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ESA bucks industry trend with SOPA support

US trade body urged to rethink stance on controversial piracy bill

US trade body the Entertainment Software Association has publicly given support for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, a move which has angered some industry figures and seems contradictory to many members' stances.

SOPA is a US bill of law which would, if passed, give the government and copyright holders the right to shut down websites which are hosting copyright infringing material. It is designed to prevent torrent and piracy download sites proliferating protected material, but has been the subject of heated debate thanks to the widespread powers which it would grant.

"As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection, and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive," read the supporting statement from the ESA, issued yesterday.

"Rogue websites - those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy - restrict demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs.

"Our industry needs effective remedies to address this specific problem, and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective. We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat wilful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation."

But many industry companies and individuals fail to share the body's enthusiasm for SOPA, with several constituent members, including Sony and Nintendo, have removed their initial support for the bill, whilst EA has publicly stated that it never supported the version of the bill which was proposed in congress, but could stand behind something with similar aims.

Now, indie dev Nathan Fouts, who created Weapon of Choice and Serious Sam: Double D, has written an open letter to the ESA asking it to re-consider its position. In that letter, published on his blog, Fouts claims that, by supporting the bill, the ESA is adding the vicarious support of its members.

"The ESA represents the video game industry, including companies such as Sony Entertainment and Nintendo which have dropped support for SOPA. This bill is bad for the internet and bad for the video game industry. Please show the world that the game industry does not support SOPA, and please have the ESA withdraw support."

Destructoid's Jim Sterling has also made his voice heard on the matter, publishing another open letter which describes the bill as "hypocrisy on a most despicable level," after the ESA's work to ensure that video games were entitled to the same constitutional protection as other forms of artistic expression, exempting them from certain law.

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Dan Pearson