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Censorship Your Rights Online

Salon on Video Games and Free Speech 283

EyesWideOpen writes: "There is an article at Salon that covers a U.S. District Judge's ruling that computer games don't deserve First Amendment protection. The ruling is in response to The Interactive Digital Software Association's request for the dismissal of an ordinance that requires parental consent before children under 17 can buy or play violent or sexually explicit video games. From the Salon article: 'From his ruling, [US District Judge] Limbaugh appears to believe that no amount of contextual information, or additional narrative, in a game is enough to make it a work of art or expression worthy of the name 'free speech.'' The judge's deliberations were based in part on his review of four games: 'Fear Effect,' 'Doom,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Resident Evil'."
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Salon on Video Games and Free Speech

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  • first amendment (Score:3, Informative)

    by dirvish ( 574948 ) <dirvish@NOSpAM.foundnews.com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:33PM (#3472885) Homepage Journal
    You can deny access of violent games to underage people without violating the first amendment can't you?
  • Re:first amendment (Score:2, Informative)

    by Aexia ( 517457 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:41PM (#3472949)
    Stores, like movies theatres, may deny access to minors. However, laws cannot mandate that they do so.

    Unfortunately, we're living in Amerikkka these days. Computer games? They're just funny pictures on a screen!

    And the judge's choice of games is particularly laughable. It's like judging the artistic content of the entire movie industry by the "standards" of Payback, Debbie Does Dallas and Armageddon.
  • by Aexia ( 517457 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:49PM (#3473021)
    So where did he get the idea to review these specific games?

    The four games were on a tape of excerpts submitted by the county of St. Louis(which passed the law). So it's likely all redeeming elements were excised so as to make the games appear as horrible as possible.

    I think it's highly questionable he "reviewed" or briefly played the games at all. He couldn't even get the names of the games correctly. "Resident of Evil Creek"? It'd almost be laughable if this wasn't such an important issue.
  • Re:Let me guess.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kheldarstl ( 543640 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ltsradlehk)> on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:02PM (#3473110)
    No Actually Stephen, Rush's uncle


    And to quote from the above website...

    "Rush's uncle, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr. is a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan and his first cousin, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. sits on the Missouri Supreme Court."
    The Judge in this article is Stephen Limbaugh Sr.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:14PM (#3473189)
    Keep in mind that this is the same bonehead who declared junk faxes legal [slashdot.org].

    Yep, relative of Rush Limbaugh.
  • my experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ankou ( 261125 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:17PM (#3473213)
    I had an interesting experience at Wal-Mart the other day buying a new game. I am surprised with Wal-Mart's zero tolerance for adult lyric music and movies and yet right there in the PlayStation 2 bin i was (pleasantly) shocked that they had Grand Theft Auto 3. I picked it up and went to the checkout center and was actually made to show 2 forms of ID for my age. I mean I am 23 and I haven't been check for my age buying cigarettes for about 5 years now and was amazed that I was carded for a frickin videogame. I personally agree that there should be some kind of rating system for parents to determine what kinds of games they can buy their children and I don't know how "art" argument could possibly hold any water.
  • by skimmer ( 48913 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:34PM (#3473348)
    >The ruling isn't saying "all games aren't speech." It's saying "game's aren't always protected speech."

    Actually, as far as I can tell, that's EXACTLY what it is saying. Games are never speech. I don't think anyone would have a program with the second statement.

    'From his ruling, [US District Judge] Limbaugh appears to believe that no amount of contextual information, or additional narrative, in a game is enough to make it a work of art or expression worthy of the name 'free speech.''

    I can't seem to find the actual text of the ruling though, so who knows.

    Regulation or ratings or whatever is a different issue. It just happened that this judgement came in response to an issue of regulation. Regulaee it like movies are done now -- great. No problem with that. Don't regulate it based entirely on the idea that games are never ever to be considered under the first amendment.

