SOPA Will Kill the Magic Community

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I usually don’t get political (especially on a non-political website). Sure, there might be issues that I have an opinion about, but nothing like this. I have never written my Congressman until a few days ago. I never called my Congressman until just a few weeks ago about this very topic (I just got one of his aides, which is completely understandable).

If you’re following me on twitter (@mtgcolorpie), you’ve noticed that for the past several weeks I’ve been tweeting about SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act (and if you’re sick of it, I’m sorry). It’s a bill that’s currently being debated in Congress to try and “stop” online piracy of movies, music, software, and maybe prescription drugs and other fake merchandise. It’s a well intnetioned act, and it basically declares “war” on online piracy.

And since our government has done such a bang up job on the “wars” on terror, drugs, poverty, education, I’d say this act is going go be of equal success.

Source: SMBC-Comics.com

It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are- Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist- this is a matter that affects us all. And it will kill the Magic community online. How you may ask? Buy not allowing us to talk about Magic.

If you don’t know what SOPA is, here’s the quick rundown: Basically to stop online piracy, anyone who holds a copyright to something can force a website to be shut down. It can also prevent payment to those websites by its advertisers. full more of an overview of SOPA (which is the House of Represenatives bill) and its sister PIPA (Protect IP Act, the Senete bill), check out this video:

“Big deal, it won’t affect me,” most of you are saying. “I don’t even have a website.” No, but most likely you have a Facebook page, or a Twitter account, or anything of the 2.0 web. And if you happen to link to something, anything, that could be copyrighted that copyright holder has the right to not only get your account shut down, but the entire site shut down as well. “But Congress won’t let that happen. Surely they will allow those sites to continue.” No, those site will be shut down too.

This is Congress that we’re talking about. In the debates before Christmas, Maxine Waters (D-CA) basically said “We don’t need to discuss this, just pass it.” What? I thought your entire job was to discuss the laws that you’re making. Why do believe that, because that’s what I was taught when I was growing up.

But that’s not the only thing. Mel Watt (D-NC) said, “I’m no expert the Internet, but I disagree with all the experts.” What? That’s like saying, “Robby, we know something’s wrong with Vintage, so what should we ban?” While I do have some idea of what Vintage is and what gets played, I’m not an authority on such a topic to discuss metagames and what is actually screwing up the format (If anything at all). So I would A) do some research and B) listen to experts. If you want to rule on something you better know what you’re talking about.

Back to Magic. Most, if not all, Magic sites tend to have Magic cards on them, or at least Magic art. Nobody (hopefully in their right mind) is saying that they painted them, or designed them, but the cards and the art, and the logos are still up there. You know who owns all of that work? Wizards of the Coast. If they wanted to, currently under the DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), they could send a cease and desist letter to any of us who own a blog and tell us to remove our content. They are perfectly within their rights to it.

However, they don’t. Why? Wizards wants to foster a community to get players to talk about the game and have it grow. Yes, it’s a self serving thing because the more people talk about it, the more likely they will buy the product, but it makes sense. One of the best ways to do this is to allow players to blog, and tweet, and use their cards and art to talk about the game. While there is some grey area about making money while using their images (One of the reasons why I don’t advertise on this site), it’s pretty clear that you can’t use Wizards’ work to make money directly. This is the main reason why you don’t see me selling t-shirts or stickers with my logo on them.

It has five pieces of Magic art, one representing each of the five colors in Magic. I photoshopped this image which is a direct homage to the “original” color pie that debuted on Mark Rosewater’s column when he first explained heavily about the concept (for those of you wondering where I got my name from). Due to the five pieces of Magic art, each by a different artist, I could never put this logo on anything and sell it without Wizards getting all mad and suing me.

And I know that Wizards employees have read my blog because I’ve talked to them about it because they like to read what the outsiders are thinking about Magic; if you’ve got a blog or Tumblr, they most likely have read that too. It’s not like I’m trying to hide it from them. They could use the protection used by the DMCA and have gotten me to take down almost every image on this blog while keeping my blog intact. Under the SOPA act, they could very well just shut me down. But I’m not worried about Wizards.

