SOPA Soaped, PIPA Pipped: People Are Ace

By John Walker on January 20th, 2012 at 5:59 pm.

Image used without permission. Hooray!

Look, it’s my day off, and yet here I am. That’s how flipping excited I am to tell you what an INCREDIBLE difference the SOPA/PIPA protest on Wednesday made. One Wednesday the US Congress had 80 members in favour of the bills, with just 31 against. As of yesterday, those figures had changed to 65 in favour, and 101 against. Yes, those numbers don’t add up – a lot more Congresspersons made their minds up. Because of you people, exercising your right to protest and speak out.

And even more exciting (!), Joystiq have just reported that PIPA is now on hold, no longer to be debated in the Senate next Tuesday as planned, because of the “legitimate issues” that were raised by “many”. We made a difference.

This isn’t a victory. But it’s a huge step in the move to protect the freedoms of our incredible internet. The vote was postponed by its main supporter, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. He has called on the paper’s author to go back to those who paid for it (the entertainment industry) and tell them to try again, this time “maintaining openness and innovation on the internet” – the very thing those industries so desperately want to stop. Oops!

Additionally, the delightful author of the SOPA bill, Lamar Smith, has said that his own disastrous attempt needs work, despite still using words like “foreign thieves” in his hubris-filled statement. In which he also continues to quote utter gibberish figures based on nonsense to pretend that piracy is costing America $100 billion a year – numbers completely discredited here. Honestly, reading the statement makes me want to punch myself in the face, just to make the words go away.

So this isn’t it. They’re not gone. But they’re an awful lot harder to bring back for a while, and it’s unlikely they’ll be as broadly idiotic. With the vote so turned around, well, this is a reason to be happy, and certainly evidence to slap in the face of all the twits who said, “shutting off some websites won’t make a difference.” Slap those twits! Also, these ones.

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82 Comments »

  1. Zarunil says:

    Can’t stop the Internet, baby!

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      Faldrath says:

      Actually, you *can*, which is why action was needed. Now to be on the lookout, because these guys are likely to try something more underhanded – sneaking a paragraph in a seemingly unrelated bill here or there, for instance.

    • Tei says:

      No you can’t. Internet is a network to share numbers, and every movie, game, tv serie can be reduced to numbers. You can see a 34 56 23 45 .. and so on, but have no idea what it means. It can be encrypted, so nobody but the sender and the receiver know what is. Its imposible to stop warez.

    • Kaira- says:

      Seeing how the DNS root zone is located in US and is under authority of US Department of Commerce, stopping the Internet wouldn’t be all that hard.

    • Mistabashi says:

      Yeah, what’s bound to happen now is they’ll come-up with what seems to be a much less heavy-handed bill, but filled with lots of clever hidden catch-all loopholes and clauses. The corporations sponsoring these bills have obviously poured alot of money into it, they aren’t going to just give-up until they’ve got something for their money.

    • Wreckdum says:

      LOL @ anyone thinking some internet protests for one day will stop what has already been started. The intentions have been made clear. Do you honestly think some people crying on the internet will change it? Now they know people are paying attention. They will just piggyback SOPA on the back of another bill just like they did with the indefinite detention act. IDA was put on the national defense spending bill. You can’t veto the money for national defense so it has to be signed. You think they can’t do that with SOPA? You’re delusional.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      Obama can stop the internet actually, he has that power since 2010 I think.

    • SketchyGalore says:

      “Obama can stop the internet actually, he has that power since 2010 I think.”

      We also gave him laser beam eyes in 2011 and frost breath back in ’09.

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      FriendlyFire says:

      @Wreckdum: You speak as if only “internet people” were actually against these bills or similar bills. I’ll remind you that tiny companies like Google and Facebook simply cannot allow such laws to pass.

      This, and only this, is why I believe the media corporations’ attempts to censor the Internet will be met with ferocious opposition. This is just showing that the people can fight back.

    • Mistabashi says:

      Well, it seems Lamar Smith is also pushing another bill, the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011″ bill. Check the acronym, the similarity is uncanny.

      So it’s a distinct possibility that measures from SOPA will be added onto this bill, but since it’s supposedly about protecting children from child pornography there’s very little chance of stirring public opinion against it.

