I have to admit, I’m more than a little surprised at the sudden outpouring of outrage online about Marvel Entertainment’s inclusion in the list of companies and corporations supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act, not least of all because the list has been available for more than a week now (I’m guessing that today’s Bleeding Cool post has something to do with it). But, as I’ve said already on Twitter today, why is this surprising? As the list of companies shows, Marvel is far from the only publisher supporting the bill – Hachette, Harper Collins and Random House are all listed – and, more importantly, Marvel is far from the only Disney subsidiary on the list. In fact, with ABC, ESPN, Disney Publishing and Hyperion all on the list in addition to Marvel, it’s actually more surprising that Pixar, say, isn’t there than the fact that Marvel is.
Compare this to Time Warner’s approach, which is to support SOPA as a mass corporate entity instead of individual subsidiaries; that’s potentially smarter from a PR viewpoint, because it allows for the reading that certain parts of TW – DC Comics, say – does not specifically support the Act, but let’s be honest: It’s much more likely that it actually means that all of TW is toeing the line, as opposed to Disney, which isn’t acting as some massive corporate monolith.
That said, does Marvel’s support of SOPA mean that the company is for the more draconian parts of the bill, cracking down on free expression online? Probably not; as much as it’s easy to complain about Marvel preferring to quash expression when it relates to its own IP (Such as helping close down the Scans Daily community on LiveJournal), Marvel has shown itself to be somewhat forward thinking in terms of embracing the potential of the internet, and it’s a company filled with creative people. I suspect that Marvel’s interest in SOPA is purely related to the protection of its own intellectual property, with little thought given to the (many) downsides of the bill.
It’s funny, thinking about the idea of a petition to stop DC publishing Watchmen 2; I’d much rather see people try and convince Marvel to reverse their stance on this subject, and more openly stand in favor of free speech and a less restrictive internet – but Watchmen 2 may, ultimately, be an easier battle to win.