I’m worried about Hasbro.

Hasbro owns Wizards, which means they could theoretically do the same thing. if SOPA passes, all Hasbro has to do is sneeze and my blog “gets taken offline.” Not only my blog, but everyone else’s who write about Magic. In fact, any site that uses Magic art or a Magic card could be attacked by Hasbro. While it would be funny to see StarCityGames suddenly become a text based website in response, the concept is not a laughing matter at all. Gone is Magiccards.info. Gone are all the blogs, the tweets, the YouTube videos.

Oh yeah, those. If you think that you’re going to see draft walk-throughs on MTGO by your favorite pros, you’re dreaming. Youtube will most likely have to shut down anyway because of all the content on that site.

But why would they do that? Because, it’s better for them that way. Techdirt has the reason why almost any website can be shutdown:

The true impact of this section was only made clear by Rep. Polis’ attempt to limit it, as he highlighted how this broad immunity would likely lead to abuse. That’s because this section says that anyone who takes voluntary action “based on credible evidence”: basically gets full immunity. Think about what that means in practice. If someone sends a service provider a notice claiming infringement on the site under this bill, thefirst thing every lawyer will tell them is “quick, take voluntary action to cut them off, so you get immunity.” Even worse, since this is just about immunity, there are no counternotice rules or anything requiring any process for those cut off to be able to have any redress whatsoever.

The best legal action is to shut down anything everywhere. It’s not just pictures, or videos that could harm the bloggers and the websites. Under this power, anyone who says anything bad in a product review could possibly be shut down as well since, well, “copyright infringement.” That two word phrase “Copyright infringement” could mean anything under SOPA; Set names, Planeswalkers, even Magic is copyrighted. Yes, it’s not like I can just make this a text-only blog and be fine from SOPA; if I voice my opinion and it’s potentially harmful to Magic (ie, I didn’t like the new set), they could shut down my blog. For everyone that complained about the new Planeswalker Points (PWP) system, you could’ve been taken offline if Wizards thought you were causing a problem.

You may think I’m going all 1984 on you, but think about this for a moment. The intended use of this act is to prevent online piracy. Intent is such a strong word, but if you’ve been playing Magic for a while, you know that it’s a silly phrase. Squee was intended to be a fun card that you got back after it died, not a repeatable pitch card to Survival of the Fittest/Masticore. Stoneforge Mystic was intended to help bridge the Zendikar/Sacrs of Mirrodin blocks together, not be so good it was banned in multiple formats. The intent of the Artifact Lands in Mirrodin were to help with the flavor of the world, not break the game in half with Affinity.

It’s like Congress is burning down a house because one of the shelves in the kitchen is not level. You have to fix that shelf rather than decide no one should live in it. And the house that Congress is burning? Our house.

Gone will be the draft videos from LSV, and Brian Kibler, and Mike Flores, and Conley Woods.

Gone will be the videos of Evan Erwin (The Magic Show), Richard Castle (Inside the Deck), KormanAndHolt (Their Youtube Page), and any of the hundreds of people who post on YouTube everyday talking about Magic.

Gone will be the blogs that you read. The little voices, the ones that you’ve watch go from small, independent, self-run holes in the wall to major players on the major Magic websites.

Gone will be the large, non-DailyMTG sites that you buy your cards from and get your decklists and ideas. Gathering Magic, Star City Games, Channel Fireball, Magic.TCGPlayer.com, BlackBorder, and the like would be no more. The SCG Open would be gone too, there would be no way to advertise it.

Gone will be Twitter, where almost everyone in R&D communicates with the public. Gone will be Tumblr, where multiple people quick blog about Magic, including Mark Rosewater himself. Gone will be Facebook, where you chat with friends about Magic, where there’s an official Magic page, where you live you life. Gone will be Reddit and /r/magictcg where forming group of Magic players gather. Gone will be Flickr, where you share pictures of your epic matches late at night. Every possible social media website and experience will be shut down.

