would be rather helpful given the present macro-economic climate.

We have the ear of the US government right now, but SOPA in its present form isn't the right thing to be whispering into that ear. When the UK passed the broken, pointless Digital Economy Act in the dying days of the last government, I lamented that the bill failed to live up to its name - it aimed at supporting old, dying business models in the face of the emergence of a truly digital economy, when it should instead have found ways to help British business to transition to the future in rude health. SOPA makes the same mistakes on an even grander scale. The games business has a unique opportunity to make this bill and the work behind it into a real opportunity for copyright industries, rather than simply another command of Canute, demanding that the tides stop even as the waves impassively advance.

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Latest comments (31)

James Prendergast Research Chemist 6 years ago
“Many of the opponents of SOPA are unhelpful in that they promote an unrealistic view of a world where everything digital is available for free,”
I’ve seen most of the rest of what you said in various places... but never have i seen this argument put forth by anyone other than the proponents of the bill trying to undermine the position of their opponents. It reeks of the same crap i’ve heard coming from people who say “Occupy is anti-capitalist”... which is patently incorrect.
It's incredibly important, at this juncture, for more moderate voices to be heard. A lot of work has been done in the USA in lobbying a bill to support copyright industries through to this point [snip]

The amazing thing is that it’s becoming clearer that the legal procedures and tools to combat piracy and piratical behaviour already exist . Cases like those site blocking requests put through to BT show that the content industries have the ability to shut down ‘access’ to infringing sites it’s just that they don’t like how long it takes. This is purely a case of the industries not wanting to change their business models and not wanting to play by the same rules that everyone else must abide by.
It’s wrong – as wrong as MPs passing laws that except them from laws that the rest of us must bear. Maybe you think that’s an “extreme” viewpoint. I think it’s only fair...
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Wesley Williams Quality Assurance 6 years ago
A well written and considered piece Rob. Glad you drew comparisons with the DEA at the end. Both are equally frustrating and compounded by the recent news from Spain.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 6 years ago
"There are certain topics that it's extremely difficult to discuss intelligently and reasonably. Every walk of life has its own version of these - immigration, for example, is almost impossible to discuss in British political circles without rapidly being mobbed by a crowd of straw men and buried under the sheer weight of prejudices masquerading as logical arguments, with both sides of the debate equally guilty of rapidly dragging it down into a nasty gutter brawl."

Hah, so true! And I agree SOPA really isn't going to do anything to stop piracy.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 6 years ago
Well written and it hits the nail on the head.

I said it earlier, somthing needs to be done as we are close to having multiple generations who think its OK to download anything they want but do not understand the damage that is being done.

SOPA will just make things worse in the long run as it will drive people to run priate nets and other methods to get around this.. Plus all anyone needs is the IP address and walla the sites are back up and running.

All a site needs is an easy to remember IP and it will work as easily as a URL.
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Harrison Smith Studying Games and Graphics Programming, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology6 years ago
Is piracy really the reason why entertainment companies are losing money?, or is it just a blame figure, piracy is differently the easiest thing to blame your mistakes on when explaining to yourself how your product bombed. There is a infinite amount of different solutions for entertainment companies to make more money even with piracy around or 10x worst, they only have to find them. Adapt or die, did Kodak when the digital cameras came in which basically destroyed there old business model, go on a crusade to ban digital cameras? no they adapted to the fact they aren't going to make money from people making pictures, so they changed there models to work with the new technology. Entertainment companies need to understand that the new technology may end once old profit streams but like how kodak now have those kiosk, they must use the new technology to make new revenue streams. For example compete with the torrents by providing safe, free and easier to access torrents in which you generate money from advertising. If you could choose between safe and easy to access but contains some ads movie to a unreliable torrent in which quality can be dodgy, you would handle the ads. Adapt or Die.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
I can't wait until a company such as Bethesda takes down Steam for selling a game with Scrolls in the title, or Atari shutting down Origin because some minigame was inspired by an old arcade title.

