The ESA pulls its support of SOPA/PIPA ... kind of

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act bills before the US Congress have been losing support rapidly this week, thanks mostly to a well organized blackout of thousands of web sites on Wednesday. Today, the vote on both bills were postponed indefinitely. Now the video game industry trade group, the Entertainment Software Association, has also effectively dropped its previous support of SOPA and PIPA, at least with the versions as they are currently written.

In a statement sent to Kotaku and other sites, the ESA states:

From the beginning, ESA has been committed to the passage of balanced legislation to address the illegal theft of intellectual property found on foreign rogue sites. Although the need to address this pervasive threat to our industry's creative investment remains, concerns have been expressed about unintended consequences stemming from the current legislative proposals. Accordingly, we call upon Congress, the Obama Administration, and stakeholders to refocus their energies on producing a solution that effectively balances both creative and technology interests. As an industry of innovators and creators, we understand the importance of both technological innovation and content protection and are committed to working with all parties to encourage a balanced solution.

A number of the ESA's own members, including Microsoft, NVIDIA, 38 Studios and Epic Games, have all previously revealed their own opposition to SOPA and PIPA. Indeed, the ESA itself has not been as public about its previous views on SOPA as other entertainment trade organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America. While the official web sites for both groups mention their support of SOPA and PIPA, the ESA's web site never posted up its own views of those bills.

Both the MPAA and the RIAA have posted their own statements on the postponement of the SOPA and PIPA bills. Their responses are not nearly as apologetic as the ESA's. The RIAA's statement says:

There is a near universal consensus that cracking down on foreign rogue websites is an important priority for the U.S. government.  The Senate had an opportunity to have a national conversation about an important and urgent issue:  protecting American workers and consumers from foreign criminals.  It is a shame that the Senate will not have that debate next week. 

This issue is too important, too vital to our economy, to let misleading demagoguery have a veto over meaningful reforms. Everyone, every intermediary in the Internet ecosystem, has a role to play and a responsibility to help. We have been told repeatedly that the tech community agrees that something needs to be done.  We take them at their word, and continue to hope that we can sit down with responsible leaders from that community to devise a solution that will address counterfeiting and theft and, yes, bring the rule of law to the Internet.

The MPAA's statement is similar:

We applaud those leaders in Washington who have chosen to stand with the millions of hard working Americans all across this nation whose livelihoods are threatened by foreign criminal websites designed to steal. As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals.

With today’s announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property. The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics.  It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal.


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