Gone will be MTGSalvation, because if you think that’s going to survive with all the spoilers, you’re sorely mistaken. In fact, gone will be all the forums everywhere including on DailyMTG.com.

Gone will be MTGCast, where you get all your favorite podcasts from.

Gone will be Magic Set Editor because, well that be too hard to figure out.

Gone will be all the voices that you have become accustomed to while learning Magic and about the Magic community. Gone will also be all the other voices that never had the opportunity to be heard. The creative endeavors, the user created content will be no more.

What can you do about it?

Tell people you know. Then act upon it.

But don’t just tell people you know online and be done with it. Tell co-workers, tell parents, tell friends. If all you do is just tell people online you’re doing one part. If you’re just screaming on the internet for Congress not to do anything with the internet, they aren’t hearing you. You’re an animal in a forest trying to tell the lumberjacks not to cut down the trees where they want to build an zoo to house all the animals of the forest they just cut down.

You cannot just tweet “Boo SOPA.” You cannot go on Facebook and go “I hate SOPA.” The Representative who is supporting this bill, Lamar Smith (R-TX), doesn’t believe the people who oppose this bill have legitimacy nor are they large in number. They won’t read your blog post, they most likely have interns that read their own Facebook page. You have to email, call, and/or meet with them face to face. You have to converse with them on their terms.

Call your Representative (SOPA).

Call your Senators (PIPA).

Write to them. Have a meeting with them. Ask them if they agree with it. Ask them why. Be kind about it. Question them. DO NOT BE RUDE.

How you can get more involved.

I have already called and emailed my Representative (Dave Reichert), and I’m going to call him again plus my two Senators (Patty Murry and Maria Cantwell). The Senate is meeting in the 24th to talk about PIPA, which is almost a mirror of SOPA. That needs to be addressed as well. Reddit is planning a blackout all day on the 18th while streaming the “geeks and nerds” that will testify before the house committee trying to explain why this is wrong.

This thing is much bigger than Magic, but for the people who believe that the only people who are against SOPA/PIPA and fear it are pirates, they are dead wrong. I like interacting with all of you, where we have discussions and meet face to face at tournaments. Having our community is one of the greatest things about Magic; if that was taken away I don’t know how little Magic I would play, or even if I would care about the game.

The goal the SOPA/PIPA is trying to achieve is noble and understandable; they’re just going about it completely wrong. OPEN (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade), is another proposed bill that will do a much better job at enforcing piracy while keeping the internet viable. “An action needs to be done, this is an action, so we’re doing it” is the wrong philosophy for Congress to take at this time.

SOPA/PIPA won’t kill Magic. It will still be sold in game stores and Wal-Mart and Target. Sets will still be made, Duels of the Planeswalkers will still be released, kitchen tables will still be battlefields for our matches. What SOPA/PIPA will do is make the game a shell of its former self.

You can do something about it. Now is your opportunity. If this passes, all of us online will be silenced.

For more information about SOPA/PIPA, please visit: http://americancensorship.org/

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30 thoughts on “SOPA Will Kill the Magic Community

  1. you have a better shot of convincing people of your cause if you don’t exaggerate the claims. SOPA is a terrible piece of legislation but pretending like it will bring the end of SCG, CF, etc. is ludicrous. credibility, lost.

    • Look at SCG, CF. See how much Magic art they use on that site. Hasbro can shut down the sites and stop payment to them from advertisers and getting their own payment from selling “second hand” goods. SCG uses Magic art to promote their own Series, and I don’t know how they get away with it.

      Plus, how do we know they aren’t selling counterfeit Magic cards? I’m not saying that they are, but if any site selling Magic cards did something that didn’t agree with Hasbro, suddenly all they have to do is get the site shut down by “implying that they do” and it would take quite a long time for the website to prove its innocence.

      Because SOPA is so poorly written, means that anyone can find almost any reason to shut down anything.

      • SCG/Channel Fireball and the like would probably be fine.

        Where it would hurt is in terms of streaming/youtube videos/smaller blogs/etc. As I mentioned in my reply, it’s less about what would happen to big and even small businesses, but making it next to impossible for the “little guy” to make his/her voice heard.

      • Hell, it wouldn’t even have to be from Hasbro. Any griefer can come along and file a claim. Without a counterclaim mechanism, that’s all it would take. Even with the counterclaim mechanism, there are people out there who do it to YouTube videos to profit on other people’s work (http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=11738). A law that not only removes due process not only to take sites down (as DMCA) but in responding to such a take-down is Trouble.

  2. To put it very simply, the TL;DR version is that it’s a huge threat because it would force the shut down of any and all user-generated services on the internet. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Reddit, etc.

    In one fell swoop it sets back culture 20 years, possibly more. It provides big media companies with monopoly power (which is what all this is about in the first place).

  3. Why do you think Hasbro would make such bad business decisions? You’re arguing from a perspective that Hasbro secretly wants WOTC to fail. If Wizards acknowledges that grassroots support for the game is integral to its continued success, why would Hasbro undermine that, especially considering WOTC’s rampant successes over the past few years? SOPA is an awful piece of legislation, with major and dire consequences, and you don’t have to resort to hyperbole to make that point.

    The scenario you paint concerning SCG is particularly striking in this regard. Sure, SCG sells a lot of singles, and that revenue might not be directly realized by Wizards, However, SCG also sells HUGE quanitities of boosters, precons, etc. Also, they purchase and open huge quantities of boosters in order to meet their preorder demands for the singles market. What interest does Wizards/Hasbro have in interfering with SCG’s ability to conduct that business in any way, shape or form?

    • I think that people are saying SCG is a huge piece of Magic’s revenue is missing it a little bit. Yes, it’s a huge market to people who buy cards online, but I doubt it’s a huge market in Magic’s profits in general. It is still just one store on line (like every other store online). Wizards has no concern over the singles market as they don’t see any money from that at all.

      There has been a huge shift over the past several years to get Magic bought and played at brick-and-mortar stores. The FtV series is a huge piece of evidence of this. If SCG was such a major player in the Magic market (besides just a trendsetter for online prices), I would imagine that they would have tons of FTVs to sell. I’m sure there was a special allowance, but I bet they have to buy up other store’s copies of the product as well.

      The SCG Open Series has been a part of what has been making Magic a little more popular recently, but if Hasbro looks at it, it doesn’t benefit them directly. There’s the bonus of people cracking packs to buy the cards, but even with SCG’s power, they don’t bring in the money that MTGO, DotP, and other non-gmaing stores bring in. Making magic more accessible to the masses, plus the appeal that marketing has been doing, has been the bigger draw of newer players into Magic. I doubt a new player is going “Now that I just learned how to play, let me play a Standard tournament for $10,000!”

      From WotC’s stand point, having the websites that are devoted to Magic is a great thing. But from Hasbro, which owns WotC, they have the final say. If I were to compare Jon Stewart to Mark Rosewater, Viacom can control what Jon Stewart says, since they one Comedy Central which employs Mr. Stewart. Hasbro owns Wizards of the Coast which employs MaRo, so even the word of MaRo won’t be the final decision in this piece. MaRo can say that websites such as SCG are great for the game, but that’s only a single voice that the face of one of their products. He can maybe argue it would be bad, but in the end it’s the bottom line for a large company like Hasbro.

      What I’m trying to say is that SCG, while large in the eyes of the public in Magic, to an extent, doesn’t hold very much weight in what Hasbro cares about. I would make a hefty bet that Wal-Mart and Target (and the like), move way more product at a much higher profit rate to Hasbro than SCG. The games store strategy is something that WotC is pushing to create that offline community of all types of players, which would get them to buy more product.

      If SCG (or any other Magic website for that matter) would say or do something that Hasbro might not approve of, like argue that the new Pro Tour system is a joke and should be changed, Hasbro can shut down the web site due to Copyright Infringement of art, or that they could be selling fake product (which has been a problem to WotC in the past). That’s what some of the problem with the SOPA/PIPA bill is, it’s a horribly written thing that people can abuse. And like I said, it’s easier to shut down a website because you’re immune from repercussion that it would cause.

      So it’s “fall into line, or we’ll shut you down,” for the large website. The forums will all go away, as will comments in articles, because the websites are liable for whatever is written/linked. If those sites do survive, they will look at act vastly different.

      • What’s actually much more likely is for some pseudo-lawyer in a backroom in some part of Hasbro to “nuke and pave” things that are even borderline infringing in order to justify their paycheck.

    • Businesses make bad decisions all the time. Like, if I see a corporate logo on a T-shirt on an extra in a documentary, I think free advertising. Big Business thinks “They’re using our logo in a values-neutral way, and we can make some money off this, I mean, we’re irreparably harmed by this.”

      Copyright has a history of being abused. Disney has a history of buying the rights to foreign properties like Kimba the White Lion (Yes, Kemba is named after a cartoon.) and Little Indian, Big City, and making their own version of them. It’s actually possible, as Michael Jackson clearly demonstrates wrt: the Beatles, for you to end up without the rights to your own work. In fact, in commercial art, this was standard practice in the days before Frank Frazetta.

  4. I’m going to have to agree and say too far. I highly doubt hasbro will go all psycho on things that actually promote the game and generate interest.

  5. I think you’re leaping to conclusions that because Hasbro CAN do something, they WILL do something. The negative PR caused by shutting down websites because of such petty quarrels with the content could be devastating to a business that ultimately relies on word of mouth for a lot of its advertising and brand awareness.

    • What negative PR? Who’s going to talk about it? Twitter’s gone, Facebook’s gone. Think Kotaku’s going to be talking about it? That site is most likely gone.

      People will still walk into game stores and the large retailers and buy Magic. Go to your local store and ask the players if they know about SCG. If they’re more of a tournament worthy crowd, they’ll most likely know. But it’s the people who don’t show up at FNM, who aren’t on the internet looking for Magic related info that won’t know/won’t care about this situation. I remember before the internet started revolutionizing the game. People were getting their info from a friend, of a friend, who was a judge who heard from Wizards directly that the dual lands were going to be back. Think non-internet using Magic players will care about if Wizards shut down one site?

  6. Let’s be realistic here, how many people play Magic and aren’t using the internet to some capacity? Magic is a luxury. Most people who have enough disposable income to play Magic are probably using the internet to some extent.

    What bothers me the most about this piece is the inevitability with which you approach each of your assertions. We don’t know how Hasbro would react, we just don’t. Why do you assume a certain malevolence about them? I can’t stand the “all big businesses are evil and out to get the little guy” attitude. If profitability is their primary (or even only) concern, there might just be some people there with some business sense who realize that cutting down on the ways people can share their mutual interest in your products is a bad idea.

    • That’s the million dollar question, how many Magic players are out there that aren’t tapped in online? We just don’t have the numbers but I would say it’s a majority of the people. This is always the issue when it comes up when talking about casual vs competitive and how much they spend. I know people of all income brackets that play Magic; so that argument of

      I’m not against big business at all. But if you tie your entire business to another business, you’re always working behind because you’ll never know what they’re going to do. Look at the people who create things for Apple products; they are completely dependent on whatever Apple does. If they make a change to their products, everyone else has to adjust. If they discontinue it, the 3rd party company is screwed. Attaching your company to another one can be profitable, but you have to be ready when it could come back to bite you.

      Hasbro has nothing to gain buy keeping SCG alive, and nothing to lose. If they have less trouble in the future, then why not get rid of it now?

      • They do have something to lose! While you’re correct that Target/Walmart sells more product on the whole, it is not like the amount of product SCG sells is a drop in the bucket. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, SCG is buying even more product than that because it needs to open huge quantities of product to support its ability to be the dominant singles seller in the market.

        I work in Publishing. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are certainly our two biggest customers by a mile (The Walmart/Target of your scenario), but that doesn’t mean that we can just blow off Books-a-Million or Ingram or any of the customers in that tier below the big guys. You’re always looking to increase the number of ways and places people can buy your products, not cut down on them. It it is wildly counterproductive.