What we see once more is the inability of a technical industry to understand what law means. For the people in the industry law means they toss around a forum/service ban whenever they feel somebody did something wrong. No judge, no jury, no due process.

Then the industry thinks, the real world should work the same and politicians have nothing better to do than to undermine the justice system by allowing the attorney to be the judge. The industry thinks it is the solution, because this is the type of crude justice system they are used to.

If you are smart, you build a website now which looks like infringement, but is not. You then collect a few judges decision from the past which are in favor of the model your website is employing. You then wait for the Sopa ban of your site and sue for punitive damage.

But Obama signed the military spending bill, which means any person can be disappeared on suspicion of terrorism (no actual proof required and terrorism is not exactly a term defined by the law), compared to that, Sopa is child's play. Expect the trend of laws aiming to remove judges from the judiciary system to continue.
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gi biz ;, 6 years ago
Nice article, clear and well written.
I think that piracy in some cases is a big problem, but I don't see how a law could stop it. Back when I was 13, broke and willing to play, I used to buy copied games in the street for less than 5 euros. Then when I got my first cd writer (as prices dropped), I used to rent games and copy by myself. Then as I started to work I progressively stopped. Now I stopped to play games due to intrusive protections and lack of Linux support (HumbleBundle/Desura FTW).

I think that passing through governments to enforce copyright is plain archaic, though that's what most people are acclaiming. That's the "easy" workaround we programmers strive to avoid: it just passes the responsibility from the company to the government. Though governments has lots of serious business to take care of, murders, drugs, antitrust, economics. Just adding laws and thinking that judges will take care of the matter for us is pure utopia. Even if they completely shut down the internet - no communications anymore - one could buy pirated copies in the street, send them by mail, rely on friends.
People is trying to stop drugs for much longer than game piracy, and we all know the results. The US even tried (and still try for youngs under 21) to stop alcohol, and we all know what it brought. The same goes four fashion accessory forgery, papers, contracts, medicines, recently even Italian olive oil. We need to adapt to the market. Enforcing always failed, as with thepiratebay cases, with French Hadopi, random mass lawsuits from majors, Ubisoft DRM. I can't recall a single successful story, and correct me if I'm wrong.

As a developer that tries to bring innovation I refuse to believe that we, the creative people of this industry, can't come up with a better solution. DLC is proving to work well and many developers are going to that direction. Donations are also working, with Humble Bundle raising almost 2.5mil $ with the last bundle and wikipedia achieving some impressive result. We can't go customer support as the opensource guys advocate for ordinary software.
I obviously can't give a perfect solution to this, but certainly completely free to download games would destroy piracy, second hand market and rental all in one blow. Yeah, we often hear the "we should talk about piracy" thing, so let's try and discuss this. And maybe do some actual experiment.
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Peter Shea Games Director, Chunk Games6 years ago
@ Harrison

Not sure Kodak is the best example for your "adapt or die" argument as they are on the verge of bankruptcy- their attempts to adapt have failed.

But your point is valid nonetheless. Although I don't see advertising ever generating enough revenue to pay for the quality of entertainment people have become accustomed to- the advertising business- online, print and TV is also on its knees due to the mass proliferation of media- there simply aren't enough dollars to go around anymore. More likely I think is a significant rationalisation in the amount of entertainment and the money spent producing it- more indie, undergound, niche, free; less blockbuster, global, mass market, expensive.

Not necessarily a bad thing...
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd6 years ago
Piracy is an inevitability and it will always find a way through. SOPA will allow copyright holders to run rampant on the internet, pulling things down with no evidence or due process, while not doing the slightest damage to pirates. This bill is a ruse, designed to let corporations rule and control the free internet, and do irreparable damage to free speech and globalization.

