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Politicians Wising up on Game Legislation? 66

Blackjack writes "Ars Technica looks at recent failures to pass laws regulating the sales of violent video games. They ask whether politicians are finally wising up to First Amendment issues and the costs associated with lawsuits resulting from the laws. Recent attempts to pass video game legislation in Mississippi, Utah, and Indiana have either failed or been put on indefinite hold. 'Now, state lawmakers are more cognizant of the constitutionality issues at stake. The judicial landscape is littered with the charred husks of laws passed by Illinois, Washington, Michigan, California, Louisiana, and others. All of them tried in some way or another to regulate the sale of violent video games to children, and all of them were struck down on First Amendment grounds.'"
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Politicians Wising up on Game Legislation?

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  • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:06PM (#18125106) Journal
    I consider my home brewed beer to be an artistic expression of brewing abilities. Does this mean I can sell it to minors and be covered under the first amendment?
    • by Zephyros ( 966835 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:12PM (#18125180)
      Beer is a product. I won't argue that good beer can indeed be considered an art form, but not in the same way that media (books, music, movies, games) are. Beer expresses hops, malts, etc. Media can express ideas, and that's what the first amendment protects.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by paeanblack ( 191171 )
      I consider my home brewed beer to be an artistic expression of brewing abilities. Does this mean I can sell it to minors and be covered under the first amendment?

      Minors can't buy any beer from any brewer. If only your beer was specifically regulated due to its artistic content, you might have a point.
      • Minors can buy refreshing beverages from many vendors. This guy's refreshing beverage is specifically regulated due to its artistic content. This art form is called 'alcohol'.
        • Eh. Really it's just about drug legislation.

          Sensibly, our government distinguishes between controlled substances and "controlled" ideas, so while it can be ruled that a hazardous physical substance can be restricted in terms of sale, it does not rule that a "hazardous" idea can be withheld because withheld ideas can become a method of control for the state and the constitution has a lot of safeguards against that sort of thing.
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Alcohol content vs. artistic content. There's a difference.

        That said, if you were just over the legal limit (0.5%, typically) and could show legitimate artistic reason for having slightly more alcohol... then maybe... but probably not.

    • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:43PM (#18125666) beer. The primary use of beer is to consume as in, drink, the product. It is not an idea or thought that is passed through a written, or visual media. Thus, your "free speech" rights do not apply to this product.
    • The law is pretty clear about that. If you are 21 years or older you can brew 100 gallons for personal use. If there is more than one adult in the household you can brew up to 200 gallons. Under no circumstances can you sell your brew without a license. Thank you, President Carter.
    • Well dose you beer pass the Miller test?

      Wait, no it doesn't even apply because beer can not convey a message and be considered speech.
      • Well dose you beer pass the Miller test?
        I would hope so. It's not like that particular brand of beer sets the bar very high...
    • grumbles, undoing trollmod.
    • The analogy is flawed. Videogames are a medium like film, music, or television. These laws seek to single out an entire medium for regulation. To do so there would need to be a mountain of evidence suggesting that this medium has negative side effects. There is no such mountain.

      Beer which contains alcohol has been shown to have negative side effects if taken in large amounts. (I'm not sure the legal status of so-called non-alcohol beer)
      • To make your arguement more precise, I suggest you split TV into Broadcast and Cable, as they are effectively entirely different media when it comes to legal regulations. Broadcast is subject to more control than cable and yet there are some possibly fair arguements for regulating the two differently. This doesn't invalidate your more general point.

        Which raises another question - Why (aside from the cable vrs broadcast example) are there such different standards for the various media?
        • The G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17 ratings are trademarks of the MPAA. THey won't share with anyone or if they did I'm sure they would want to charge an arm and a leg. A few years ago Marvel comics pulled out of the Comics Code Authority and started rating their comics themselves. They originally used G, PG and R but the MPAA sued (or they threatened to sue, I can't remember) so Marvel had to make up their own ratings.

          Incidentally the reason the MPAA got rid of X and tried to introduce NC-17 was partially becaus
          • You're pretty close, but the 'trademarks' are actually closer to design patents on an exact image, that is a particular typeface, fitted in a rectangle of similar line weight (The X was originally fitted in a circle instead), and shown in either black on white or white on black. This doesn't keep anyone from doing either of two things - setting their ratings at the same ages as the MPAA's, or having the same number of them (or both). It doesn't keep them from using the same terminology, i.e. "For General au
            • I"m not sure on the legal reasons on the ratings, however, i am a comic book nerd. DC still used the comics code authority for their manistream superhero comics like Superman and Batman when Marvel pulled out. DC does still put the seal on those books. They don't submit WIldstorm, Vertigo or many other comics to the comics code authority though.
  • I am relieved (Score:2, Interesting)

    Yet still disturbed that some politicians haven't given up.

