Recently MachineGames' new video game Wolfenstein: The New Order was released. In case you are not familiar with the popular Wolfenstein series, it began way back in 1981 with Castle Wolfenstein and essentially is a video game series revolving around Nazis and organisations which were active in Nazi Germany. You do not play as a Nazi, instead you play against them. So effectively you are killing Nazis within the game.
The more popular part of the series Wolfenstein 3D released in 1992 was "confiscated" in Germany in 1994 because of its use of the Swastika which in this context is considered a symbol of an unconstitutional organisation. The use of such symbols is regulated by German law in § 86a StGB and can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years. When a video game is "confiscated" in Germany it effectively means the following (for a more thorough analysis see this (German)):
So, assuming you already owned the game before the "confiscation", it is perfectly legal to keep it and play it. It is also perfectly legal to import the video game from another country which most people don't seem to know about. To me this doesn't really seem like a "confiscation" which is the German term used by law: "Beschlagnahmung", hence I put it in quotes. Instead I'd call it a ban, effectively censorship even.
Now you might be wondering: what about movies or television series involving the use of such symbols? Well, according to German law you may be allowed to make use of such symbols in certain cases like for example for "art" which is regulated in § 86 StGB. The next question is: those are considered art, but video games are not? Who says?
Answering this question would be an article on its own and effectively there is no decisive answer. It's a matter of court decisions in the past, a matter of a people that doesn't even want to touch certain topics due to a taboo and an industry that is rather scared and goes the "easy" way of censoring their video games for the German video game market instead of fighting against censorship.
Anyway, the discussion on why this ban exists is irrelevant to the point I actually want to make. As you have learned now, video games might get banned in Germany due to usage of symbols used by an unconstitutional organisation and regardless of that it is still perfectly legal to import such games from other countries. And here comes the catch.
Back in the days without digital rights management (DRM) it was as easy as importing a video game from another country, installing it and playing it. On the PC anyway, video game consoles already had a kind of a region lock through NTSC and PAL standards. But that's again another topic.
Let's go back to the recently released game Wolfenstein: The New Order which uses Steamworks as their DRM. To play the game you will have to activate it online with Valve Corporation's Steam software. And here's what Bethesda Softworks, the publisher of Wolfenstein: The New Order decided to do: they released a censored German version without the use of any unconstitutional organisation symbols and to top it off disallow the activation of the uncensored version from a German IP address.
Within Germany I'm only allowed to activate and play the censored version even though by law it is perfectly legal for me to import the uncensored version from another country. Since the Steam Subscriber Agreement disallows use of any proxy servers or virtual private network (VPN) to obfuscate my location, I have no legal and allowed means to play a perfectly legal and legit copy of an imported video game.
"You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, we may terminate your access to your Account." - Steam Subscriber Agreement
Thank you for fucking over the honest customer. Obviously you don't want people's money, you made that abundantly clear.
Since Wolfenstein: The New Order is a single player only game it is happily shared by thousands of German peers... and you shouldn't even really be mad at them... Bethesda Softworks caused this themselves.
You might have heard about the legal case going on and on with The Pirate Bay for years already. Basically the music industry and other retarded cokeheads of the likes claim that the services The Pirate Bay are offering are illegal.
What exactly is The Pirate Bay offering?
They once actually served as a BitTorrent tracker, search engine and indexing service. They got rid of the BitTorrent tracker sooner or later because they got aware of the retarded people living on this planet deeming it illegal. So what are they left with? A search engine and indexing service. Sounds familiar. Something like Google, Yahoo and Bing? Pretty much, yes, except only for the BitTorrent network. How is that illegal you ask? Well, beats me. But apparently even judges agree.
In case you are wondering how the classical BitTorrent network operates, here's a quick outline:
Okay, now let's assume we have a file that is shared and it contains by law content that is not allowed to be freely shared (like for example a ripped music album). Whoever puts this file up has to create the *.torrent file for it. So that person calculates hashes from the files, adds a BitTorrent tracker to the file and done.
This *.torrent file, containing nothing but legal metadata, will be put up on a site now, for example on The Pirate Bay. So The Pirate Bay offers this *.torrent file, with a description of the files it supposedly contains metadata for and people are free to download this *.torrent file. This is not illegal. Anybody who claims it is, is a retard and did not understand how this system works.
If anybody downloads this *.torrent file of said music album now and adds it to their BitTorrent client, the BitTorrent client will contact the specified BitTorrent trackers and they will reply a list of people who currently want or offer the file. Now, depending on the country you are residing in but also depending on your moral values, none, one or both of these actions can be considered illegal:
What did The Pirate Bay do in all this? Effectively the following:
All of that is considered metadata. None of that is illegal.
Still, on April 17th, 2009 the operators of The Pirate Bay were found guilty of "assistance to copyright infringement" in Sweden and sentenced to one year in prison and payment of a fine of 30 million SEK (roughly 4.4 million USD (as of writing of this article)).
This didn't stop The Pirate Bay from operating however. It still operates as of today and the music industry is still trying really hard to get them down. Since by now they realized they can't take them down from the very source instead they try censoring access to The Pirate Bay.
So far access to The Pirate Bay has been "blocked" in: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom. Several other countries had temporary blockades or legal cases about blocking the site. More are probably to come.
The quality from these blockades usually reach from mostly simple Domain Name System (DNS) blockades to Internet Protocol (IP) blockades. Both of them are very easy to go around and people wanting to access The Pirate Bay as well as The Pirate Bay themselves offer tons of ways to go around them. In the end all these blockades cause is free advertising for The Pirate Bay and BitTorrent plus getting people aware what kind of MAFIAA is operating within our governments and courts resulting in membership boosts for the Pirate Party.
One of the worst organizations, trying the hardest to block The Pirate Bay is BREIN (Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland) in the Netherlands. They don't even stop at just blocking The Pirate Bay by forcing the country's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to apply a blockade but instead they also want to stop every proxy that is being set up to go around said blockades.
But they even go further. After successfully getting court orders to force closure of a proxy provided by the Dutch Pirate Party as well as a proxy provided by Greenhost they even demand a gag on the Dutch Pirate Party to stop operating any kind of proxy service as well as stop explanation on how to use them or set them up.
Yes. The censorship is getting worse and worse. Stop discussing. Stop offering proxy services. The question how long before VPNs and proxy services become illegal is very valid.
BREIN, you can not win this. Stop fighting.
For every IP address that gets blocked The Pirate Bay will have a new one ready within minutes.
This is a futile game, already lost by BREIN. But since they apparently don't have a BRAIN, they don't see it. As long as there is one person on the Internet who does not agree, content can not be censored. And such people will fortunately always exist.
With that said, have a link to a list of The Pirate Bay proxies, generously provided by Pirate Reverse: http://about.piratereverse.info/proxy/list.html
And also a guide on how you can help and set up your own Pirate Bay proxy: http://about.piratereverse.info/proxy/index.html