While it’s been getting a lot of attention from most of theinternet, and by internet I mean Redditors, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)has little signs of slowing down. For associations and companies like the ESAand CBS that support it, it may seem that preventing and punishing piracy is unquestionablyessential in protecting their assets, but the broadness and scope of which SOPAaffects the whole industry is one that will ultimately do it more harm thangood. For individual gamers, it’s essential to finally stand up and getinvolved in the political process.
Aside from just making piracy a federal offense, one thatnot only the victimized companies can act on but the federal government aswell, any form of copyright infringement follows suit. Most notably, thisincludes streaming of material. As a member of the fighting game communitysince the days of Capcom vs. SNK 2, Ihave seen the good that this so called “copyright infringement” has done.Gameplay videos distributed online helped build the fighting game communitymore than the games and their mechanics themselves could ever have. Whethergamers have competed in a tournament or not before, they must know of thefamous “EVO 2004 Moment #37,” where famed Japanese player Daigo Umehara tookdown American player Justin Wong with a flurry of parries that allowed him tomake one of the biggest comebacks in any competitive gaming event to date.
Since then, the size of the Evolution Fighting GameChampionships (EVO) had gradually grown, until the release of Street Fighter IV and its inclusion inEVO 2009. In EVO 2008, the largest tournament had just fewer than 400 entrants,a number that was shattered by over a thousand Street Fighter IV entrants in EVO 2009. Ever since then, we wentfrom having one or two quiet fighting game releases a year to several highlyanticipated releases, including Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 next year. Without the streaming that powered this community,it’s questionable, maybe even doubtful, that the player base would havesustained itself, much less grown to the size it is now. In turn, the veryrelease and popularity of Street FighterIV and all subsequent fighting games would have been questionable as well.This is one whole genre of the game that would be dead if it weren’t for “copyrightinfringement.”
Beyond the effect it has on gaming itself, there is also thequestion of the bill’s constitutionality. The restrictions in place are a baneupon every American citizen’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech andfreedom of press. Imagine all the ways “copyright infringement” has been usedto enhance this generation’s ability to express itself. These range from thelackluster anime music videos that pop up frequently to memes that become aneverlasting part of the internet and our thought processes. Whether these meettraditional ideas of free speech and expression or not shouldn’t matter – to passSOPA would be to abridge upon these rights. It certainly is something thataffects everyone.
Overly optimistic onlookers may see the situation and simplybelieve that the Supreme Court will right any wrongs the President and Congressmay enact. The truth of the matter is that the Judicial branch has no abilityto enforce any ruling it makes. Imagine a scenario where SOPA passes and agroup of independent game reviewers on YouTube are arrested for posting upvideo reviews. Shortly thereafter, the case is appealed all the way up to theSupreme Court, where the justices find in favor of the defendants and rule thatSOPA is unconstitutional. In theory, neither the executive or legislativebranch has to back up this ruling. In fact, this has happened before in thecase of Worchester v. Georgia; thoughGeorgia had lost the case, the court had no authority to command Georgia. In asense, the Supreme Court is like a highly valued advisor – one whose opinion ishighly regarded, but by no means supreme. This imaginary scenario, of course,does not even begin to account for the possibility that SOPA is upheld.
So the Supreme Court is obviously a last ditch effort tostop SOPA. But we must nip it in the bud and stop it before a single blogger,YouTube uploader, or meme artist is considered a felon. To do that, we must alltake part in the political process. This doesn’t just mean to vote, but toactively voice yourselves to your representatives and senators. Before you say,“But I’m just one person. They wouldn’t care about one vote!” It’s not just aboutyour vote. Every single person who has viewed a video on YouTube, read areview, or giggled at a picture on Reddit owes it to themselves and futuregenerations to make themselves heard.
Though the video makes a good point that the bill’s supporters are somewhat dubious, it’s unlikely to affect any congressperson. Do you realize how much theserepresentatives make a year? The average salary for a congressperson is$174,000. If I was a congressperson, I’d want to keep that kind of high payingjob for as long as possible. But in order for our senators and representativesto keep their jobs, we need to make them work for us. Without our votes, representativesand senators have no power and no jobs. Take a stand and tell these publicservants how you want them to vote on SOPA – don’t leave it up to lobbyists anda congressperson without explicit orders from his or her constituents todecide. I’ve already contacted my representatives and two senators. Now it’s time for you, and everyone you know, to do the same.