Despite a flurry of reports suggesting that the world's largest video game companies have dropped their support for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) -- a bill which critics say could break the fundamental structure of the Internet in the U.S. -- that assumption appears premature.
The Internet was set aflutter the day before New Year's Eve after Business Insider noticed that Nintendo, Electronic Arts (EA) and Sony Electronics had removed themselves from a list of official SOPA supporters (PDF) curated by the House Judiciary Committee.
The disappearance of these influential corporations sparked a wave of reports that the largest video game makers in the world had dropped their support for the bill. Those reports, however, are not correct.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the gaming industry's lobby, still officially support SOPA. It's members include Sony, Nintendo, EA, Microsoft and numerous other gaming companies which, as members, support SOPA by proxy (although Microsoft has hedged its bets and advocated major changes to the bill). Much like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the film industry's largest lobby, its members do not individually appear on the House Judiciary Committee's list, but they still absolutely support the legislation unless otherwise stated.
One of the ESA's core functions is to serve as a bulwark against online piracy for the gaming industry, much as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) acts for the music industry. They act on tips from their members and sponsor their own piracy monitoring service that works with government officials and targets individual sites with takedown requests, and spend millions lobbying Washington every year on behalf of gaming companies.
More importantly, the ESA signed on behalf of their members an open letter to Congress sent in September (PDF) that strongly urged lawmakers to support SOPA.
"The United States cannot and should not tolerate this criminal activity [piracy]," their letter concludes. "Not only are jobs and consumers at risk, but rogue sites contribute absolutely no value to the U.S. marketplace. The operators of rogue sites break laws, do not pay taxes, and skirt accountability. In light of these concerns, we urge you to enact carefully balanced rogue sites legislation this year. We commend both the House and the Senate for their attention to this important issue and look forward to working with you in support of that goal."
In the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a lobby which includes the heaviest hitters in development like Apple, Microsoft and Adobe, members have outright quit over their disagreement with SOPA. Due to that internal resistance, the BSA has not yet openly endorsed SOPA, lobbying instead to see it altered in such a way that balances censorship concerns with the need to fight copyright infringement.
The ESA, on the other hand, remains committed to the bill. It's members, recently removed from the House Judiciary Committee's list, have not revised their positions -- they've merely adjusted optics, in the face of a backlash from their most loyal customers.
Spokespeople for Sony, Nintendo and the ESA did not respond to requests for comment.
Photo: Flickr user daveynin.