The Escapist never fails to fire up my political ranting engines. They recently announced that, due to a healthy reposte by the White House, Congress decided to shelve the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I’m no lawyer, yet, but I’m fairly certain the bill is done for. Finito.
As it currently stands.
The fight isn’t over, though. Much like the equally idiotic California, “parents and their kids don’t have brains, let’s decide for them” law, revivions are possible, and probable. There’s strength and comfort understanding that the executive branch is against any bill like SOPA, but their statement did not rule out an anti-piracy bill. Indeed, they welcome one, but not as severe and dangerous as SOPA.
Got all that? Shelve it, and hear why I think games have won another huge battle in its road to legitimacy. Hear as well why everyone must still remain modest and quiet on the western front. Doom awaits if we don’t.
[Insert victory music here]
In much the same was as Senator Lee’s bill was shot down by the Supreme Court, this victory for gamers everywhere, is all but unprecedented. Our opposition to it paled in comparison, both in numbers and finances, to companies like Google, Yahoo, Mozilla, eBay, the entire Wikimedia foundation; the list of non-gaming companies goes one. Don’t forget, however, likes of Bungie, Mojang, Zynga (yes, they are important), the MLG brass (also important), EPIC Games, and many more my memory and research fails to find. Reddit played a major role, and, while I’m not a user myself, I’m aware of the many subreddits for various big name gaming series. The gamer population there is rather large, I should think.
Seeing this bill shelved is another example of just how powerful and ingrained the internet is in our culture. It shows also just important the culture that’s developed around it is. Games notwithstanding, the youth of today communicate more and more electronically. Some multi-billion dollar business got that way only because the internet exists. The everyday schmuck on the street is probably linked to the web in at least four different ways a day, sometimes all at once. I mean, I don’t know how our President would have fared were it not for the internet’s assistance in disseminating his rhetoric.*
For gamers specifically, and for the T3 audience, to a man, this bill’s defeat means a lot. We now have two silver bullets to fight the horrid beast that is general opposition, and the old guard trying to call the shots in a world that left them behind years ago. We’ve all but presented games as another form of free speech, and now the internet is safe from the predations of those who don’t know how to hunt it. The records of these events are preserved forever both as documents and web pages. We can point to them in the future as proof of our defiance and our strength, because we will be threatened again.
Take it all standing up; not jumping, not shouting
The problem is far from solved. All bills can be revised, and many are. The White House called for strict lines between what constitues piracy/infringement and what is just plain ignoring our rights. There’s an election coming, and unlike last time, I’m not quite so certain about this one. There could be a whole new House, a new man on top of it all, with different views, and in the perfect storm, SOPA reenters negotiations, is changed slightly, and passed. This is the dystopic future humorously envisioned in last week’s Jimquisition. There isn’t much we can do about it, at least as gamers. As voters, perhaps, but not otherwise.
What we can do is remain steadfast. Our resolve may be empowered, but we cannot fall to arrogance and complacency. This is not the last or, I fear, greatest test video games, and the internet, have yet to face. We, as both gamers and internet users, should not fall to childishness, to bickering and useless flame wars. Save that for when the dust is all settled. When another bill like this comes along, and trust me, it will, this victory is only one weapon. Or more piece of ammunition in the fight. It may be spent once, and only once.
I don’t think another bill as severe as SOPA will ever pass, don’t get me wrong. I do think more and worse bills will be proposed, because SOPA fought against the tide for so long. Its endurance is a beacon to short-sighted politicians to put forward similar propositions, hoping they withstand the trials. In every instance that comes, we must act with both force and eloquence, fighting fair, through the proper channels. That won’t happen across the board, because, shit, this is the internet, people. If, however, enough of us show the wherewithal to act like decent people, we might just come a step closer to having the world see we aren’t just a bunch of socially inept nerds in our mom’s basement. We will gain respect, something the industry desperately needs.
*The big words are over.