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Red 5 founder calls ESA SOPA position ‘disingenuous’

Red 5 founder calls ESA SOPA position ‘disingenuous’

Mark Kern, founder of Red 5 and the “League for Gamers” protest group, talks about SOPA and PIPA, the ESA’s shifting position, and how gamers need to be mindful of future legislation.

Steve Watts

January 27, 2012 9:45 AM8

Plenty of game developers publicly expressed their opposition to SOPA and PIPA, but perhaps none quite so fiercely as Red 5 founder Mark Kern. His company pulled the beta in protest, canceled E3 plans, and launched a non-profit protest group called the “League for Gamers.” Now that the controversial bills are effectively dead in the water, Kern has shared some thoughts on his motivation for such vocal opposition.

“If you hold an opinion that differs from the gamers, and you think that it will benefit them in the long run, that’s okay,” Kern said. “But the fact that you’re not saying that to them, when you’ve enlisted their support in the past and are now completely unresponsive, I think that was disingenuous.

“And as the outrage grew – this is conjecture on my part – I think they found themselves between a rock and hard place. ‘Oh my gosh, we really do have competing values here.’ To me, it looked like they went into paralysis mode, and then afterwards when both bills were shelved, that was kind of damage control, to come out and say, ‘Actually, we’re withdrawing support.’ They were trying to have their cake and eat it too,” Kern told He says he was “disappointed” that the withdrawal was “wishy-washy.”

That withdrawal he’s referring to came several hours after major backers of the bills, like Senator Harry Reid and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, publicly stated they were putting the bill on hold.

Kern suggests these pieces of legislation, and others in the future, are the product of old thinking. “What you’re seeing is a reaction to try and preserve the old business model, and so you’ve got big companies lining up on one side and a lot of small studios lining up on the other,” he said. “Small studios are tired of being reliant on publishers, for distribution, for finance, for everything else. It doesn’t have to be that way any more.”

As for the League for Gamers, Kern says that his lobbying group and gamers need to be mindful of future attempts to make similar legislation. He warns that ACTA is being pushed under the guise of “anti-counterfeiting,” and that lawmakers might try to split the bills into component parts. “So it’s going to be a lot more subtle next time, and we’re going to have to be that much more attentive,” he said. “It might involve looking at multiple pieces of legislation and figuring out if they’re coalescing into something that would be detrimental to the internet and to gaming.”

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