ESA drops support for SOPA

The Entertainment Software Association, representative body for the games industry and the behemoth behind E3, has ceremoniously dropped support of the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Entertainment Software Association

"Unintended Consequences"

In case you’ve been under a rock, the Act – known as SOPA – is a piece of controversial anti-piracy legislation that was being waved around the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s the reason that popular sites such as Reddit and Wikipedia were “blacked-out” on January 18th, as industry bodies protested the implications of the draconian bill.

Many game development studios and publishers had thrown their weight behind the protests – but the ESA, which represented many of them (and, indeed, is funded by many), continued to support the bill, arguing that it would prevent the theft of intellectual property, helping to (wait for it) stop online piracy.

Today though, the Association has backflipped. It still supports the theory behind SOPA, but has come to the conclusion that the current implementation isn’t quite what it signed up for.

In a statement:

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.

The news comes after gamers across the world criticised the Association for its perceived hypocrisy on the issue of free speech. In response, gamers, publishers, developers and online groups started calling for action against the ESA itself – including a mass boycott of this year’s E3, to be held in June.

As with many backflips, this one comes at a cost: The ESA had poured nearly $200,000 into lobbying for the Protect IP Act – the U.S. Senate version of SOPA – which has now also been dropped.

With many companies, industry bodies and individuals pulling their support for SOPA – alongside massive protests both online and across the United States – Congressman Lamar Smith, who created SOPA, has announced that he will postpone any further action on the bill: Indefinitely. Like the ESA, he still believes in the theory behind the Act, but says that he will work with concerned parties to develop a proposal that works across the board.

A vote on the Senate’s Protect IP Act has also been postponed indefinitely. In political speech, this means we’ll probably hear more about it after the U.S. election, in a (slightly) less-strict form.

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