      • Also, nearly 75% of American homes have internet access (Yes, I can support these numbers if you want), and yet you argue the MAJORITY of Magic players don’t use the internet? Come on, as I said earlier, there are more than enough legitimate threats posed by SOPA to wastet ime hypothesizing about the unlikely ones.

      • Hell, I know people who didn’t know Maro was named after Mark Rosewater.

        Next lesson: The influence of Roseanne on Magic design.

  7. While SOPA is definitely bad you are being overly alarmist here. Discussing a copyrighted property is not copyright infringement. Larger websites like Twitter and Facebook would also likely be unaffected by SOPA due to their large legal teams that can afford to fight claims of copyright infringement. This mostly effects the small websites which is where the real damage is. Shutting down small websites prevents the new large websites from forming.

    Even though Hasbro could take down many of the websites you listed it is rather unlikely that they would. While a targeted effort to eradicate copyright infringing websites is unlikely what is likely is that a few websites will get picked off here and there by rogue lawyers on Hasbro’s legal team. This is terrible and needs to be prevented but it is not the apocalypse that it has been made out to be in this post.

    • The problem is that Facebook and Twitter aren’t protected from SOPA. OPEN allows them to be protected, but they so far have not given that loophole to social media with SOPA.

    • Say that Twitter and Facebook have large legal teams. The website could get shut down WITHOUT NOTICE. The website would be offline all the time until the legal teams could put it back on. This is only one of the various ways that the bill can be abused.

  8. if SOPA passes, forget about QS.com. one person reporting one image from MTG as ‘copyright violation’ would take it offline, and WotC Legal wouldn’t really care.

    if you like my site, make sure this bullshit does not come to pass.

  9. A lot of people keep taking about how you are being “alarmist”, but I think you are being a realist. Will Hasbro do it? Maybe not. As many people have said, we don’t know. But, SOPA offers that opportunity. No one is saying large companies are going to do these things. But, it’s that threat that they CAN. I understand that large companies need to be able to protect their properties, but there is a level where it is too much.

  10. I completely agree with the cause and have been bugging anyone that will listen and even those that won’t. Unfortunately we’re dealing with a society that will given up “freedom” and civil liberties in the blink of an eye because it makes them “safer” and “good citizens”. Sadly, this country as a whole has lost sight that it was built by people that had the capacity to think critically and the audacity to question things that didn’t seem right.

  11. You seriously think facebook and twitter are “gone’ because of this? wow…. I can’t believe someone lets you publish things you’ve written and share them with the world…

    • Yes, they would be gone. Because not everyone publishes things that are for the greater good, or just sharing what they did for today. People share things that some people find offensive, or insulting, or harmful.

      If, on Twitter, I link to a story about how to rip your DVD’s so you can set up your own Network Attached Storage device to watch your movies on, I could be breaking the law under SOPA. Tis is something that the MPAA doesn’t want people to do; I would be a pirate in their eyes. And because the website is held liable, not the individual operator of the account, the government could shut down Twitter.

      Multiply this by millions. For whatever reason any company that might have an issue with any of the users. Facebook, Twitter, Google, none of these companies have the resources or the manpower to police their users and censor them. In all likelihood, they would be shut down.

      • A lot of this is also because of moral panic. A couple years back, one senator even said “P2P [Peer-to-Peer] stands for Piracy to Pornography”. This of course gives us images of kids searching for their favorite cartoon and learning, ahem, the thirty-fourth rule.

        Memes would also be gone, except for a few things like that rainbow dog.

    • I say GObama! (Nicer than my usual “i vote for u, y u no do what u say?” view of Obama. And every other guy I voted for ever.)

  12. One more thing, as Uncle on Jackie Chan Adventures used to say: I just read about how they’ll say it’ll create jobs by making it so foreigners can’t bootleg American goods. This is hilarious. Nothing in the law stops foreigners from bootlegging American goods because, oh, yeah, the law only applies to Americans.

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