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Game developers cautiously celebrate victory over SOPA/PIPA

Game developers cautiously celebrate victory over SOPA/PIPA Exclusive

January 23, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

Now that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act have gone on indefinite hold, game developers throughout the industry are letting out a sigh of relief, though some argue the fight for online freedom is far from over.

Companies such as Red 5, Runic Games, Trion Worlds, and all denounced the bills in the weeks leading up to their suspension, and Gamasutra recently spoke with these teams to discuss their reaction to the news and where the industry needs to go from here.

Finnish developer Frozenbyte (Trine), for instance, was thrilled to hear about the bills' (perhaps temporary) demise, and was particularly impressed by the worldwide protests and outcry that helped raise awareness about their threat to legitimate online business.

"We've been happy to see this [result], and while it went a little bit too far in the first place, it's great to see that change is possible if enough people raise their voice," said company vice president Joel Kinnunen.

Trion Worlds (Rift) echoed the sentiment, and said in an official statement, "The overwhelming rally from the internet-using public has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring. Our hats are off to everyone who contacted their representatives and senators." Despite the victory, however, Trion promised to "remain vigilant" for any future legislation that could harm legitimate online activity.

Richard Wilson, CEO of the UK trade body TIGA, said SOPA and PIPA's suspension marks "an ignominious setback for old fashioned media lobbyists and a victory for technology businesses," as well as "a victory for common sense." He added that looking forward, TIGA plans to stand up for the game industry and fight back against "badly considered anti-piracy legislation.", owned by Polish developer CD Projeckt RED, explained that while the industry certainly has cause to celebrate, a number of impending laws still threaten to limit online freedoms all over the world, and the game industry will need to remain on constant alert, regardless of what happens within U.S. borders.

"While this is definitely a victory for free speech, it's worth noting that here in Europe, ACTA [the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement] is very likely to pass this week and it has virtually all of the same flaws that SOPA or PIPA did. So while we're pleased about the news from across the pond, I'd say that vigilance is important, because this fight isn't over yet for you or for us," the company said.

While reflecting on the fight against online censorship, developers also turned their attention to the Entertainment Software Association, the industry's lobbying body in the U.S. and a staunch supporter of both SOPA and PIPA.

When the ESA issued its latest statement on SOPA and PIPA last Friday, it asserted that it remains committed to supporting anti-piracy legislation, leaving some individuals concerned that the organization did not actually drop support for either bill.

League for Gamers, an advocacy group spawned out of Firefall developer Red 5's protest against the ESA, said, "Reading the ESA's statement, it seems they are committed to trying something similar again, albeit with different language, and we remain watchful."

Runic Games (Torchlight) CEO Max Schaefer expressed similar frustrations, and said that he believes "the ESA would have been all too pleased to have SOPA pass until enough people started speaking out. They simply blew it on this issue, and it's too late to pretend that they oppose it."

Other parties, such as, expressed sympathy toward the ESA, noting that a number of factors must have influenced its decision. "We think the ESA is stuck in a very awkward place. Conservative companies that are supporters of PIPA and SOPA have lots of money, and some of those conservative companies also have game development houses that are big supporters of the ESA," the company said. "They are stuck between Scylla and Charybdis, and as such we think they've given about the best response they can."

Taking a similar position, Frozenbyte's Kinnunen looked back on the ESA's previous efforts to protect the game industry. "I think it is important to remember that the ESA is also involved in other things -- like the fight for First Amendment protection for games and other such issues. So let's hope that their misstep with SOPA/PIPA -- at least from an independent developer's view -- will cause them and other trade bodies to do a more thorough assessment of any similar future bill," he said.

For more information on the current state of SOPA and PIPA, check out this Gamasutra article from attorney Mona Ibrahim, which provides a detailed breakdown of how both bills could still affect the game industry.

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