    And the article mentioned a lot of violent games. Medal of Honor, Max Payne (MEGA violent), Deus Ex, etc. Of those only Deus Ex is really the shit though -- good game.
  • Re:first amendment (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:43PM (#3473424)
    It's amazing how many people make the following error:
    Observation: Minors do not enjoy the full rights that adults have.
    Non sequitur: Therefore, minors have no rights at all.
    Just FYI, in March 2001 the 7th U.S. Circut Court of Appeals ruled that the government could not deny access to violent video games to minors without violating the First Amendment [freedomforum.org].
  • Sure (Score:4, Informative)

    Somebody explain this apparent hypocrisy to me please.

    There's a difference between copyright and free speech. In fact, they're about as related as capitalism and matricarchy.

    "Free Speech" is the idea that the government cannot made a law keeping you from communicating something. There are a few limits on it ("you can't shout fire in a crowded theather"), but absent a very good reason, the government can't stop you from communicating whatever you want.

    (From "this sucks" to "let's be communist" to "all commies must die.")

    "Copyright" is a different beast altogether. It's the government recognizing the right of someone who works to create a thing that's very easily copied (like a book or a poem) to gain fiscal benefit from people using this thing. It's the government outlining how long the creator of a protected work gets total control over who gets to make copies. (When that time's up, it goes into the "public doman," which anyone can make copies of.)

    This part is the core of copyright protection, and it's what Microsoft & the rest offer you in exchange for you agreeing to their EULA.

    The hariy part about copyright comes when you take only a little bit of someone's work, add your own into it, and make a new work. This is what's called a "derivitive work," and it's the legal basis behind the GPL. Since you're making a copy of PART of someone's work, you're breaking the copyright law ("infringement.") But since someone made something new, THEY have a copyright on it to. In this situation, both parties need to agree to do anything with teh second work--or they need to go to a judge, who decides if a work is or is not "derivitive."

    An exception to this is "Fair Use," which is a few specific exceptions (Journalism, Academia, and Parody) wherin the infringement isn't punishable.

    SO, let's say that I write a novel. (I am, btw. Just about done, too.) My novel is Copyrighted. Because of Free Speech, the government cannot come down and lock me in jail because the main characters rebel against their government and break the law. My copyright means that if you want you very own copy of my novel, you need to convince me (ordinarilly by buying it from a publiher) to let you do it.

    If you like my fantasy world a lot, and you write your own "fanfic", you need my permission to do anything at all with it, including post it on the web, and especially including selling your own copies. You've infringed by copying my setting.

    If you decide to write a review of my novel for your school paper (or local paper), you can quote a small bit of it for journalistic use and I can't say a darn thing, because of Fair Use. Unless you quote an entire chapter every week, in which case I can probably get a judge to rule that you're not really being journalistic.

    One more thing--I'm not a lawyer. Please, please, PLEASE don't do anything and then come back and say "well, this guy on Slashdot said it was OK." IANAL, and dispensing legal advice when you're not can get you busted. (I was merely sharing my understanding of the law.)
  • by detritus. ( 46421 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @07:25PM (#3473702)
    I have been involved in local youth-rights related issues in the past, some pertaining to local businesses barring individuals under a certain age from entering their stores without an adult, or after certain hours (well before curfew). Section Section 37.2302 [michiganlegislature.org] of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, states:

    Sec. 302. Except where permitted by law, a person shall not: (a) Deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.

    Being that rating systems like the ESRB and MPAA are not government-mandated, and that many movie theaters and department stores have barred individuals under 17 from viewing/purchasing "M" rated games or viewing "R" rated movies, it is arguable that the practice is illegal in Michigan. The only exception I could see to this rule is if it was a private club. I do know other states have similar laws concerning age, but Michigan does have a model policy that has proven effective in challenging local businesses. I have pondered the possibility of challenging movie theaters and retail stores, many of which voluntarially enacted policies barring minors based on the content ratings, but it obviously would cause some strong opposition and fighting teams of corporate lawyers.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"