Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Normally I don't pay much attention to foreign politics. Or domestic politics. Or the weather for that matter! In general I'm content to come home from work, play some games, write a blog post, and go to sleep. The Daily Show is the closest I ever get to the news. I'm a pretty oblivious guy with some really unconventional ideas so politics mostly just serves to make me bitter. There's nothing I can do to change anything and realistically I'm not going to be impacted by any changes anyway. I needed to renew my passport so I can go to WBC next year which was a minor inconvenience but that's pretty much as impactful as things get.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is a rather drastic departure from that norm. I've been seeing a lot of games and sites talking about trying to stop it from being passed and decided to read a bit about it. It turns out that SOPA would have a pretty substantial impact on this blog! I'll get to how in a second, but first let's go over how I came to this information...

I follow Major League Gaming on Facebook (I have a membership on their website so I can watch League of Legends and StarCraft II events and wanted to get reminded when they were running) and saw what seemed to be a pretty crazy post the other day. They'd changed hosting services for all of their websites. Why? Because GoDaddy supported SOPA. Then they announced they were going to blackout their website on January 18th. I've since learned that Reddit and Wikipedia are also shutting down today.

League of Legends had a link in their client talking about how they were against SOPA. I clicked on it on Friday to read about it. One of the Riot lawyers had a Q&A on Reddit talking about SOPA and what it would mean to the community. The game itself would be fine if SOPA passed, he said, but it would probably obliterate eSports. Buried deep in that chat was a link to this thread on their forums where one of the US Congressmen (Rep Jared Polis, Colorado) posted speaking out against SOPA. (It would seem Polis made a lot of money in the eCard/flower delivery website businesses and doesn't think that would have been possible if SOPA had existed.)

Ok, so there's a lot of people making a big stink about it... But how would SOPA actually impact this blog? Well, I post pictures sometimes. I write about potentially copyrighted information like game plots. I've linked to a music video or two. Over at Ziggyny's Star Trek Trek I have a lot of pictures! But for now let's pretend Square has a problem with me posting a picture of my Final Fantasy solo-ninja game. It doesn't matter why they might have a problem with it. Just pretend they do.

As things stand right now they'd need to send me a cease and desist order. If I care I'll take the offending content down. If not they'll have to sue me. They'd need to build a case for court showing that my post violated the law and that they'd been harmed by it. I'd get a chance to defend myself in court. If it turned out they were right and I was wrong then I'd suffer the appropriate consequences.

Realistically that wouldn't happen. Even if Square has a legitimate beef with my picture it wouldn't really be worth their while to come after me. This site is worth nothing. Personally I'm worth practically nothing. If my post was causing their brand real harm they might still come after me but they'd only come after me to try to rectify that damage and not for any monetary gain.

What about under SOPA? Well, the first thing Square would do is send Google notice that they were going to be filing a complaint against me under SOPA. (I'm a foreign website allegedly violating copyright laws and Google owns Blogger which hosts this blog.) Google then has two choices.

  1. Shut my blog down. Doing so immediately would grant them immunity from being prosecuted for my transgressions.
  2. Side with me. They'd keep my site running and would become co-defendants in the pending lawsuit under SOPA.
Remember above when I said I'm not worth suing? I can barely afford pockets! Google has some pretty deep ones. If they were found guilty there could be a pretty hefty payout. Even if it turns out I'm not breaking any laws Google still has to pay a legal team to build my defense.

Ask yourself this... Why would Google pay some lawyers to defend me? Why would they even bother looking at my site? I know if I was in their shoes I wouldn't bother. Square tells Google that Ziggyny is a bad man and getting sued under SOPA? Google just flips the switch and kills me. 

Ok, but why would Square take offense to my picture of a max level ninja? Here's the thing... It doesn't matter why. It could be some legal intern was having a bad day. Maybe they're going to take offense when I don't choose Final Fantasy VII as the best of the series. All they have to do is tell Google they're going to come after me and I get shut down. Square has no burden of proof at all. I don't get my day in court to defend myself. They just need to look at me funny and I'm dead. The burden of proof is on Google's shoulders now and they need to make their decision before really investigating. Side with me and find out I'm bad? They're screwed. 

I know some of you are going to say I'm overreacting. Would a content provider really come up with a flimsy excuse to shut down some guy they don't like? I should point out one of the entities really pushing for SOPA to come into law is the Recording Industry Association of America which has a history of doing just that. How about the Universal Music Group which apparently had a deal with Youtube allowing it to pull down any videos it wants for no reason at all. Youtube eventually got involved and put the 'offending' video back up but the fact UMG could just take anything down when it felt like it is disturbing. They were somehow given power and were more than happy to abuse it while they could.

SOPA would give them so much power it's insane. I linked to a Youtube music video for the song La Luna after playing that game in Niagara last year. To Walking Like an Egyptian after playing the song in Dance Dance Revolution. I linked to an awesome zombie song a year and a half ago. The artist even came by and commented! But under SOPA that post would be quite the hanging chad. The artist was happy to have the word spread about a pretty cool song, but is the RIAA happy about it? If they were happy about it last year will they still be happy about it in 5 years? If not... I'm toast! (If Blogger even exists at all in a post-SOPA world...) I broke down a strategy for beating a fight in World of Warcraft. Is Blizzard happy about that? They could really dial down how tuned fights have to be if they shut down strategy sites... 

When it comes right down to it there's nothing I can actually do as a foreigner to stop SOPA. But some of you might live in the US. Look into the issue for yourself and then get in touch with your local congressman and voice your concerns if you have any!

No comments: