Better News – ESA Backs Away From SOPA

By John Walker on January 20th, 2012 at 7:39 pm.

Uncensored?

With the grace of a recently dumped loser shouting, “Well… I never loved you anyway!” as he starts crying, the Entertainment Software Association have announced they’re no longer supporting SOPA. Which is a bit like announcing you no longer support England in the 1994 World Cup.

We contacted the ESA two weeks ago to ask them about their position, and whether they would consider changing it at least until the bills were rewritten. We were ignored. We also contacted every member of the ESA, and were ignored by the vast majority of them. As were Joystiq. Not exactly impressive. But now both bills are on hiatus and looking pretty wounded, at this point, as reported by Giant Bomb, they’ve crept out from behind their upturned table and issued the statement below.

“From the beginning, ESA has been committed to the passage of balanced legislation to address the illegal theft of intellectual property found on foreign rogue sites. Although the need to address this pervasive threat to our industry’s creative investment remains, concerns have been expressed about unintended consequences stemming from the current legislative proposals. Accordingly, we call upon Congress, the Obama Administration, and stakeholders to refocus their energies on producing a solution that effectively balances both creative and technology interests. As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection and are committed to working with all parties to encourage a balanced solution.”

S’funny, because we (along with many others) pointed out those unintended consequences weeks ago, and it seems they’ve only just noticed them. After the bills had already been withdrawn. The bills they funded up to $190,000 toward last year, and likely more since. The bills they refused to speak against with multiple opportunities before Wednesday’s collapse of support. The ones that were leading some sites to organise a boycott of E3 this year.

I’m just saying, waiting until today – it’s not so impressive. But hey, we were campaigning for them not to endorse it in its current form, so I guess that’s happened. Now it’s not there to endorse.

(And yeah, I totally dropped a foot-to-ball reference.)

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43 Comments »

  1. Metonymy says:

    My favorite theory is the one that big media companies advertised easy, streamlined piracy on their main sites like Cnet for about a decade, so they’d have an excuse to push these kinds of controlling bills through congress.

    And aliens.

    On a more serious note, making piracy more difficult again really is the key to fixing this problem as a whole. I despise big business, but changing their diapers for them will possibly make them shut up and be useful again. Torrents are already 100x easier than the way we used to do things, and what’s funny is that people (kids these days!) even complain about torrents, preferring the added simplicity of DD. What these groups like ‘anonymous’ need to do is focus their efforts on a solution that maintains the current structure of things, while preventing Bubba from getting everything he wants with one click.

    • woegjiub says:

      No, what we need is for bubba to be able to get everything for one click even more easily than it can with piracy.
      Think of what a steam for TV, movies and anime would do.
      What is that? $40 for an ENTIRE SERIES, in 1080p mkv files, without DRM?
      Sure thing, pal.
      Oh, sales? Hells to the yes, I will buy your 60% off [publisher] pack, even though I will never watch 80% of those things.
      Being able to have them stored in the online interface, downloadable to your account anywhere, unlimited times and without DRM would be incredible.
      I am fairly sure that amazon or google need to get onto this, because even if apple changed itunes into that, I would still never touch a single one of their products due to my loathing of that company.

    • Metonymy says:

      I was hoping that half of the solution was obvious.

      A lifetime of disappointment.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      I’m going to be honest – I would love to do that. If I weren’t a student I’d start to work out how to build that service right now.

    • Aninhumer says:

      @DrugCrazed

      The technology to implement it is trivial at this stage, but actually getting any content on your finished service is impossible.

    • michaelgabrielr says:

      Regardless on anyone’s stance on piracy, why fight a futile battle against something that they can use to their advantage? (and make money they apparently love so much…)

      So what if their products get 100% pirate proof (no such thing, as I see it now), if nobody will buy their stuff? Making fans, who want to hang around with you, is more important and nothing destroys good relationship with your friends (that’s what they are) like burdening them with DRM and other pointless stuff that will be hacked in two days flat (see PC Gamer interview with CD Projekt about DRM). You’re wasting your strength you could have used to make better interactive experiences!

      There is this guy named Tadhg Kelly, who wrote a genius article titled “Love Your Pirates [Heresy]“ on his “What Games Are” blog. As he says, those guys aren’t in the toothbrush industry (selling products), but in the entertainment industry (making lives better). Their job is to forge relationships, making sure that their art is well known and of high quality – a gigantic contrast between an apple merchant with limited perishable quantity, who only cares whether his customers will guy his fruit or not and forgets about them as soon as they leave. You should definitely check it out!

      The bottom line – pirates will pirate anyway (and make your game known); stop treating your games as perishable goods or utility products, people who trusted you as enemies/cattle and focus on creating a passionate community of fans devoted to your cause. One last thing – what if nobody even wanted to pirate your games? Think about it for a moment…

  2. po says:

    I’m surprised that something equivalent to anti-virus isn’t being used to spot copyrighted material on ISP’s servers (with sites like youtube also being an internet service provider). They could use heuristics and pattern recognition (something computers have got a lot better at) to scan uploaded content to make sure it didn’t match something on a list of media provided by it’s owners.

    Something as basic as turning a film into a sequence of averaged brightness/color values for each frame, that vary over time giving a set of waveforms (much less data than the film, but an accurate representation of it), so that it could be compared against anything uploaded, before it gets to be downloaded. Yes it would be CPU intensive, but costs could be covered through charges for faster downloads (like megaupload did), and the anonymous uploads could be put into a queue to be scanned. People could get around the delay on their uploads becoming available by providing more personal details (via a small purchase on their CC for example), so they weren’t uploading anonymously, and could be held accountable should they be stupid enough to upload copyrighted material.

    Anyway, I kind of feel sorry for Mark Kern (of Red 5 Studios/Firefall), considering he put his own money into setting up LFG, to give games developers an organisation to join that was against SOPA, thanks to the ESA’s delay in taking a stand. Hopefully LFG will still stand out as an organisation amongst game developers, and give a wider range of them a voice (indies in particular).

    • woegjiub says:

      That will still not stop usenet and torrents.
      Torrents are downloaded in tiny pieces from all over the place, so are basically illegible until put in order, and usenet files are all compressed into a series of archives, again rendering their contents illegible until unarchived and reassembled.

    • Bugamn says:

      @po:

      You have no idea how that you propose would really be computer intensive, do you?

      That would make the 56k seem fast.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I believe YouTube already do this.

    • po says:

      Torrents may well be illegible until put in order, but someone who has downloaded the file will have the IP addresses of all the seeds, so can compare those to connections made by other people making downloads of the same file. Even if the data is encrypted, the list of seeds is going to be pretty specific to that file, which is something ISPs can make use of. Of course you could make use of TOR, but that cripples your download speed.

      This is besides the point. I’m not in favor of copyright holders making use of something like this, it’s just that these are examples of alternate ways to limit piracy, without resorting to oppressive legislation.

    • Loopy says:

      @LionsPhil Yeah they do have content recognition system in place already, which seems to have different results depending on which record/film company you happen to infringe. Everything from blocking content in certain countries/ the addition of advertisements, to outright muting of whole videos.

    • tetracycloide says:

      You seem to be under the mistaken impression that all content which is under copyright that appears must be infringing but that’s simply not the case. The reality is that there simply is not easy way to determine if an given upload infringes or not with certainty.

      Let’s not forget that anything which raises the cost of copyright compliance on third parties which creates chilling effects to the point where some services will simply go out of business while others may never receive the initial investments they need to get off the ground. It’s an absolutely unacceptable level of collateral damage given the abject lack of evidence that without these measures any real harm is being done.

    • alundra says:

      You seem to be under the mistaken impression that all content which is under copyright that appears must be infringing but that’s simply not the case.

      This.

      I had a very short clip uploaded to youtube, like 5 sec long or so, of a very old simpsons episode, some how, some way, it got tagged for copyright infringement and they made me withstand half an hour of some “copyright school” videos, not at all unlike communist internment camps by the way, before I could use my account again, for a frigging super short clip of a laughing homer.

      At least they didn’t cancel my account or anything….

  3. losludvig says:

    “address the illegal theft of intellectual property” … as opposed to the legal kind of theft?

    • diamondmx says:

      That’s probably what they call fair use.

    • Caleb367 says:

      It’s legal if hilarious hijinks happen and the thief is a major celebrity. Or Hollywood lied to me all this time.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Legal theft of intellectual property is called “Work-for-Hire”. Another form of legal theft, in the music industry anyway, is to have the artist sign their publishing and merchandising rights away for a pittance to secure the deal. Seeing who is the holder of many IPs(Publishers, rather than the Developers), leads me to believe that the gaming industry works in a very similar way.

  4. BadHat says:

    So what? They’re just going to renew support for it once the newer, “friendlier” version of the bill is proposed. This is purely a PR move.

  5. Kent says:

    I think that Total Biscuit’s argument about limiting the chances for their competitors is the biggest issue about PIPA, SOPA and all that shit. No manner of DRM is going to make them happy – they want to have maximum control over distribution and internet distribution is something they don’t want to take part in.

    You’ve got to be pretty damn stupid to believe that these million dollar/euro/quid corporation doesn’t have the finances to start their own massive internet distribution services and also making their products exclusive to their users. They’re not out to reduce losses, they’re actually doing warfare on their competitors. And that’s actually kind of illegal in our “free market system”. Yes, I’m saying that the US congress is actually participating in criminal activity.

