SOPA's down, but not out, and it would seriously suck for social games

Stop SOPA woman
As far as Friday's go, January 20 is certainly the best one in 2012 so far, and likely for some time. (You know, unless it starts raining Skittles next Friday or something.) Internet companies from Google to Wikipedia and game makers like Zynga joined enthusiasts--and general fans of free speech--nationwide to stand up against SOPA and PIPA this Wednesday. And as a result, the two threatening anti-piracy bills were postponed from voting today indefinitely.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will postpone the vote on PIPA "in light of recent events," according to CNN, while House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (the main man behind SOPA) said he will "postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution." It's undoubtedly progress. However, there's also no doubt that alterations will be made to both the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act in hopes of bringing them to vote.
Google SOPA Blackout
"I wouldn't want to be complacent and have everyone let up on their efforts to let Congress know that this is a bad idea, and then have it pass," 6waves Lolapps (6L) Co-founder Kavin Stewart says. "As long as it's not been dropped by all of the sponsors and continues to be a piece of legislation that's being looked at, then we should maintain our vigilance on that."

The two bills could still pose a threat to shared information on the Internet, and that includes Facebook games. The far-reaching language within each bill (which you can learn more about here), if passed, would have a ripple effect on nearly every corner of Internet entertainment, crippling companies like Zynga and 6L. And if the big mahoffs are concerned, you can bet the little guys are at risk, too.

Scramble With Friends Stop SOPA PIPA"As our games allow people to communicate freely with each other about the games, they can send links to each other or anything in the forums, that can also count as something that violates SOPA," Stewart tells us. "Actually, it may even be the case that Facebook can be taken offline, if our games appear on Facebook, and that communication interferes with the domain."

While all video games these days rely on player feedback, as almost all games are updated or fixed according to the needs and wants of players, social games arguably stand to suffer even worse. The average social game isn't updated monthly, but weekly and sometimes on the fly to either introduce new content or fix outstanding issues.

"Basically, it would make it very difficult to police any sort of community," Stewart admits. "[We] wouldn't really want to take the risk of having any communications, especially when people could potentially link to pirated material. If that were to happen, our entire game could be taken offline, which is pretty much going to destroy our business."

But when Zynga decided to make a statement, the company argued that SOPA and PIPA's effects were far more reaching than crippling game communities. "The overly broad provisions we've seen in the pending SOPA and PIPA bills could be used to target legitimate US sites and chill innovation at a time when it is needed most," Zynga said in a statement, likely implying that companies would avoid creating new games, content or services in fear of copyright infringement allegations.
Stop signs
However, a number of social game creators declined to comment on their stance regarding the anti-piracy bills, much less their potential effects. (The Entertainment Software Association, the political arm of the games industry, has rescinded its support of SOPA and PIPAafter they were postponed.) Regardless of whether voting on SOPA and PIPA is "postponed," that fact is that both the Senate and the House intend to revisit the bills. If their language is not radically different when that happens and if they're passed, then according to Stewart, life on the Internet "basically becomes kind of a witch hunt."

[Image Credits: Zynga, The Week, Ars Technica]

Did you join the protests against SOPA and PIPA in one way or another? What do you think of their potential effects on social gaming, and what would you suggest instead? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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