'Legendary' Congressman Summoned Gamers to Fight SOPA
Jared Polis started off as an Internet entrepreneur who built and sold off the online portion of his family's greeting card business for $780 million. Next he became a congressman representing the 2nd District of Colorado in 2008. Only recently did Polis also reveal himself as a gamer, by rallying players of the online game "League of Legends" to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act proposed in Congress.
The House bill, known by the shorthand name SOPA, would impose harsh and heavy measures to shut off access to foreign websites accused of hosting pirated content such as videos or music. Polis, a Democrat, had already taken a public stance against the bill and its Senate counterpart, known as PIPA, but he surprised gamers by speaking up on the "League of Legends" online discussion boards and identifying himself by his favorite game characters.
"As a member of the League of Legends community (partial to Anivia and Maokai), and as someone who made his living as an Internet entrepreneur before being elected to Congress, I’m greatly concerned about the future of the Internet and gaming if Congress doesn't wake up," Polis wrote on the "League of Legends" discussion board.
The response to Polis from the "League of Legends" community ranged from astonishment to enthusiastic welcomes.
"My congressman plays LoL, and is against SOPA!!!" said a gamer with the screenname crossCak. "How dope is that?!!"
Identifying the threat
In his discussion board post, Polis, 36, voiced concerns about SOPA allowing "angry competitors to sue good, law-abiding companies out of existence" and threatening "any company or website that depends on user-generated content." He asked "League of Legends" players to call their members of Congress to explain their opposition to SOPA.
"SOPA and PIPA are the dream bills for those threatened by the innovation economy," Polis told InnovationNewsDaily. Ultimately, they "attempt to preserve legacy business models."
Industry groups with such legacy business models, such as Hollywood's Motion Picture Association of America, have thrown heavy support behind the bills. But tech giants such as Google and Facebook, as well as popular websites such as Reddit and Wikipedia, opposed the bills with protest statements and voluntary blackouts.
Gamers speak up
Riot Games, the California-based developer of "League of Legends," announced its opposition to SOPA and PIPA in an online discussion board post Jan. 11. Polis responded in the same discussion thread by identifying himself as a congressman and explaining why he also opposed the bills.
"I want to shake your hand, sir," said gamer Krogoth1. "I just sent my state rep a message, thanks to a link I got somewhere else on the forums. If you would like, add me in game, and we can play a few."
"I wish my congressman was like you," said gamer FadedChameleon. "I highly doubt he even knows how to start a computer."
The surge of opposition from tech companies and online communities has prompted many members of Congress to come out against the bills. Upcoming votes on SOPA and PIPA have been postponed by their sponsors, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).
Fighting online piracy
That doesn't mean the fight against online piracy is dead; many members of Congress still want something done. Polis has backed a separate bill, called the OPEN Act, that more narrowly defines online piracy targets for law enforcement without the broad, heavy-handed approach of SOPA or PIPA that could cause collateral damage for legitimate businesses.
"I think passing the OPEN Act would absolutely make an impact on reducing piracy by going after the money, following the money and attempting to interdict it," Polis said.
His sentiment against online piracy was echoed among some "League of Legends" players. One gamer called Bazlyn, a self-identified indie game developer, supported the fight against piracy even as he worried that bills such as SOPA would crush innovation and jobs in gaming.
"Piracy is bad and I'm all for fighting it," Bazlyn said. "But that doesn't make it okay to blow up half the Internet and everyone on it just to lash out at the pirates."