If you want to reduce piracy you don't remove services or promote aggressive attacks, blocks, and punishments. You definitely don't add DRM and anti-consumer policies like online passes. If you want to reduce piracy, you offer better services for legitimate consumers and reasonable and attractive pricing for them. Steam has gotten more pirates to purchase legitimate software than every anti-piracy measure in history combined.
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It's not quite fair to say the SOPA argument is now tedious because the sides are so extreme. If you only read internet forums or (gaming) comment sections, I'm sure both sides of the argument sound shrill and are easily dismissed. But I'm quite sure there are plenty of other resources out there for anyone to swot up on the subject of SOPA without hanging with the internet teenagers - outside of the usual 'net dungeons the debate is sensible, important and worth having.

Also I don't accept you're automatically a twat for opposing or supporting a debate when passionate about it. Bad laws should be called out for what they are - inefficient and annoying at best, dangerously oppressive to a society at worst. If you happen to think that oppressing society is not just wrong but actually damaging humanity long term, it's no surprise if you're passionate about it. Sometimes, for instance, 'dispassionately' grandstanding in the middle is the least brave, least effective and most intellectually tedious position of all. The argument stands or falls on the facts as stated, not how ruddy your cheeks are as you voice your opinion.

For instance it's perfectly possible to think that Annonymous are a bunch of attention whore teenagers who have no care of the damage they can wreak, whilst also finding yourself on the same side of the debate as they are. If their idiocy causes you to change your opinion on the matter, you probably had no clear position to begin with. In that case, can I offer sir/madam our comfy middle fence?
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Steve Jaccaud Producer, Electronic Arts6 years ago
This was a well written piece that encapsulated the problem and represented the polarized sides. For those not in the US, the public I think is more frustrated at government trying to invade and encroach on our lives - not necessarily make the argument that IP should be free.

I think companies should do more subvertive (and humorous) anti piracy measures like the big relentless pink scorpion that chases around the player in Duke 3D when it's detected you're playing pirated copy. But only after several minutes of seemingly normal gameplay - kind of genius really. Although not bulletproof for savvy hackers, measures like this might be the subtle but effective tactic needed to thwart a majority of casually pirated games. Or use online-only auth methods.
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Brian Smith Artist 6 years ago
SOPA is just the wrong way to do things. The arguments around the piracy angle are a distraction to the potential real damage this act can cause. The article does a good job of drawing attention to the right area of focus.

If there are laws to shut down websites in this manner then governments will use them for other reasons as well. You just need to look at anti-terrorist laws recently enacted to see that will be the case. Even though initially, tech minded folk won't be phased by the misdirection it'll eventually lead to a much more solid type of blocking. This is only their initial steps.

Also, stopping piracy won't convert those downloads to sales anyway. I'd almost like to see it stopped just to prove that point. The industry needs to compete with piracy making it clear to the consumer why their product is the better choice.

Online play has already achieved this to a small extent. It's practically standard now that if you want to play an xbox game online you need it to be legit. This is a great way to combat piracy indirectly. In these cases the legit version has value that the pirate version does not.

This could be also argued with products sporting harsh anti-piracy measures where the cracked version is actually less invasive and less limited to allow play than the legit version. The illegal version in these cases is actually superior, ironically.

Games are all about competition... as is the industry.
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Mihai Cozma Indie Games Developer 6 years ago
@Klaus Preisinger Small correction: that law about arrest for being a terrorist suspect is the Patriot Act, and it was signed by Bush after the events on 9/11
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"opponents of SOPA characterise the bill's supporters variously as corporate shills, luddite dinosaurs, and profit-seekers so blinded by avarice"

The reason the bill's supporters are viewed this way is in large part because they can afford to make the political donations and vague threats and promises about "jobs" to the lawmakers, and have a direct and substantial advantage over the "opponents". This bill isn't about thinking through the ramifications of the law - its about a law written largely by the "supporters" handed in with a nice big campaign check.

