Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Software Soapbox

With news in The New York Times that the "Videogame Industry Seeks Political Clout" by forming a PAC to support lobbying in Washington, I think the real question is how they will define game-friendly legislation.

My concern would be that this group from the Entertainment Software Association will probably just focus narrowly on "don't-regulate-us" libertarianism with a little bit of contradictory anti-piracy sentiment on the side. Ironically, I can think of several political positions that would support their industry, starting with more funding for art in schools and for teaching object-oriented programming. Right now "computer literacy" often just means installing machines in school labs and having students use highly-constrained commercial products to do everything. Of course, if they were really concerned about the health of their industry long-term, they would be lobbying against proprietary technologies that inhibit independent development of new products, but with backers like the Walt Disney Company and Microsoft in the group, it seems pretty unlikely. And certainly the consumers of their product, who don't have a lobbying group of their own, would like more transparency and choice when it comes to the privacy of their data and the end-user license agreements that they click through.

According to the Times, the ESA initiative is being spearheaded by Michael Gallagher. His line-up of endorsements doesn't include input from the EFF or more politically progressive digital rights groups, although it is interesting to see that the Center for Democracy and Technology, occasional readers of this blog are included. Given Gallagher's pre-history in the Bush administration, I'm skeptical that there will be much engagement with educational or media literacy issues that require public infrastructure or a commitment to taxpayer-supported computer education, much less interest in real user-generated content paradigms or innovation in interface design.

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