      Don’t start celebrating yet…

      http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR01981:@@@L&summ2=m&
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protecting_Children_from_Internet_Pornographers_Act_of_2011

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Well, if they did end up stopping the internet, I propose the following; http://i.imgur.com/rUIyP.jpg

    • Schmitzkater says:

      The Internet can only be stopped if all the Elders of The Internet convene in Big Ben and Stephen Hawking gives his blessing, or if Jen drops it.

  2. McCool says:

    This could potentially be a huge moment in history. I don’t think a coordinated online movement has ever effected a major bill like this before. I say potentially, because this story isn’t finished yet.

    In other news, I love how that picture shows no internet access for Cornwall. So true lol XD.

    • Brun says:

      Coordinated online movements have already toppled multiple governments. Temporarily delaying a piece of legislation isn’t exactly historic after that, although I agree that the scale of this particular movement was global, whereas the movements we saw in the Middle East last year were highly localized.

    • westyfield says:

      Sorry, no internet access for where?

  3. Tei says:

    I am specially happy with the contribution of Wikipedia. Wikipedia all these very long votations, and seems unable to make so everyone agree that 2+2 =4.

    I don’t understand the USA political system. It seems corrupted to the bone but is… legal? how is that possible. Everyone know legislations like this are push by money from a few industries. Most people ignore it, because are too busy watching trash tv. Thanks good we have this small power, the power to close a website one day, to make noise so even that people that watch TV will notice theres something going before is too late.

    Too bad the enteirnement industry also have that power. Imagine if national TV is closed one day to force the govern to push another restriction on free speech (called something like “Punish Bad People And Protect The Children Patriot Act” ),.. It soo bad, that we are on a similar position to DRM. This type of laws will ultimately win, and be imposed on everyone, and Is only the rage of the average joe that will make these laws get removed. After the damage is done.

    • Phantoon says:

      Make laws, and anything corrupt you do is legal.

      See?

    • Maldomel says:

      Maybe they are just being “honest” about it. Laws have been pushed forward by lobbies and money for centuries everywhere around the world. So it is no secret anyway. That said, it’s still disgusting, and unfortunately this type of shit is bound to come back sooner or later.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      The problem with the US system is that it’s irreparably broken, and everyone knows that, but it’s so broken that nobody can actually manage to fix it.

      It’s like when your cat pees in your computer and fries the motherboard. There’s nothing that can be done except replace the computer and shoot the cat.

    • kemryl says:

      Yes, the U.S. could use a good old fashioned uprising or two, if it weren’t for the whole bit where you end up with dead people in the streets and no toilet paper left.
      It does seem like that’s what it would take to fix the system though. With a name like congress for a regulatory body instead of the clearly superior title of progress, it’s a wonder the U.S. has even made it this far.

    • Josh W says:

      Technically the americans may be able to fix it after all, because there is a backup mechanism in case the washington institutions go crazy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_to_propose_amendments_to_the_United_States_Constitution

      There’s also the possibility of prospective members of congress taking on a contract to resign their seats if a sufficient group of their constituents votes them out, and so jury-rigging an automatic recall function into the system. That way they could say “I’m going to propose these amendments to fix it, and you can sack me if I don’t.”

  4. Brun says:

    They might as well be done. Both SOPA and PIPA were relying on two things to pass – stealth, and the general lack of understanding of the Internet’s inner workings and culture among politicians. Stealth has obviously been completely and absolutely lost – awareness is now clearly widespread. The fact that SOPA/PIPA can no longer be quietly pushed through Congress is a huge blow to both pieces of legislation and the real victory of Wednesday’s blackouts.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Absolutely. The more people fight for it, the more corrupt they look in general.

  5. Lobotomist says:

    If Anything 2011-2012 showed very clearly that internet brought voice back to the people.

    From changes in middle east, to wall street demonstrations…and this.

    People do have the power when they stand together and opposed what is wrong.

    And boy, there are so many things wrong with world today…

  6. Buttless Boy says:

    This was great and all, but it’s far from over. There’s some kind of retaliatory bullshit happening now with Megaupload, and we can expect more of it in the future.

