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The Aftermath of an Online Protest… and some links I liked about it…

Happy new year dear readers! In this first post of the year, I’ll take perhaps the most important event of the year so far… at least the one I can report on, hopefully adding my voice to all the noise about it.

Yesterday many sites had a blackout or a protest against SOPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act is a legislation the copyright industry wants the U.S. senate to pass. It has met protest on the Internet, especially yesterday. The problem with these bills is that they give the authority to shut down sites without due process. Which sites? Only pirates? Actually, it can be interpreted that this can go beyond and be an instrument of censorship and control.

I’ll pass along a collection of some links I liked about it with a short comment and at the end some of my comments regarding why SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are evil. You can look at all I read about it by looking at my tweets @judamasmas

PIPA Support Collapses, and Here’s a Full List of the Senators Who Newly Oppose It via Gizmodo. The way I see it, the online protest was mainly against SOPA, but support for PIPA was affected as well.

SOPA via xkcd. Reasonable content creators are and should be happy that people share their content in social media, with such legislation as SOPA, it would be hard to see what would happen with social media, perhaps in the long term they would like to shut down sites like Facebook.

Surprise! Senators with Huge Campaign Contributions from Media Support SOPA/PIPA via Gizmodo. This is great about the Internet, everything is hardly a secret. You can see the name of the senators and the money they had for supporting SOPA/PIPA. Lists like this one have been posted on many sites from quite some time. Other ones showing even the money they make compared to the ones not supporting these things.

Internet SOPA/PIPA Revolt: Don’t Declare Victory Yet  via Wired. It is a good point that although a good blow was dealt to SOPA and PIPA, these instruments are not completely defeated and they will be revised in these months. We the Internets have to remain on our toes and respond quickly making enough noise to oppose them.

That pipe of trash that someone smoked via The Pirate Bay Blog. Great piece, I highly recommend you read it. From Edisons’ patent of moving pictures, they go to the lawless origin of this copyright industry. Making the point that as they have bad business models, the Pirate Bay is a threat as it is a competitor. “The entertainment industry say they’re creating ‘culture’ but what they really do is stuff like selling overpriced plushy dolls and making 11 year old girls become anorexic. Either from working in the factories that creates the dolls for basically no salary or by watching movies and tv shows that make them think that they’re fat.”

LOLing Our Way to Internet Freedom via Wired. The funny side around it, click it!

The MPAA Says Blackout Protests Are an Abuse of Power via Gizmodo. In this context, I believe it was best for them just to shut up instead of giving themselves more bad publicity. Yes, they say the blackouts were abuse of power. Is it not abuse of power their own lobbying, “sue ’em all” schemes and manipulation? It was a very hypocritical statement on their side, as this legislation is pro-censorship and about real abuse of power.

Honorable mentions in pictures:

google strike

wordpress

I am not the only one seeing that the copyright industry manipulates political agencies to achieve their objectives. However I was very glad when I read the position of the White House on this, which is very reasonable. Paraphrasing what I have read some days ago about this is that despite the problem piracy might represent, it is not an excuse to disrupt the Internet and walk the dangerous path of censorship.  The industry is obsessed in claiming that it is losing money. However, there are studies stating that it is doing better than ever. Also, consider the following factors: there is still a financial crisis in the world, media releases don’t offer as much value for money as they should, newly created artists are shitty (you know who they are). And most importantly, think of this: perhaps if the copyright industry stops being so interested in lobbying to make it’s will into law (I think this lobbying is a nice way to say bribing) and “sue ’em all” legal schemes, they could find that they are not losing money, they are spending it being evil. Anyway, the money resulting from suing infringers is not going to the artists whose rights were violated, right?

Copyright has become something very different than what it should be. Legislations are created to favor just the big companies, not for protecting the artists rights, the later is just an excuse now. For example, how is it possible that Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is copyrighted? Or that in Canada nothing else would enter the public domain until 2032? Or that in the U.S. many works published in 1955 are going to enter the public domain in 2051 instead of today? Go copyright the Declaration of Human Rights or the Constitution of the U.S. while you’re at it!

The Internet doesn’t belong to anyone and at the same time, it belongs to everyone; and the Internet is free. I am not supporting piracy, and online criminal activities have to be monitored, reported and shut down. However, legislation written as SOPA and PIPA leaves serious doubts and takes many free thinkers like me to be afraid of censorship. This post is an example. I am criticizing the copyright industry, if SOPA were in place, they could shut down my site without even telling me. That’s the main problem with it.

Finally, there could be a hidden agenda behind all this. The copyright industry might want to turn the Internet into a television channel, and in the most horrible scenario: a big brother of sorts, where all the content you watch is created by the industry and delivered to you with payment schemes, like cable tv. In this scenario, user generated content, which is for me the most wonderful thing about the Internet, would die. I smelled something like this with the “Youtube offering professionally created content” thing. I’ll write about this next time.

Update: operators of Megaupload were detained yesterday, ¿Do they need to approve SOPA to have even more power?

Censorship in videogames: the Manhunt 2 case

Once there was a little videogame by Rockstar called Manhunt 2, which entered its development stage in 2004. In 2007 this game was submitted to two of the most important rating boards for games, the ESRB (USA) and the BBFC (UK), and both of them refused to give them a certain rating which is the maximum rating allowed for a game to be released in a home console. In the case of the ESRB, the rating given was an Adults Only (AO). In order to release the game on the Wii or the PSP they would have needed up to a Mature rating (M). So Rockstar was forced to modify the game to submit it again. In the USA was accepted after this, in the UK it was a bit more difficult, as the modified version was rejected again. Finally, it was released with a delay of nearly a year because of this issue and the version you can find all over Europe is imported from the UK. I haven’t found information about what happened about the submission to PEGI and I bet Rockstar didn’t even want to try with the Australian ratings board! But anyway, this is enough background information.

I was in Norway when I bought the imported version of Manhunt 2 and my impression was “interesting”, it was a stunning, shocking videogame. I’m sure all the controversies, scandals and the ratings issues just raised the hype and the game didn’t let me down in this respect. You just escape an asylum (just like Arkham) not knowing who you are and just wonder around finding clues, moving slowly by the shadows and executing people with a wide variety of weapons and environmental kills. Of course I wondered how would it look uncensored. The funny thing is that it is a disappointing game in other aspects. Graphics, depth, simple but very hard gameplay. Although the story and atmosphere are very good. However, I don’t want to talk about the quality of the game itself either.

The way Rockstar censored the game was around the executions, they put a lot of noise effects and video filters over the action so you can’t see quite right what’s going on.

All these are old news, my point is that I just played an uncensored version of Manhunt 2 (without any video filters), and I can tell you that the censored version is WAY more creepy, violent, explicit and disturbing! I think this sensation is caused exactly by the way it was censored, it leaves more to the imagination, and the imagination is just being unleashed by the outstanding atmosphere of the game. Your imagination fills in the gaps of the filters, and the filters themselves make everything more creepy.  You might ask: So the game is not violent/creepy without the censorship? Yes, of course it is. However, the gore is minimum and sometimes the camera just goes away. I suppose both these elements are related to the limited power of the Wii or the PSP. We have seen more gore elsewhere anyway.

I think if the objective of the rating boards was to make sure the softest version possible of the game would be released, they failed, miserably. It is interesting to take this point and make a generalization that sometimes do happen: when attempting to censor or criticize something and make a scandal out of it, the outcomes are the totally opposite than the ones conservative people want to make. Sometimes they give more force to what they want to hide. I’ll touch this point again in another post, also related to videogames.

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