Epic Games says it does not support the "Stop Online Piracy Act" in its current form, conflicting with the Entertainment Software Association's approving stance on the pending bill.
The Gears of War and Unreal Engine maker, which is a member of the trade organization, is one of the first major developers/publishers to release a statement expressing that it does not fully support the legislation.
SOPA allows the U.S. government and copyright holders to seek court orders for internet service providers to immediately prevent access to any website accused of hosting copyright-infringing material, such as sites that allow visitors to download pirated games.
Opponents of the legislation, though, argue that SOPA will be ineffective in fighting piracy, and that it could potentially threaten any website that allows users to post or upload content, among other complaints.
"Epic Games supports efforts that would stop overseas websites profiting from pirating our games," said Epic's senior PR manager Dana Cowley. "But we have to do that in a way that's compatible with freedom of speech and due process of law."
"Thus, we do not support the current version of SOPA," added Cowley.
Other ESA members have come out against the bill. Scott Hartsman, CCO at Rift developer and publisher Trion Worlds, commented last week, "We definitely do not support SOPA." He promised that his company would call the ESA about the matter.
A representative from Kingdoms of Amalur developer 38 Studios also voiced its dissent: "Based on the SOPA bill's current structure, 38 Studios believes that the bill requires further restructuring and review to ensure it both preserves rights and protects intellectual properties. Please know that we take this issue very seriously."
The ESA, which aims to serve "the business and public affairs" of publishers, released its own statement on Tuesday: "Our industry needs effective remedies to address [illegal piracy], and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective."
"We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation."
Some fear that unless ESA withdraws its support, Congress and others will believe SOPA has the entire game industry's approval. Indie developer Nathan Fouts (Weapon of Choice) has said that "as long as the ESA is still listed [as a supporter], the game industry as a whole is supporting SOPA."
Debates over SOPA by the House Judiciary Committee, which would introduce amendments to the bill and eventually vote on its passing, are scheduled to continue after Congress returns from its winter recess on January 17.