    Of course, the fact that the US government can use existing laws to take down an arguably legitimate international business makes the “need” for SOPA/PIPA even more questionable.

    • Phantoon says:

      Backlash is unlikely- protesting the government gets you sidelined by the media, so they can go as far as they’ll be allowed to with no fear of repercussion.

    • Brun says:

      While I don’t like what happened to Megaupload, I don’t think you can call them “arguably legitimate.” They were registered as a DMCA participant with the U.S. government and were not honoring that agreement.

      The shady part of it will depend on how the courts qualify those violations – one of the complaints seems to be along the lines of “not having a search function,” the alleged intent being to make it more difficult for rightsholders to do quick and easy searches for their content so they can issue takedown requests. THAT’s the kind of crap that you should be worried about with MU.

    • Mistabashi says:

      The Mega Upload thing definitely isn’t “retaliatory bullshit”, they’ve been building that case for a long time. Also based on what i’ve read it isn’t really bullshit at all, since there seems to be lots of evidence that the people involved were not only aware their site was being used to distribute copyright material (which is obvious), but they were actively encouraging it.

      It’s also worth keeping in mind that the people behind Mega Upload aren’t some small-time operation with a free sharing agenda, the company has made over $175 million since it was started, and the guys behind it are living like kings.

      http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/why-the-feds-smashed-megaupload.ars

    • Buttless Boy says:

      I dunno, it seems to me that they were honoring the DMCA, albeit unenthusiastically. If there was a link to a pirated mp3 and someone reported it, they took it down. I haven’t read the law though, so maybe (probably) there’s something I’m not getting.

      It was a shady business and I’m not defending them, and of course it was a case that’s been building for years, but the fact that the raid took place the day after the blackouts seems like one hell of a coincidence.

    • Mistabashi says:

      @ Buttless Boy ~

      Well, they weren’t actually removing the illegal content, they were just removing the links to it. You can have as many links as you want to the same content on mega Upload, so I guess the argument is that a) the content is still being hosted and b) they were doing to this intentionally to give the appearance of letitimacy without sacrificing all the revenue they are making from the content.

      If any of what the linked article claims is true I don’t think they’ll get off lightly, and to be honest I don’t think they should, as much as I like watching repeats of Futurama for free.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      You make good points. I think my main concern is the site provided a legal service (even if it was only coincidental) and that it at least appeared to cooperate with the DMCA. When something that walks the line between legal and illegal is targeted, I worry about that line blurring.

    • Mistabashi says:

      A reasonable analogy is that of a pawn shop – they provide a perfectly legal service until they start knowingly dealing in stolen goods. I don’t think there’s any blurriness legality-wise, if they are knowingly hosting illegal content then they are breaking the law. What is slightly less certain is whether or not the evidence to support that allegation is sufficient – are internal emails and (seemingly deliberately) ineffective practices enough to establish intent? Some of the evidence will probably be quite contentious in court, but I don’t think they would have brought the case if they weren’t confident they’ll win it, it’s a pretty high-profile case after all.

    • ecat says:

      MU makes for an interesting discussion:

      They had expensive cars and nice homes – so reports the court document! – much like owners of Google, MS, Time-Warner, RPS (chuckle) ie, the trappings of many successful businessmen.

      They rewarded people for making contributions to the site – much like many on-line sites do.

      The lack of a search engine also makes it difficult for Joe Soap to locate any illegal content that may have slipped through the net.

      They were using the ‘halo’ granted from DMCA compliance to give credibility to their accusations against other file hosting sites.

      Oh, the thing that really pissed off big content: they paid several well known artists to perform the MegaUpload Mega song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8aUCnyKH2U , totally legal and totally owned by MU. UMG were furious that it showed ‘their’ artists supporting MU and were absolutely livid that they could not have it taken down… The Man Who Fell to Earth came to mind when I read about this.

      There could be several interesting days in court.

    • Starky says:

      @Mistabashi

      I think a more reasonable analogy that side-steps the theft issue of a pawnshop one, is that of a DVD rental shop, who starts making their own copies to rent out so that they can rent to more customers at a time without paying the content producers their cut of that rental fee.

      Mega-Upload knowingly profited off wide-scale piracy, and deserved to be shut down.