    Maybe politicians are figuring out that you need evidence to prove their points. Too bad there is none even slightly credible.

    Another thing I've noticed... Since when has the Constitution been a "barrier" for these politicians? one of the links in the Article lead to another article (truth in ratings act) that said this:

    "should it manage to emerge from Congress as a law, the First Amendment may prove too big a barrier for it to overcome."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Since when has the Constitution been a "barrier" for these politicians?

      Since forever. Barrier is the correct terminology. The Bill of Rights is designed to protect the people from the government. Our founding fathers understood that need.
    • Re:I am relieved (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:34PM (#18125518) Journal

      Maybe politicians are figuring out that you need evidence to prove their points.
      What politicians need, if they want to pass a feel-good law like this, is a law that passes First Amendment muster. It can be based on a theory of Evil Fairies penetrating the minds of unsuspecting young teens and corrupting their precious bodily fluids, and it'll hold up, as long as it passes First Amendment muster, and all other relevant criteria. No amount of scientific studies demonstrating the evils of video games will help with that, because we have no criteria about laws being scientifically sound. (For better or worse, probably mostly better, but that's a separate argument.)

      You are confusing your desires with reality.
    • There actually is some evidence that video games either cause violence or potentially could. For example, studies that show that witnessing violence makes one more violent. [] I can't recall the location, but another study found that merely seeing a picture of a gun made one prone to violence. The problem for politicians (or maybe not, which would be worse) is that such studies would by their logic make the case for general restriction of the media rather than video games in particular. Additionally, it has be
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by king-manic ( 409855 )
        The argument that video games make kids into little killing machines, that's a different kind of claim altogether. There is no such study, doing one would be completely unethical.

        Child soldier all over africa could be used. A control group that gets just a regular upbringing, a test group that gets brain washing, physical abuse and violent video games, a test group that just get violent video games, and maybe a group that just gets the brain washing and abuse. I'm sure if mercenary corps get big enough they
    • I read this somewhere:

      If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of progress?
  • The other day I went to Best Buy and picked up a game rated Mature. They asked for ID. I don't buy a whole lot of M games, but I was still taken back a little bit regarding this. I'm willing to wager a lot of retailers either have implemented or are implementing processes to check IDs.

    It doesn't solve the problem when adults buy it and turn around and give it to a kid, but do we really need big huge scary laws with fines and jailtime for something the industry is already doing?
    • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @03:13PM (#18126162) Homepage Journal

      It doesn't solve the problem when adults buy it and turn around and give it to a kid
      But it can sent that one last necessary jolt to the addled brain of Clueless Joe Sixpack, who is about to buy "Manhunt" for his eight-year-old because one time in his youth he played "Pac-Man" and that's what all video games are, right?

      It seems stupid to anyone on /., but this is an accurate representation of the sort of braindead masses that overregulation or censorship would actually serve. If we can cause the necessary brain-attacks in these people by having the cashier gently suggest that the M-rated game a parent is about to buy their kid isn't happy friendly "Super Mario" stuff, in the accepted manner of other comparable age-restricted purchases like R-rated movie tickets, then the ultimate responsibility is once again reverted to the parent where it belongs, and said parent is hopefully forced to become educated enough to properly make the decision on what to buy their kids.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        When I worked at Blockbuster video, a significant number of people attempted to rent the Mature-rated N64 game "Conker's Bad Fur Day" for their child. Every single person thanked me and declined to rent it after I informed them of the content of the game. I think this supports your point that people need to be jabbed to kick in their parental responsibilities sometimes. I would hope that a law would be unnecessary. I would never have rented that game to a kid unless their parent approved it, law or otherwis
        • by silentounce ( 1004459 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @04:35PM (#18127262) Homepage

          one of my friends would let his little girl play Mortal Kombat, but he knows full well about the content. I disagree with him on that, but it's his kid, his home and his responsibility. And to be fair, his child is perfectly well adjusted, so who am I to say what's bad for one kid and not the other?
          I think I saw that girl the other day. She was standing over a little boy on a playground. Then a disembodied voice yelled out "FINISH HIM!" and she ripped the kid's spine out through his chest. After that she went and picked some daisies and rode away on a beach cruiser.
      • As an assistant manager at Gamestop over the holidays, I had a few experiences with this:

        One time, a kid wanted an M game. After telling him he needed a parent to buy it, he rode his bike home. Dad drove him back up, and sent him in with his ID. Told him still no go. Kid left and got Dad out of the car (poor guy, looked dead tired). I apologized profusely for the hassle, but Dad was extremely understanding, and even thanked me for doing a proper job.

        Another parent comes to mind that was shopping
    • by king-manic ( 409855 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @03:26PM (#18126336)
      It doesn't solve the problem when adults buy it and turn around and give it to a kid, but do we really need big huge scary laws with fines and jailtime for something the industry is already doing?

      Is that actually a problem? TV has as much or more violence then GTA. Just watch greys anatomy or CSI. There is no way to gerentee young children are watching and there is actually little evidence that it actually harms the children. A troubled teen doesn't need doom to push him over the edge and a healthy teen will not be altered by violent games. Sex for the matter is the same. Porn won't turn a healthy teen into some degenerate. I find the nanny state mentality more harmful then the actual content in question.
  • by Jbcarpen ( 883850 ) on Friday February 23, 2007 @02:51PM (#18125826)
    Many politicians seem to think that violent video games are the root of all that is wrong with the youth of this world today, yet they conveniently ignore the fact that correlation != causation. The real link between the two is that violent people (among others) will be attracted to games that allow them to act out their desires. For some people this is an outlet that allows them to release the violent urges that would otherwise be acted out in the real world. (I am one such person.) Others will find games to be an insufficient outlet and will then lash out at the world in general. Of course, since they were a gamer beforehand the games themselves end up taking the blame.
  • It's hard to see how games are different from movies in this respect. The movie studio isn't legally bound to submit its film for rating and the theater isn't legally bound to enforce the policy with respect to minors. I'm sure that they're subject to legal pressures, but that hasn't led to specific laws, if I understand correctly.

    • by GreyyGuy ( 91753 )
      Sure- the movies aren't legally required to have a rating. But none of the theater chains will show unrated films, and none of the larger retail chains will sell them. Despite the silliness of the "unrated" versions of the DVDs, which are almost always essentially the original film with a bit of stuff added into it. Since it is a different film that has not been submitted for a rating it is technically unrated, but the reality is that it would very likely get the same rating as the theatrical release. It is
      • Sure- the movies aren't legally required to have a rating. But none of the theater chains will show unrated films, and none of the larger retail chains will sell them.

        The film ratings body most recognized in the United States is CARA [] (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17). CARA is operated by [] MPAA, whose members are Sony, Disney, Time Warner, Universal, Fox, and Paramount, along with the National Association of Theater Owners. Does it cost more to have a motion picture produced for video rated by CARA if the motion picture is obviously family friendly but distributed by a company other than an MPAA member? Likewise, does it cost more to have a PC video game rated by ESRB if the fil

        • i would imagine that the price of getting a film rated, if there even is one, would be less than a movie company would expect to make from, say, a dozen theaters. So I would guess that it would be better to risk having the most squeeky clean family friendly movie actually get a rating than to have a few theaters not run it because they could just run a Disney or Dreamworks or whatever CGI talking animal movie one more week and not have to even think about whether or not this unrated movie was going to get
  • I am still trying to get a hold of someone at Senator Brownback's office that can answer my questions about his new "Truth in Video Game Ratings" act. Everyone should feel free to give his office a call: []
  • Politicians will continue to push for stupid "thinkofthechildren" laws as long as it gets them free publicity and the approval of the slack-jawed drooling masses. This accomplishes their goal of getting their name in the spotlight so they have a better chance of getting reelected, which is the only thing any politician is ever really concerned about. What I'd like to see happen is for the news media to start spinning these stories in the direction of "Idiot politicians waste time creating laws that contra
  • From the article:

    Sen. Simpson, who describes herself as a strong First Amendment advocate as well as an "avid video gamer," said that she was troubled by her 8-year-old grandson's being able to purchase an M-rated game at an unnamed retailer.

    Many disastrous undertakings are launched with the absolute best intentions in the world. After all, what is the harm in making sure that young children to not accidentally get their hands on games designed for more mature consumers? Doesn't that sound like a good thing? These legislators tend to fall into the trap of thinking that all of society's (supposed) ills can and should be cured by passing laws.

    First and foremost, how exactly did an 8-year old child purchase a 50-dollar video g

  • That none of this anti-violent game ligislation goes through. Violent games have actually helped me become a non-violent person, as I take all of my anger out on virtual people rather than real ones. They have also really helped my reflexes and my hand-eye coordination skills. Also, all of this about violent games is a phase. Before violent games, violent films were condemned for supposedly making people violent. If this legislation goes through it will be repealed after a few years as the politicians will

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