    And just as a personal standpoint. I’ve never supported the copyright laws as they stand, they need to be rewritten because they’re the main reason we cannot listen to music who’s creators have died less than 75 years from now. The main reason why the Micheal Jackson skin in Plants vs. Zombies had to be removed and why the publishers of the best guitar player in the world is selling fake songs from him. There’s nothing wrong in getting paid for what you do, but copyright is used far more to keep a hold of intellectual property by the publishers, who didn’t do squat other than distribute the shit into CDs and market the artist – which I don’t think is all that sacred in this day and age.

  6. LarsBR says:

    I refuse to trust anything anyone still calling piracy “theft” has to say on the subject. It’s not. Ask a lawyer.

    • lurkalisk says:

      I always find funny when people try to equate it to hijacking a delivery truck full of software…

    • Shuck says:

      Also, copyright violation does not equal “piracy” either. Media piracy is when you violate copyright in order to sell the copies you made, which is pretty reprehensible, as you actually are taking sales away from the content creators/publishers. With torrenting, etc., it’s not clear that the companies are necessarily losing sales. So calling unauthorized copying “piracy” becomes another way for these media organizations to (questionably) imply that money is being taken from their member companies.

    • Panda Powered says:

      Let’s sing it ^^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeTybKL1pM4

  7. InternetBatman says:

    Ugh. At this point I wish the group of hypocrites had just disbanded from loss of members instead.

  8. Freud says:

    Paying a lot of money to push legislation through Congress and Senate is democracy theft.

    • mmorpg games says:

      reply to Freud:

      No, that’s ur democracy, it always worked like that (is just that you finally saw it), just another corrupt form of managing masses of unaware people.

    • Caleb367 says:

      Wait, you mean that representative democracies are in fact oligarchies ruled by the richest power groups to further their own interest and screw over the masses? Preposterous!

    • Phantoon says:

      Well, I was told it was supposed to be better than Rome.

  9. ninjapirate says:

    John, that first paragraph is brilliant – I love you, RPS, :o)

  10. postwar says:

    I would totally still support England in WC ’94 just for David Seaman’s ponytail and brostache (hopefully he was the GK then).

    • Caleb367 says:

      Pah! I’ve seen people still supporting the American Civil War Confederates in 2012!

    • RagingLion says:

      England never qualified for the ’94 World Cup. I don’t think John was intending that irony though.

  11. avki says:

    a

  12. bill says:

    The thing is, i actually DO think we need laws to manage intellectual property – but I don’t think we’ll ever get the kind of balanced laws that we need.

    Due to lobbying, they are always to protect IP from users, but never about protecting IP for users, or protecting IP access.

    Censoring the internet, particularly without oversight, is a worrying step on a slippery slope, but on the other hand shutting down sites at the source is fairer than sending threatening letters to scared grannies or most of the other tactics used. But you’d have to be VERY careful how it was used, that there was appeals – and you’d still lose the right to criticise other countries who block their internets.

    If there was a clear framework of rights that were enshrined in law, that included fair use for fans and things like that, and if companies didn’t always abuse their power by threatening users who do something minor, then I might have more sympathy for some laws to stop those actually profiting from the procedure.
    I think stopping the funding to the sites is probably the least invasive point – but again you’d have to be careful it wasn’t abused. Else you’d end up with sites losing all their ad revenue due to a single uploaded fan tribute video, or sites like Wikileaks losing all their revenue because people didn’t agree with their message.

  13. Tei says:

    Thanks ESA!, Thanks EA!

  14. Navagon says:

    So when something less crazy, but nonetheless damaging to all concerned comes along, they’ll just support that instead. Thing is: the next attempt at this kind of legislation will have to be less crazy to even get any attention at all. So all that really means is that they’ll jump on the next SOPA-esque bandwagon that comes along regardless.

    All in all this only serves to prove that the industry needs to distance itself from the ESA.

  15. LTK says:

    It seems to me that the threat to boycott E3 might have helped.

  16. kert says:

    European Space Agency did what ??

    • Saiko Kila says:

      Yeah, it annoys me greatly that RPS uses the veritable acronym for that wrecked organization which is not ESA (but Entertainment Software Asssomething). Really, they are one of the less known mob organizations which use that acronym.

      Also, I wish RPS hivemind would concentrate their thoughts on a similar thing, but bigger, and affecting UK and Europe Union more directly, namely Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. That crap is even more horrendous, because it is very, very secret for an international agreement, which requires national laws to be changed to adhere to. And politicians from some countries lie (big news) to their constituencies about it, for instance saying that all EU countries have to agree to it (which is bullshit).

  17. Novack says:

    ESA is the perfect example of the consequences of having an entity whose sole purpose is to be around and lobby.

    The result is a bunch of technocrats trying to justify their salaries, and by extension the ESA existance, by making totally imbecile moves, and lick their funders boots, without morale or rationale thinking.

    Thanks John.