      I’m pro IP law reform – especially patent law which as an Engineer I despise with a pure white hate of one who sees innovation strangled year after year by the overly broad claims of a few mega-companies that own ALL the idea’s.
      I also happen to think that personal, non-profit downloading of media should NOT be a crime, civil or otherwise – users/consumers are the WRONG target.

      The only form of piracy that should be criminal is the kind mega-upload participated in – which is selling and distributing on a commercial scale copyrighted works without permission.

      Be that some guy selling dodgy DVDs from a market stall, or a website selling download space (or advertising space for that matter).

  7. djbriandamage says:

    Ars Technica (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/reid-shelves-protect-ip-act-in-response-to-recent-events.ars) shows this quote by Senator Leahy, the bill’s primary sponsor:
    “More time will pass with jobs lost and economies hurt by foreign criminals who are stealing American intellectual property, and selling it back to American consumers”

    So the problem is that Americans are clamouring to buy entertainment products, but not for as much money as the RIAA\MPAA\*.* demands. Why, I guess that’s a problem with absolutely no other solution than to censor entire websites based on conjecture.

    • Brun says:

      It’s not just that they don’t want to pay as much money. There are a lot of other reasons behind it as well. As much as the MP/RIAA will claim to be embracing the Internet and digital distribution, the reality is that they are not and are in fact seeking to remain firmly grounded in the physical world. In other words, they’re trying to preserve brick-and-mortar at the expense of digital, despite the writing on the wall that digital signed retail’s death warrant years ago. This makes the Internet a second-class market, subject to restrictions, limitations, and confusing policies and distribution schemes. Things like:

      1) Release Gaps. These are the thirty or fifty day release gaps between retail release and availability on digital services like Netflix. This is a no-brainer, designed specifically to boost retail sales. It would be interesting to see the statistics on piracy rates during and after that release gap.
      2) Digital Oceans. Something the gamers on this site should be all too familiar with. Closely related to #1. I understand delays associated with localization, but a 3 day release delay internationally is stupid.
      3) Lack of single content source. Each studio or music label having its own distribution service, rather than unifying under a single distribution banner. People don’t want to maintain multiple subscriptions to multiple services just to access content from multiple production shops.
      4) Fixed Price Points. This is self-explanatory, and closest to what you said about what the MPAA/RIAA charge for their content. A great deal of it is not worth what they ask, and fixed price points are the problem.

      It is THOSE factors, as much as price, that drive people to pirate content.

    • djbriandamage says:

      Oh I agree entirely, not to mention factors of DRM, unskippable warnings and trailers in movies, music CDs that won’t play on computers, weightless digital products costing the same as retail, limited activations, the death of lending… all ways to devalue the internet’s inherently limitless potential. Politicians don’t know diddly about this stuff they – they see what the lobbyists are paid to tell them. I was just apeing that narrowmindedness wiht my comment.

  8. Deston says:

    We made a difference.

    I feel strange and weird… Like that one time I woke up on Walker’s sofa covered in spaghetti and bee stings with no memory of the previous 24 hours. But even stranger and weirder.

    So this is what it feels like when a peaceful democratic action actually has some kind of tangible effect?

    • Paul B says:

      “We made a difference”

      *Gives everyone a pat on the back and a hug*

    • The Innocent says:

      Yes, a round of applause for everyone who got out (or even stayed in) and did something.

      It’s surprising how exhausting staying on hold with Orrin Hatch’s office all day is.

  9. MuscleHorse says:

    If the wording of that congressman depresses you, just think of the quantity of people who voted for him to be in that position.

    Anyhow – this truly is democracy in action. Thank you internet. You’re good for something other than cat videos it seems.

  10. Sp4rkR4t says:

    You can’t stop the signal, and if you try we will beat you to a fine paste with our rage.

  11. MichaelPalin says:

    I’m happy and proud of the internet!

    Still, for what I read every day, an important part of the internet still agrees with current copyright laws and intellectual property or with the concept itself and my intuition tells me that the only path of change for now will be to worst unless a serious debate and revision on the concept and usefulness of IP is performed. I’m sure SOPA/PIPA or similars will keep coming again and again until the world takes an important step in the direction of more democracy.

    Just look at the megaupload case, regardless of whether the accused ones are guilty, they have shut down indefinitely a site with god knows how many files of how many people. Basically what SOPA/PIPA wanted, just slower.

    • Brun says:

      Copyright laws have been in need of a revision to adequately cover digital content for decades now, but no one has really found a good way to approach it.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      I’d say no IP would be just perfect. Problem is that nobody is even discussing what to do with IP (at least on gaming sites) so I cannot know how Utopian I am and what problems other people see with my view on the matter.

  12. sidhellfire says:

    Meanwhile in Europe… ACTA harvests.

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    Bluerps says:

    Yay!

  14. D3xter says:

    If you think Lamar Smith’s statement was “funny”, you must’ve missed this one xD
    http://mpaa.org/resources/c4c3712a-7b9f-4be8-bd70-25527d5dfad8.pdf

  15. Evernight says:

    As an American on RPS who contacted his Senator – a Senator whom co-sponsored PIPA and as of Thursday morning removed his support – you all can personally thank ME for saving the Internet.

    Henceforth I shall be known as Evernight, Savior of the Interwebz. I think I will go change my Steam handle to that.

  16. DickSocrates says:

    And it was all down to Rock Paper Shotgun going dark. :-D

    Meanwhile, Joystiq, Kotaku, Giantbomb, IGN, etc, etc didn’t do anything. Well, they mentioned it and said they support it as if it was some distant march they physically couldn’t get to. Talk about lip service. “I fully support the thing other people are doing, which I should be doing myself but won’t do.” Those sites can’t claim any part in the victory.

    Wikipedia was especially clever/devious. Not *actually* blocking access to the site, but putting the splash screen and not telling people the varied (super easy) ways to get past it. I suspect they made it so easy to get around on purpose, no other blacked out site had trouble.

    The MPAA released a statement cricising the action. Totally deluded scumbags. Not even enough sense to say nothing.

  17. MythArcana says:

    Now for Phase Two of the Anti-Censorship Act; form a list of every asshole who wasted our time and money in these efforts and FIRE every single one of the clowns come Election Day.

  18. Fumarole says:

    I contacted my representatives. You’re welcome internet.

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    bear912 says:

    <Comment removed by author>

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    Napalm Sushi says:

    That’ll do, internet.

  21. FunkyBadger3 says:

    I think RPS’s campaigning on issues like junk science being used to hit gaming over the head has been laugable, but I’m afraid they’re veering rapidly towards the realms of the useful idiots. Which is obviously a shame.

    • Echo Black says:

      Laughable or Laudable? I can’t tell which you meant.

    • Ultra-Humanite says:

      Yes it would be much better if they stuck their head in the sand, pretended that nothing was wrong, and did nothing to change society. I guess that just makes you the useless idiot variety.

    • Prime says:

      You’re not just wrong, Funkybadger3. You’re MPAA wrong, which is the worst, most complete form of wrong known to man.

  22. SketchyGalore says:

    Today, I am slightly less ashamed to admit that I’m American on this website.

    • The Tupper says:

      Hehe. I’m Scottish but truly believe that the USA is one of the finest countries in the world – it’s like the whole of humanity (good and bad) happening at once. The fact that so much content and such diversity can be contained within its borders speaks for the benefits of civilisation and modernity. And, having travelled extensively there (and in other parts of the world), the average American (if indeed there is such a thing) is quintessentially helpful and approachable.

      I appreciate your humility though – it’s one thing for a foreigner (me) to say that, but when it comes from an American it often comes out all…shouty-shouty kill-y-Arab-y…

      …y’know?

  23. fitzroy_doll says:

    We should delight in the stand we’ve taken in favor of things like, say, notifications, and trials, and proof before censoring someone, but we should get ready to do it again next year, and the year after that. The risk now is not that SOPA will pass. The risk is that we’ll think we’ve won. We haven’t; they’ll be back. Get ready to have this fight again.

    http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/01/pick-up-the-pitchforks-david-pogue-underestimates-hollywood/

    • SoupDuJour says:

      Indeed. For as long as the MPAA, RIAA and various cronies think it’s better to adapt the world to their business model than the other way around, this will continue. It’s really a matter of staying vigilant and getting the message across (especially to politicians) that they shouldn’t mess with our freedom.

