Editorial: Why You Should Oppose SOPA/PIPA
First, I would like to note that this is merely one man's opinion and should not be seen as expressing the views of OverclockersClub as a whole. That being said, if any OCC staff members would like to put their name to this as well, I'd gladly do so.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it — piracy is bad. In fact, here at OCC, any mention of piracy gets deleted, with the offending thread often locked. But no amount of legislation is going to put an end to piracy. The black market, bootlegs, and cheap knockoffs have all existed well before the Internet. The best anyone can hope for is a reduction in piracy, but is SOPA/PIPA really the answer? I'm not going to go into all the details of the proposed bills, as you can find that stuff strewn across the web if that's something you want to learn. It probably won't be as bad as some people are suggesting, but it's not going to be good either. And the thing is, if reducing piracy is actually the goal, there are better means to accomplish that. Steam, GOG.com, and others have proven that piracy can be lessened simply by providing good services. Most people are driven to piracy due to two factors: pricing and convenience. Those services have addressed the convenience issue and the various sales have addressed the pricing issue (and the extreme success of such sales have proven this). Before you think me naive, I know piracy of Steam and GOG.com games exist, but certainly to a lesser extent.
The problem with SOPA/PIPA is the language is too vague and probably purposefully so. Piracy won't be thwarted, legitimate sites will be, especially social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube. See, under the proposed bills, sites can get in trouble for user content. An innocent machinima creation, for example could result in a heap of trouble for any site hosting or linking to it. Out of fear, it's highly likely that sites will self-police before it even gets to that point, thus reducing content and ruining what we have become to expect from the Internet. Recording and streaming of games will probably take a major hit, even those officially sanctioned by developers like in Team Fortress 2, Starcraft II, and League of Legends. Ever been on a server where someone plays music over their headset or has custom sounds? What happens when the copyright holder of said music threatens the site hosting the recording or streaming a match? eSports has really taken off, thanks in large part to broadcasting competitive matches — do we really want to see that end? If just a couple of complaints are filed against a site, the whole site can be taken down, even if 99% of the posted material is legitimate.
Now I'm fully aware that we get a ton of international visitors to OCC and on the surface, this is a United States issue. But you shouldn't shrug this off just because these are US bills. For one, like it or not, the US controls a lot of the Internet — what happens here can and probably will affect the Internet for everyone. In fact, one section of SOPA permits the US Attorney General the right to take action against foreign sites if "the owner or operator of such Internet site is facilitating the commission of [copyright infringement]." If the site owner responds to prevent this, they will be seen as volunteering to be under US law and thus subject to the US courts. If they chose not to respond, the attorney general can force all US ISPs and search engines to block access to the site, as well as block ad providers and payment providers. It's easy to tell companies to move their servers to other countries, but think about all the revenue sites would lose if US citizens couldn't reach them. There will always be workarounds like VPNs and proxies, but the average user isn't going to utilize them, let alone even understand them. In addition, if something like this passes, other countries can look at it and follow suit. In fact, similar laws have tried to pass in the European Union, but luckily to no avail at this time.
If you're an American and would like to contact your Representatives, you can get contact information by going to this Wikipedia page and entering your zip code. If you'd like to read the full text of the proposed bills, you can find SOPA here and PIPA here.
OCC Staff That Support This View: