With all the attention video game companies and the ESA are getting over their quiet SOPA support, it seems it is no longer feasible to stay quiet. Over the last few days, a number of outlets have been calling on the ESA to come out in the open in its support for SOPA
. It had been listed as a supporter of the bill but had never made an official comment in that regard until now. In a statement to various press outlets, the ESA has said the following:
As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection, and do not believe the two are mutually exclusive. Rogue websites – those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy – restrict demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs. Our industry needs effective remedies to address this specific problem, and we support the House and Senate proposals to achieve this objective. We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation. We look forward to working with the House and Senate, and all interested parties, to find the right balance and define useful remedies to combat willful wrongdoers that do not impede lawful product and business model innovation.
This statement does little but echo the talking points of other supporters of SOPA. So any complaints of job loss or lost revenue have been addressed. However, this new found vocal support has raised a new question within the gaming world: what about the grassroots organization the ESA set up for gamers? During the height of the video game violence debate, the ESA created the Videogame Voters Network (VGVN) as a way for those that buy and play games to add their voice in opposition to legislation regulating violent games. With that debate settled by the Supreme Court, what does the ESA's support for SOPA mean for members of the VGVN? This question was specifically raised by Jim Sterling of Destructoid.
Last year, when free speech in the videogame industry was threatened, you asked for help from gamers. The famous Brown vs. EMA/ESA case provided a landmark ruling that protected videogame content under the First Amendment. You appealed to gamers for their support and coverage, and many gamers rallied around the industry.
Now, when free speech at large is threatened, you not only refuse to fight the threat, you actually join forces with it. You operate a group that claims to protect free speech -- the Videogame Voters Network -- and pretend to champion the rights of gamers, but until you stop supporting the Stop Online Piracy Bill, that's all the VGVN is -- a pretense.
This confusion over the general fate of the VGVN and its implied support for SOPA is not limited to the media either. People visiting its Facebook page
have been asking for clarification on the matter. Many have already made the connection that the interests of gamers are only important when those interests mirror those of the games industry. If ever the two should be opposed it would seem that the games industry wins as far as the ESA is concerned. As Jim put it:
It is hypocrisy on a most despicable level to continue supporting SOPA after asking gamers to fight for the rights of the game industry. You are sending the message that you want exclusive freedom for your stable of publishers, while the freedom of others means nothing. You are sending the message that the ESA is an organization that begs for help from a community, only to abandon and betray that community at the earliest convenience. You are the Starscream of trade associations.
While it is pretty easy to draw the conclusion that ESA member companies support SOPA via their membership in the ESA, it is quite another story for the VGVN. People who signed up for the VGVN did so under the idea that their support would go toward protecting the rights of gamers. However, this move by the ESA has shown that idea to be little more than a pretense, as Jim puts it. Why would anyone trust the VGVN in the future, if it actually has one at this point, if it will simply ignore the concerns of its members?