  24. newprince says:

    As someone hoping to become a librarian next year in the States, I can’t express how crucial it is that PIPA be stopped, whether it be for academic freedom or freedom of expression. I don’t know if that will happen, but we’ll try. Librarians can be slow to anger, but we tend to make good advocates and wear institutions down until they go “FIIIIINE”.

    I don’t drink the Kool Aid and spout platitudes like “Information wants to be free”, I just know the architecture of the Internet and the continued distribution of content under protection of Fair Use is just too damned important to all levels of education and daily life for us to enact bills like this. I feel I constantly have to apologize on behalf of America to the rest of the world, and it would be nice to not do that any more.

  25. McDan says:

    Excellent! great news, well done to everyone who contributed.

  26. Network Crayon says:

    They’ll be back…

    • Prime says:

      The plan is simple. All we have to do is say No one more time than they can say Yes.

    • Daryl says:

      Yep. They will be back. The important thing is for people pay attention and not to get complacent. The US government snuck in the NDAA bill on New Year’s Eve and nobody even realized it. It wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to do something similar with one or both of these bills.

  27. e4rache says:

    You fools ! SOPA was our last chance to bring back the BBS’s to live !
    Why support SOPA ?

  28. Shooop says:

    Never underestimate the stupidity of our Yankee congress my friend. It will be back.

  29. ChargerCarl says:

    Hopefully now we can go back to worrying about the global depression instead of internets.

  30. HammertoesVI says:

    Surely you people aren’t still under the assumption that these clowns do anything for the people anymore, right? They’ll just shelf this bill, then tack it on another and pass it in the dead of night. Business as usual.

  31. nope says:

    It takes the will of millions to override the will of a few dozen. Some democracy that is.

    • TCM says:

      As opposed to the will of millions being unable to oppose the will of one, as in a dictatorship, or being subjected to the will of tens, as in an oligarchy.

      “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston Churchill

    • Prime says:

      @TCM: What’s fascinating about comments like yours is that they’re only ever about doom and gloom. The glass half empty view. “Take our democracy away and we’ve nothing left but poorer systems!” Churchill was right in a sense but that quote completely fails to comment on the condition of democractic government, possibly because he was too busy trampling on people’s basic rights so he could draft them into war.

      What I’d like to see, just for once, is a tacit admission that Democracy is all well and good and but that the current implementation of it around the world leaves so very much to be desired! Acknowledge, just for once, that what have can be made much, much better. Or are we saying that Democracy is already perfect and cannot ever become better than it is? That we simply have to live with the corruption and inequality because that’s how it is, that’s “how the world works” (nngn), we’ve reached the pinnacle of what can be achieved?

      Sounds absurd when you put it like that, huh? This is why you’ll often hear grumbling voices of dissent when politicians talk of spreading democracy to the troubled regions of the world, because many of us know exactly what form of democracy they mean – it’s better, sure, but still very far from what it should be! Still hopelessly corrupt and designed to elevate a few at the expense of the rest.

      Nope is right: we need to keep polishing Democracy until it sparkles. For too long we’ve let these idiots twist it for their own ends.

  32. Satsuz says:

    Man. I don’t think I’ve ever let out a bigger sigh of relief, than when this news started breaking… Hopefully the morale boost isn’t destroyed by whatever awful thing comes along next.

  33. LizardGenes says:

    What we all thought would happen, happened. I’ve endured my share of ‘it’s teh end!’ blogposts. It’s good to see something measured with well-researched facts. It seems that all the backers couldn’t agree not just what they wanted from SOPA, but that they also couldn’t decypher what SOPA actually was. In the end, did all these entertainment companies realise that word-of-mouth publicity is the best sort of publicity? Was that why they pulled out?

    If so, is that ‘true’ democracy, or just the domination of user content by corporate whims? If fanmade mod-content or commentary for games isn’t actively supported by a publisher, they’ll make it hard to mod for. Except for old, unprofitable software like abandonware, I guess. I heard EA were initially backing this. What happened to them?

  34. Novack says:

    Thanks everybody. Thank you RPS.