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Imagine, if you will, a world without Wikipedia, a world without Google, a world without sites like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, Reddit, even YoYoGames....got that image in your head? Good, read on..
You might think “Hah, you’re talking about the time before the internet,
or China, or Iran or something like that, yeah?” Sadly, we aren’t. This is a potential reality today, world wide.
By now, you have no doubt already heard of SOPA and it’s sister bill PIPA. It’s proponents wish to use it to stem the flow of copyrighted material, but unfortunately, it’s flawed, very, very flawed.
At YoYoGames, we respect copyright. We have a duty to protect our own material and certainly don’t want to infringe that of others. We know how hard it is to create and maintain; brands, intellectual property, goods and services.
Today the main news is that the popular crowd-sourced online encyclopedia is participating in an "Internet blackout" in protest of two controversial US anti-piracy bills: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate companion, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
The bills are intended to strengthen protections against copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, but as Internet advocates, we say they would stifle expression in the World Wide Web.
What does the legislation do?
There are already laws that protect copyrighted material, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). But while the DMCA focuses on removing specific, unauthorized content from the Internet, SOPA and PIPA instead target the platform -- that is, the site hosting the unauthorized content.
The bills would give the Justice Department the power to go after foreign websites willfully committing or facilitating intellectual property theft -- "rogue" sites like The Pirate Bay. The government would be able to force U.S.-based companies, like Internet service providers, credit card companies and online advertisers, to cut off ties with those sites.
Why Internet companies oppose SOPA and PIPA
Internet companies and their investors say that they're holding the "blackout" to protect their corporate interests and the entire burgeoning Internet-based economy.
Under the rules SOPA or PIPA would impose, it can be argued that start ups wouldn't be able to handle the costs that come with defending their sites against possible violations. Such sites would not be able to pay the large teams of lawyers that established sites like Google or Facebook can afford.
The legislation in question targets foreign companies whose primary purpose is to sell stolen or counterfeit goods but opponents say domestic companies could still be held liable for linking to their content. While sites like Reddit wouldn't have a legal duty to monitor their sites all the time, "you might have your pants sued off of you" if you don't, said Jayme White, staff director for the Senate Finance Subcommittee on international trade.
Where does the legislation stand?
The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote on PIPA on January 24.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., meanwhile, is opposed to the legislation and will today officially introduce an alternative -- the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act. Issa said Tuesday he expects his bill to have more co-sponsors than SOPA has in the House.
The OPEN Act would make the International Trade Commission, rather than the Justice Department, responsible and in the hands of one entity, rather than the whole court system.
How does this affect YoYo Games?
Even as a UK based company, under SOPA if a single user where to upload a copyrighted content (a picture, idea, trademark name) on our site we could be taken 'offline' without due process.
This presents a problem for us, a large part of what we do relies on user generated content and users might not understand the ins and outs of copyright law - or be governed by different laws from us. We also receive a vast amount of user generated material - to the level where it is impossible to manually check every single thing that gets put on our site.
We currently have an excellent team of moderators who scan our site regularly looking for anything amiss and they manage to catch it. This is not 100% foolproof though.
Proponents of bills like SOPA and PIPA will tell you that we are actively profiting from this, we are making money from other peoples copyright.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, the staff time required to deal with these take down requests absolutely obliterates any money in advertising revenue that potentially may have been made by the piece in question.
It’s important to note here, that we aren’t an American company, our servers are not hosted in America, yet our business could be completely taken offline for goodness knows how long, over a simple misunderstanding - something that could be rectified with just an e-mail.
So what, how does this affect me?
Worst case scenerio - no more GameMaker! With laws like SOPA and PIPA we would not be able to empower independent developers or get schools to be creative making games. We would have to fundamentally change the way GameMaker works and how it is applied and there is a very real danger we (and other similar companies) would no longer be able to exist.
The bills also propose that anyone found guilty of streaming copyrighted content without permission 10 or more times within six months should face up to five years in jail.US-based internet service providers, payment processors and advertisers would be outlawed from doing business with alleged copyright infringers.
Why would anyone support this?
Two words: rogue sites.
That's Hollywood's term for Web sites that happen to be located in a nation more hospitable to copyright infringement
Supporters of the bills include television networks, music publishers, movie industry bodies, book publishers and manufacturers. (big established industry hitters)
Who is opposing this?
Much of the Internet industry and a large percentage of Internet users. Here's the most current list (PDF) of opponents.
Critics include Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo, eBay, LinkedIn, AOL and Zynga. (the good guys)
Laws like SOPA and PIPA are written by people with seriously vested interests, who do not understand how the Internet works - on even the most basic level (you know that Aunty of yours that can’t even turn on a computer?).
This isn’t about morality of piracy or copyright infringement, this is about fundamentally changing the way the Internet operates, at the cost of the many, for the profit of the few. We already comply with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices on yoyogames.com when we receive them, it works well for everybody. We don't need a new copyright law.
We hope you join us in opposing this Act.
The YoYo Team