Everyone is getting so up in arms about SOPA and about NDAA and other really, really bad bills, but no one wants to fess up the point that the ONLY way to change ANY of this is severe campaign finance reform. Until that happens, we can complain about SOPA all we want, but if it fails now, it'll just be SOPA2 next Congress...
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@Mihai - Patriot Act was for foreign born "adversaries" during the GWoT. Obama signed a provision into the Defense appropriations bill right before the 1st that made the arrest of anyone deemed a "terrorist threat" for U.S. citizens as well. Without a lawyer or even any formal charges. If they can dream up a way to work it, they can pick you up and have you in Gitmo, or worse, Yemen, before your dinner is cold.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
One thing I've been trying to find while following the piracy debates in the news over the years is some kind of impartial impact study or figures that *aren't* pulled out of thin air. Does anyone know where I could find anything like this?

@Dave - Isn't what you're citing there the DEA from last year that was rejected? I think the one that passed this year made it OK to arrest an American in such a way with a specific Presidential waiver, which while not (possibly debatably) impartial like a judge-issued warrant, at least is more than nothing.

But isn't extending rights to your own citizens that you deny other human beings kind of beyond vile anyway?
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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada6 years ago
Change the business model, not the law. Online passes help, providing one-time redemption codes for additional content helps, lots of other things help. Huge, far-reaching laws like SOPA are unwieldy tools for this issue, and the collateral damage is going to be substantial if this passes.

Stuff like this is why people should pay attention to who represents them in the government.
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James Verity6 years ago
@Bonnie Patterson maybe you should ask the same question to the person that commented in another article that said something on the lines of "most video games make a loss"... makes me wonder if thats the case why do so many companies remain in the business where piracy loses them so much money and everyone else is making the money but them...
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Wes Peters Software Engineer, Sony Online Entertainment6 years ago
Dave Sanders is right, SOPA is only a symptom of the much larger and more dangerous problem in the USA. The only way to return Congress to being the government of, by, and for the PEOPLE is to make it so that only the PEOPLE can make political contributions. Otherwise we'll continue to have the government of, by, and for labor unions and multinational corporations.

That said, theft of intellectual property certainly is a problem. Companies that produce games, movies, tv shows, and music do it by employing people, me included. When you steal something from Sony, you're stealing it from me. That is the root of Capitalism with a capital C: that people work because they're compensated for it.
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Andrew Walker VP, Business Development, Suddenly Social6 years ago
Rob, I understand that you are trying to write a measured article on a difficult topic but there are several statements you make which simplify or misunderstand the nature of what's at stake with SOPA and it's sister bill PIPA.

If you want to know why the bill is bad read the open letter sent to Congress signed by over a hundred legal scholars detailing exactly why the bill infringes basic human rights and will harm internet commerce. You can find it here

[link url=

The arguments from both sides have been passionate. I just don't see the issue here, that's called debate and the exercise of Free Speech. The lack of moderate voices comes from a frustration that the Bill is being pushed by large rich lobbyists buying the ear of Congressman and Senators. Ordinary citizens have no such luxury and so must organize and shout louder to make their point heard. It might seem "shrill" to an outsider but it helps bring attention to a bill which for so long had been flying under the radar.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd6 years ago
@ Wes Not defending the concept of piracy, but it's copyright infringement not theft. Theft is when a product is taken from one person and acquired by another. Copyright infringement is the illegal copying of one's intellectual property. Also the amount of lost sales due to piracy is hugely debatable, and many studies estimate the vast majority of pirated copies would never be legitimate purchases either due to financial constraints from the pirate or a general apath toward the game they choose to pirate.

I'm not saying it's morally justifiable or right, but it's often used as a scapegoat for larger issues of bloated development budgets and poor management of expectations and marketing.

Again I'd like to point to Steam, which has gained incredible grounds in making pirates legitimate purchasers. It does this by offering better service than the pirates recieve from their illegal copies coupled with outstanding prices. This is how you fight piracy, not with DRM.
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Mary Hilton Community Manager, Reclaim Your Game6 years ago
There really is no 'moderate' way that this bill or any other will ever be effective against piracy on the Internet-it's just impossible.

