Imagine a world with a censored internet just because the entertainment industry wants you to buy lots of awful albums and movies. Can you see it? Good. Now hit the jump.
16 November, US-based websites began ‘censoring’ their web pages in protest of the Protect IP bill/Stop Online Piracy Act as a part of American Censorship Day. The online protests aim to defend freedom of expression and the growth of the internet from the entertainment industry’sÂ demand for strict laws protecting entertainment media like movies, music and software from unauthorized and illegal access and distribution over the internet. The main problem the entertainment industry around the world faces is piracy and in the US, SOPA,Â as they call it, is one of the solutions brought into the table by their Congress and the industry
What will this Protect IP/Stop Online Piracy Act do in the US?
In a nutshell, this Stop Online Piracy ActÂ hits us in the balls and entertainment companies get away with it, just so they can make us to buy more movies, music and games.
So what does this have to do with the country’s growing online community and video gaming scene?
Remember those StarCraft II tournament streams? How about EVO? Maybe Shoryuken‘s fighting game guides, streams and recordings? Or maybe BlazBlue Philippines‘ recorded ranked battle and casual matches? Or maybe, even this website’s several video and photo coverage of events related to (but not excluding) video games and Philippine pop culture?
All of them might disappear.
This, and several thousand more local and international websites dedicated to the same cause might disappear.
A lot of websites around the world use copyrighted material, especially the smallest blogs like this one. For many of us, we rely on blogs to follow our interests. We as gamers heavily rely on information acquired and passed around from a grassroots level. I really doubt that there are people who visit the official websites of their favorite developers and publishers every day just to check out whether they are working on a new game or if they have announcements. Not everyone will be bothered to visit these devs and publishers’ official Youtube channels to see videos of their upcoming games. Not everyone knows they their favorite dev or publisher has a mailing list. So we rely on social networking sites to get our news. They are unusually fast and accurate. It is convenient to have everything we need on a single site. With a law like SOPA, every blog might be closed down just because you used a screenshot from a game you’re covering. It may also cripple blogs which run on advertising pay-outs to keep themselves afloat. Podcasts you say? You can say goodbye to them as long as you used unlicensed music to make your podcast a tad bit more interesting.
Many gamers love watching videos of playthroughs of the games they find too difficult to beat. There are also those who watch recorded matches and try to learn from them, using the knowledge they acquired from these videos to compete with other players online or offline. There are also those who find joy in showing people how people play. This is common among the fighting game and RTS communities, where they hold their own tournaments and broadcast them without consent or not paying the license to broadcast copyrighted content. With a law like SOPA, streaming entities like GOM, Ustream, NicoNicoDouga and TwitchTV will not be allowed to broadcast matches unless they acquire the proper licenses for broadcast. Â This will deprive the interested viewing public the joy of witnessing such events and just might kill e-sports as a result.
People who make video montages of the games they play will be affected. People who make remixes if their favorite video game music won’t be able to show off their work. Same with the people who do cover versions of video game music using their guitars, synthesizers, pianos and violins. We won’t be able to enjoy video and music mash-ups created by millions of users around the world, just because the entertainment industry wants us to pay for our use of their intellectual property, even if we are just using them for fun, void of any intent for profit. If the industry today can request a take down of a video just because they own the music in the background, what more if they can sue you for accidentally having Justin Bieber’s “Baby” played in your video and you might get imprisoned for it? Worst case, our beloved cosplayers might be sued forÂ wearingÂ the skin of their favorite video game characters! Can you imagine a nerd world without cosplay?
SOPA can pave the way to internet censorship. Malicious and outrageous methods of protecting intellectual property can pave the way to internet censorship.
This is not being paranoid. The internet has done a lot to connect people from around the world through sharing of information, creativity and entertainment. Â There are people who rose to fame because of the internet. There are people who find new hobbies and interests because of the internet. Sure we are all for the rooting the cause of piracy but we don’t see it going away pretty soon. Even if a similar law would be passed in the Philippines, it is uncertain if such drastic and extreme methods will be effective in controlling piracy. Let’s be honest with ourselves: The Philippines is one big pirate haven. Places like Quiapo and Makati Square are still plagued with pirated video and software peddlers. Greenhills is plagued with shops offering jailbreaking and modding services for game consoles. The occasional raids fail to minimize the sale of pirated stuff, what good is filtering the internet of such material? It will just stifle our developing internet culture. Our government has more important issues to solve. It’s not like piracy isn’t a big issue — it is. It’s either the entertainment industry just deal with it, or find ways to keep their media off pirate’s hands and make them more accessible and affordable for the common folk.
If this Stop Online Piracy Act is passed as law in the US, it is almost certain that countries of the world will follow suit. The Philippine government could follow what this US bill does to ultimately control the internet. This means the government and the entertainment industry can choose what websites you could see, what media you should be enjoying and what information would be fed to you. There are many ways to exploit a SOPA-like law. It can be just written off ambiguously so that it will be very open in interpretation like the Anti-Child Pornography ActÂ (FACT: According to the aforementioned law, Oblivion nude mods, and pictures of scantily-clad 2D girls are child porn so long as the court deems them as such, mind you.) and let the government just run wild with it. Though there is hugeÂ possibility that such will not be implemented properly when passed, but the passage of such a bill is one giant leap in taking away freedom of expression and freedom to information.
The internet should be free. Be vigilant.Â