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Breaking: Clinton and Lieberman Introduce Federal Game Regulations

Filed under: Video Game Politics
Posted by Lunabean on November 29, 2005 3:39 PM
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If you were scared by state regulations prohibiting the sale of "inappropriate" video games to minors, today's move by Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman should frighten you to the core, as the dynamic duo has stated they will introduce the Family Entertainment Protection Act when Congress reconvenes in two weeks. Like state regulations which have been passed in California, Michigan, and Illinois (each under investigation for its constitutionality, by the way), the federal law will prohibit businesses from selling M or AO games to those under the age of 17, and will punish those who do not enforce the standards set by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board). The bill also requires an "annual, independant analysis of game ratings", authority for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate "misleading ratings", and authorization for the FTC to send in secret shoppers for a "random audit of retailers".

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As furious as I am with Clinton and Lieberman right now, as I think any governmental regulation of art is frightening and full backing of the ESRB and public service campaigns are all we need to keep adult games out of the hands of kids, I'm more furious with Rockstar. Their sleezy little "Hot Coffee" stunt this summer, where they inserted hidden sex scenes in GTA: San Andreas, then lied to the public and the ESRB about their role in it, was what perked up the ears of Senator Clinton. According to the press release her office issued today, "Senator Clinton was motivated to take action on this issue when it was revealed in July that Rockstar Games had embedded illicit sexual content in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." So, blame Rockstar first, then Clinton and Lieberman.

Oh, and if any of you are hoping this bill won't pass, our current Congress is, perhaps, the most poll-driven, lazy, and, quite frankly, the most unamerican Congress our nation has ever seen--Republicans and Democrats alike. I think this bill will pass without a blink of an eye. What's more, if someone wants to challenge the constitutionality of it, it's going to go to John Roberts' Supreme Court, which will probably have Alito sitting on it at the time, meaning there's no chance in hell video games will get the official "they're art, therefore keep your hands off" stamp. Instead, thanks to Rockstar, Clinton and Lieberman, we are now facing federal regulation of video games. Scary.

Press Release from the Office of Senator Hillary Clinton

November 29, 2005

Senators Clinton, Lieberman Announce Federal Legislation to Protect Children from Inappropriate Video Games

The Family Entertainment Protection Act will prohibit the sale of inappropriate games to minors

Washington, DC ? Today, Senators Clinton and Lieberman announced that they will introduce the Family Entertainment Protection Act when Congress reconvenes in two weeks.

Senator Clinton was motivated to take action on this issue when it was revealed in July that Rockstar Games had embedded illicit sexual content in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This game had received a Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), which was unaware of the embedded content. When the content was revealed, Senator Clinton called on the FTC to investigate the source of the content and announced that she would work to develop legislation to address this problem. Rockstar Games subsequently recalled the game.

?I have developed legislation that will empower parents by making sure their kids can?t walk into a store and buy a video game that has graphic, violent and pornographic content,? said Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton acknowledges that video games are fun and entertaining and does not support any limitations on the production or sale of games to adults. ?This is about protecting children,? said Senator Clinton.

?There is a growing body of evidence that points to a link between violent videos and aggressive behavior in children. We are not interested in censoring videos meant for adult entertainment but we do want to ensure that these videos are not purchased by minors. Our bill will help accomplish this by imposing fines on those retailers that sell M-rated games to minors,? Senator Lieberman said.

Illinois, Michigan, and California have all passed state laws to prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors.

Today, on Capitol Hill, the National Institute on Media and the Family released its tenth annual Video and Computer Game scorecard, which revealed that retailers have become even more lenient in their selling policies than they were last year. Boys as young as nine were able to purchase Mature rated video games 42 percent of the time, according to the secret audits.

?Today's report is yet further proof that we need to make sure parents have the tools and support they need to make informed decisions for their children,? said Senator Clinton.

Summary of the Family Entertainment Protection Act

Video game content is getting more and more violent and sexually explicit, yet young people are able to purchase these games with relative ease. In its 2005, 10th Annual MediaWise Video and Computer Game Report Card, The National Institute on Media and the Family found that retailers were more lenient in their selling practices this year compared to last. Boys as young as nine were able to purchase Mature-rated games 42 percent of the time. At the same time, a majority of parents are feeling increasingly victimized by a culture of violence that makes it difficult to protect their children against influences they find to be inappropriate. This bill would help empower parents by putting them back in the driver?s seat. It would ensure that children can?t buy games the video game industry itself has determined to be inappropriate for them.

I. Prohibition on Selling Mature and Adults Only video games to minors

? The centerpiece of this bill is a prohibition against any business for selling or renting a Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending game to a person who is younger than seventeen. This provision is not aimed at punishing retailers who act in good faith to enforce the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) system. That?s why retailers would have an affirmative defense if they were shown an identification they believed to be valid or have a system in place to display and enforce the ESRB system. Similar prohibitions have become law in the last several months in California, Michigan, and Illinois.

II. Annual Analysis of the Ratings System

? Since the bill relies on the video game industry to continue rating the appropriateness of games for minors, this bill requires an annual, independent analysis of game ratings. This analysis will help ensure that the ESRB ratings system accurately reflects the content in each game and that the ratings system does not change significantly over time.

III. Authority for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to Investigate Misleading Ratings

? Part of the genesis of this bill was the revelation that the makers of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had included, through embedded code that was discovered and made accessible to the public, sexually explicit content inconsistent with the game?s Mature rating. This bill requires the FTC to conduct an investigation to determine whether what happened with GTA: San Andreas is a pervasive problem. It also includes a Sense of Congress that the Commission shall take appropriate action if it determines that there is a pervasive problem.

IV. Authority to Register Complaints

? This bill requires the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) of the FTC to ensure that consumers can file complaints if they find content to be misleading or deceptive and requires the BCP to report on the number of such complaints to Congress.

V. Annual Retailer Audit

? This bill authorizes the FTC to conduct an annual, random audit of retailers ? sometimes referred to as a secret shopper survey ? to determine how easy it is for young people to purchase Mature and Adults Only video games and report the findings to Congress.






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