What the bill really is, and has never been fully discussed (except here and at Techdirt) is the fact that it is a way for outside interests to completely suppress and monitor free speech wherever they want without any judicial oversight and with a totally free hand.

It's not really about piracy-it's more about total control of sites that do not please others, and that's the real issue: freedom of speech and expression.
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Kayleigh McDougall Studying BA(Hons) Game Design and Production Management, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
Some very true facts have been spoken.

But can I please suggest another way around piracy for games - I know several people who download pirated versions just to try the game out as there are no demos going around of the games and so they use the pirate copy as a demo and if it seems okay then they buy the real thing.

If the games industry was to go back to this old tried and tested method then maybe their sales would go up and piracy down as it's very difficult to judge a game by the trailer alone.

And my two-cents on the bill - People will still find ways around it no matter what you try to do so this bill is just pointless.
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Liam Farrell6 years ago
excellent article. SOPA and PIPA (it's just as bad) seems like nothing more than a chance for compnaies (some of whom have actually profited from illegal use of copyrighted material *cough*viacom*cough*) to do the one thing they've been dying to do, and that is censor the internet. I doubt youtube or facebook will need to worry. They're too big to simply "break", all the blogs, fansites, forums, photo upload sites are in real trouble if SOPA happens. For the sheer fact that you can't trust the big business to act responsibly.
Ever see that song on youtube with P Diddy and Snoop Dog that supprted megaupload? You won't be able to now, because universal had it taken down.
And who else, has uploaded a video with game content that has been automatically been flagged by the publisher of the very game they're featuring? Yeah, if you tell them, you're not a copyright theif, they retract the issue, but under SOPA, a lot of people will get their work deleted, with no warning. And that is a very bad thing, in my opinion
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Andrzej Wroblewski Localization Generalist, Albion Localisations6 years ago
The problem is that corporations insist on debate about piracy, yet fail to sit down with any party and discuss -- because calls for payment (obscured under seemingly valid arguments -- which only lead to this one final notion: MONEY) cannot be considered as part of a debate. It's the corporations that are the problem. They are the source, the reason, and the final cause of piracy. It's their irresponsible policies and greed -- all caused by overgrown bureaucracy, unproductivity, and incompetent managers.
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Tony Johns6 years ago
I would honestly feel that the last real freedom that I have to try and get Japanese games that would never be avaliable to me other than to download online, thanks to the Region Locking ability of consoles and now handhelds...I would be sad if this SOPA blocks me from at least playing games that would be not avaliable for me in any other way.

I would love to pay my $$$$ to play Japanese games, even the old Mother series, but because of the mess of the industry and the fact that they don't bring Japanese games to people like myself who live in the wrong country to begin with....I often relied on the freedom of the internet to play something I would have loved to use my $$$$ to buy in the first place.

If the SOPA comes in and takes away that opportunity for me to play games, I feel that the industry is just as cold and cruel to those of the have nots...when all I really wanted to do is to show my support to the games I really love to play.

And the industry itself...for trying to stop online piracy....will be loosing allot of consumers and support...

I think that is the real cost of publishers trying to stop piracy online.
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Emily Rose Freelance Artist 6 years ago
Great article, you don't stop lawbreakers with laws.. you need to make doing the right thing more attractive than not.

Pre-steam I would often pirate, but I haven't since the convenience and low prices of Steam (and other similar services like Desura) - though that's also due to myself doing games dev in that time and getting an inside view on what we pay for.

This SOPA smacks of desperation.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Bonnie

"One thing I've been trying to find while following the piracy debates in the news over the years is some kind of impartial impact study or figures that *aren't* pulled out of thin air. Does anyone know where I could find anything like this?"

That would require... Well, it's something that needs a lot of journalistic leg-work.

For one thing, people can claim all they want about torrent numbers, but until a game is actually Cracked, its download figures are meaningless. For another, until I started buying games almost exclusively on Steam, I used to buy retail-discs, and download the No-CD cracks for them. I'm not alone in this practice, and in some cases it's pretty much a requirement (NeverWinter Nights 2's flawed SecuRom implementation, say). So there's two things that skews the piracy numbers.

