Jan. 4, 2012 at 12:36 PM ET
There's been some confusion recently over the specific position taken by some game publishers in regards to the controversial, pending Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would give the U.S. government broad powers to prevent access to sites accused of hosting pirated content.
Publishers including Nintendo, Sony Computer Entertainment America and Electronic Arts were signatories to a September letter urging Congress to "enact legislation which targets those who abuse the Internet ecosystem and reap illegal profits by stealing the intellectual property (IP) of America's innovative and creative industries."
When the Stop Online Piracy Act was introduced in October, however, those publishers did not appear on a complete list of the bill's specific supporters. A number of news sites noted the discrepancy and wrote that the publishers had "pulled" their support of the bill.
But that's not the case for Electronic Arts, spokesperson Jeff Brown clarified in an e-mail to msnbc.com's In-Game. While Brown admitted that EA joined 400 other companies in "urging consideration of legislative solutions" to the piracy problem, the company has "NEVER expressed support for any specific proposal, and, obviously, never withdrew support," he said.
"We care deeply what consumers think, however, in this case we hadn't planned on issuing an opinion either way," he added. "Going forward, we'll balance our concern for developer’s rights with the needs of our consumers."
That might be a smart move, considering the reaction SOPA has been getting among many gamers and heavy Internet users, who worry about the law's potential effects on access to some of their favorite websites. Those users haven't been afraid to exercise their power as consumers, either — domain registrar Go Daddy recently pulled its support for the bill after a wave of sites transferred their domains in protest.
Meanwhile, a member of hacking collective Anonymous has threatened to "destroy" Sony over the company's supposed SOPA support.
There's another wrinkle in the game industry's position on SOPA, however. The Entertainment Software Association, an umbrella group that represents most major publishers — including EA, Nintendo and Sony — does officially support SOPA as a way to hamper "Rogue websites — those singularly devoted to profiting from their blatant illegal piracy" from "restrict[ing] demand for legitimate video game products and services, thereby costing jobs," as the group put it in a prepared statement.
Still, the group says its aware of the backlash that SOPA has generated in many corners. "We are mindful of concerns raised about a negative impact on innovation," the group said. "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."
Brown said that EA, like other ESA members, "considers [the group] the primary policy arm of the game industry," but didn't comment directly on the ESA's support for the bill.
Nintendo and SCEA have yet to respond to a request for clarification on their positions, but we will update if and when we hear back.