SOPA Protests; A Rebuttal

If the acronyms SOPA and PIPA are still unfamiliar to you, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong article, but I can suggest a good primer, particularly if you’re a gamer. What I do want to bring up is how ridiculous I find some people’s protests to be.

Before you start assuming I’m somehow FOR the passing of the bills (in their current forms anyway) let me settle your minds. I’m not. I’ve reached out to my representatives, I’ve spread the facts and I’m plenty upset in my own right at the audacity of those who wrote and support the bills. That doesn’t mean I won’t speak out against those who use the protest as a way to illuminate their own agendas.

There’s a web series over at Penny Arcade’s PATV called Extra Credits. Generally speaking, each episode is a humorously animated, but serious look at video games, their influence, development and social impact. I enjoy them quite a bit actually because they focus on topics other sites don’t bother with. Intelligent, entertaining and topical, but the most recent episode is a gathering of relative small-time gaming site operators and game developers announcing their refusal to participate in the industry’s biggest event, E3, because the organization responsible for the event, The Entertainment Software Association, currently supports the passing of the bills.

In a pieced together series of talking head video clips, each of the participants urge viewers to reach out to their favorite game journalists, bloggers and websites to protest the ESA’s support of the bills by withdrawing from coverage of the expo, somehow taking money from their coffers and ‘stickin it to the man’.

Instead of using the exposure that comes from the popularity of Penny Arcade’s site and their videos to spread the facts about the bills and the responsible and effective ways to protest, they choose to give the finger to the privileges given to them as members of the media and deny their readers and viewers of the content that made them popular in the first place. Extra Credits, your job is to report gaming news and provide your opinions on games and the industry.

News flash: press doesn’t pay to get into the expo. If a journalist attends the expo, the ESA isn’t making any money off of him. It might hit the ESA’s wallet if exhibitors were to pull out, so urging developers and distributors to withdraw *might* be effective, but readers and viewers still need a journalist to report on the missing exhibitors. When journalists stay home, the list of people you hurt starts with your audience and includes food vendors and parking attendants for good measure.

The video comes off as ungrateful and self-centered. If these guys want to stay home during the biggest week of the gaming industry’s year, I say “thanks”. I’ll gladly take your web traffic because nothing turns loyal magazine subscribers away faster than NOT WRITING ABOUT YOUR TOPICS.

Similarly to the recent black-outs of popular sites like Wikipedia in protest of the bills, it’s a disservice to your customers, those readers who keep coming back and perhaps clicking on the ads that pay your bills. SOPA and PIPA threaten to censor the very news you report, so please explain to me why not reporting on it is better than censorship.

Of course, this is all moot now. I started writing this late last night and within the past hour, the ESA has officially dropped their support of the House’s SOPA bill saying “From the beginning, ESA has been committed to the passage of balanced legislation to address the illegal theft of intellectual property found on foreign rogue sites.” Their statement reeks of back pedaling though. It’s been obvious from the start that these bills lacked anything resembling balance, but I digress. It’s for the better.

Just as I’m sure the guys over at Extra Credits are beaming and giving each other high fives for their part in getting the ESA to turn tail, I’m just as sure they had very little to do with it. It’s a small battle in a much larger war that I expect to start raging again in February. The bills are both on hold now, but not dead, so let’s not lose sight of what’s at stake.

And for those of you who have a voice, particularly on the net for whom we’re ultimately fighting for, please don’t abuse your podiums. Think before you type.

Christopher Kirkman

Christopher is an old school nerd: designer, code monkey, writer, gamer and Star Wars geek. As owner and Editor-In-Chief of Media Geeks, he takes playing games and watching movies very seriously. You know, in between naps and watching TV.

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