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.
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.
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/