For a third thing, the initial game might be Cracked, but patches and updates quite often aren't. Anno 2070, for example. The main game was cracked, but there's been no pirate-friendly updates released. Which, again, skews the figures. People might play the unpatched pirated version, and be happy with that. Others might pirate it and like it so much that they want the new patches, and so buy it. And still others pirate it, play it for 5 minutes, and then shift-delete it because they hate it.

So, all-in-all, it's bloody hard to get solid figures for how piracy affects the industry. And that's BEFORE you get the shrill "Piracy is killing the industry, I was there when piracy made us lose half our company" arguments. Which, honestly, can't be substantiated, and just make the anti-piracy brigade look as bad as the pro-piracy "Piratebay rulez all" camp.

Apologies if I've waffled on, by the way. :)
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Michal Bayerl Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
There are many approaches and opinions on piracy as a problem, but have you ever thought about it as a positive thing? In this case I feel I should be honest as should be all of us. Every gamer in his life downloaded a pirated version or downloaded a mp3 file which does not belong to him, including myself. I didn't consider it as something bad in my 10 years of age and the fact, that I wasn't punished for that strenghtened my belief, that I'm not the one who steals. Few years later when I made my first money, I stopped downloading pirated versions and even bought games, that I've already finished in the past. I felt these games deserve it. Since then I bought hundreds of games and became really interested in them. And here we are. I stopped stealing games of my own accord, nobody didn't have to teach me that. It was a natural evolution, growth of mind and of course I learned good behaviour from my family. Still, that opportunity to download a pirated game led me in gaming industry and thanks to that I work here. The point is, that everything is about people and forcing them to stop playing pirated games results in lowering interest in games as whole. People who download pirated versions will not start buying them on command. They will not switch their behaviour in 24 hours. Forcing people to do something they did not want leads in frustration, which causes tension in between these two groups - pirates and paying customers, and eventually leads in aggression on both sides. Customers will start feeling betrayed. They will ask questions, who is actually important for the industry - the ones, who pay, or the ones, who do not? The result could be very damaging in reputation and confidence in gaming industry as a whole. I think it's better that games are being played let's say by 2 paying customer and 8 stealing gamers than only by 2 paying gamer. Producers and investors should care about the ones who still pay for the're products, because no one knows...maybe one day paying customers will be so frustrated by all the restrictions against pirates (which can affect the good ones), that they will stop buying games at all. Games needs to be promoted by as many ways as possible, even at the cost of piracy. And we all know, that SOPA bill will do nothing about it, or even violate the freedom of speech, if used in a wrong way. But again, everything depends on people. Don't blaim the gun for killing, blaim the man.

My advice: Value and pamper paying customers by offering free/exclusive content. Don't fight pirates, make them look stupid. Make the DRM as much as funny as it can be. DRM for Take On Helicopters with foggy/watery screen or god scorpion in the third instalment of Serious Sam is a perfect example how to annoy pirates and their work.

P.S. Ask for solution Gabe Newell, I've heard that ten years ago he came with some kind of digital distribution...ehm, what was the name for it? I've got's called Steam, which is actually the best anti-piracy gaming solution of all times. :-)
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Michail Mavronas 3D artist 6 years ago
a funny thing - coincidence about SOPA.. if you pronounce it as a single word in greek it means "shush/be silent!" :)
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Peter Freese Senior AR Developer, Unity Technologies6 years ago
A better way to combat piracy would be for the USA to invest in domestic internet infrastructure and technology. Better internet means better online service for games. Piracy isn't nearly as big a deal for games with server back-ends or streamlined online distribution systems. A recent list of countries sorted by worst average internet bandwidth reads like a Who's Who of copyright violation. When sorted by fastest speeds, the USA is embarrassingly not even in the list of top 10.
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