If Not, They Better Tell Their Lobbyist
You may have heard or read much about SOPA in the news the past few weeks. For those unaware, SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, will allow the US Justice Department to serve court orders on websites outside the country’s jurisdiction suspected by IP holders of copyright infringement or outright piracy. Inside the US, the bill would make streaming copyrighted content without authorization felonious. The act also allows, with the approval of the US Attorney General, the blockade of sites in question by US based search engines. IP holders can also petition payment and ad network services serving sites accused of infringement, demanding they suspend service or face potential liability themselves.
The bill is expected to be voted on when Congress reconvenes later this month. While there remain a lot of procedural hurdles–not to mention threats of legal and constitutional challenges from opponents should it become law–the bill is starkly opposed by many Internet users, as well as those who make much of their living on the web. Several major names in gaming, including EA, Microsoft, and Nintendo, have come under fire for their support, direct or otherwise, of the bill. All three have dropped official independent support of SOPA since the outcry.
But that may not matter, because the trade association and lobbying group all three aforementioned groups pay dues to still supports it. The Entertainment Software Association remains on the list of SOPA supporters, as seen on the record via the House Judiciary Committee website. That means the ESA, in effect, remains lobbying in support of the bill on behalf of more than 30 video game companies…including Sega.
And no wonder; when we checked the ESA website for its stance for “Federal Issues,” here is what the group said on copyright matters, again speaking on behalf of its member companies:
ESA member companies depend upon strong enforcement of copyright laws to protect their works. Ensuring that harmful copyright legislation is not enacted has been and remains one of ESA’s highest priorities. ESA was an active participant in the public policy debate that culminated in enactment of the historic Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Legislative efforts to weaken the DMCA will continue to be vigorously opposed by ESA.
Today, copyright protection is being assailed from many different angles. Bills are repeatedly introduced in both the House and Senate that would destroy our member companies’ ability to adequately protect their intellectual property. Accordingly, ESA continues to be actively involved in any congressional debate on issues affecting the DMCA, the Copyright Act, and digital technologies that pose a significant and direct threat to the copyright protected works of our members.
ESA staff also spends a considerable amount of time advocating for copyright legislation that is favorable to the video game industry, which will enable ESA member companies to protect their intellectual property and further invest in the creation of entertainment products that will be enjoyed by millions of consumers.
To be fair, the ESA has made clear its opposition to any changes to the Fair Use doctrine in the 1976 copyright act, which this site and others have invoked from time to time, allowing us to bring you various stories that otherwise would have rendered us exposed to possible litigation.
Still, those opposed to the bill believe that should SOPA pass, any company, not just those in the video game industry, could in effect drain the revenue from legally operating websites that portray the company unfavorably, if not purge the site from existence altogether. Gamers opposed to the bill believe that despite MS, EA, and Nintendo’s withdrawal of direct support, the continued ESA support still attaches their names toward the effort.
Sega, for their part, have remained independently mum on the matter to this point. Then again, members of Sega’s official forums haven’t been allowed to discuss the matter; moderators (who, we should note, tend to operate independently of Sega directives themselves) have locked down all SOPA-related discussion, classifying the matter as verboten “political talk.”
Given the consumer blowback other companies like GoDaddy.com endured in the face of their support, it is surprising to see only three industry names be called out in the SOPA debate when one organization is, in effect, giving more than 30 companies that voice. It’s not clear if Sega will ever clarify their stance on the bill independently instead of letting the ESA speak for them–there was a time, after all, when Sega was as big an industry player as Nintendo and Microsoft–though if they do, clarification about their ties to the ESA may also be necessary. Sonic and Sega fans are among the most vocal among gamers; the question now is whether those voices will be put to a greater, more important use ahead of the crucial Congressional debate.