Utah Bill HB 353 Goes to the Governor

Utah Bill HB 353 Goes to the Governor

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Utah's Jack Thompson-inspired HB 353, the bill that threatens to punish retailers who attempt to enforce age restrictions on videogame sales, is now in the hands of Governor John Hunstman, who can veto it or sign it into law.

The bill easily passed both the Utah Senate and the House of Representatives and now must get final approval from Republican Governor Huntsman. He has the authority to veto the bill but GamePolitics points out that Huntsman appears to have Presidential ambitions and killing a bill that purports to protect children, regardless of any actual facts involved, would have very poor optics.

Nonetheless, the Video Game Voters Network has launched an email campaign urging Huntsman to exercise his veto privilege, noting that HB 353 will "unfairly expose Utah video game stores to frivolous lawsuits" and "may lead retailers to stop enforcing the ESRB rating system." Rich Taylor, vice president of VGVN parent Entertainment Software Association, explained that while Utah currently has an outstanding 94 percent compliance with videogame ratings, this bill could lead many retailers to stop using the voluntary ESRB system in order to avoid potential litigation.

"Essentially what it does it is has the unintended consequence of creating liability exposure which could force many retailers to either abandon their voluntary policies to enforce video game rating systems, or maybe perhaps choose not to sell video games at all," Taylor told radio statiojn KCPW. "Here you have broadly drawn legislative language that seeks to address a fairly small instance of retailers failing to enforce their policies as promoted. The vast, overwhelming majority of retailers are complying, but now they fall within this swinging sight of harm that this legislation introduces."

Huntsman apparently also has the option to simply ignore the bill, in which case it will automatically become law even without his approval, a bit of political bob-and-weave I don't really understand; in any case, unless he specifically lays a veto smackdown HB 353 will become law in January 1, 2010, at which point videogame industry trade groups like the ESA and the Entertainment Merchants Association will decide whether to challenge it in court.

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Fingers crossed people. Hope that the governer won't pass this into law....

The government of a nation fearing a new form of media?! That hasn't happened before. The politicians really don't understand the issue; I think that's what annoys me the most.

EDIT: Either way, I don't live in Utah, so unless it becomes wide-spread I won't care that much.

CoverYourHead:
The government of a nation fearing a new form of media?! That hasn't happened before. The politicians really don't understand the issue; I think that's what annoys me the most.

EDIT: Either way, I don't live in Utah, so unless it becomes wide-spread I won't care that much.

It doesn't matter where you live, this is a crime to all gamers everywhere!

and this is why we need gamers in the government.

I would rather vote for a future president who had some backbone and didn't cave to stupid politics, then someone who bent over to the whim of how his record might look....
This bill is stupid.

I can't wait till he passes this bill and all the game retailers in Utah stop enforcing an age limit on M rated games. I'm going to laugh so hard when parents get pissed of that their 10-year-old kids got a hold of GTA4.

Jumplion:
Fingers crossed people. Hope that the governer won't pass this into law....

Same here. I have friends in Utah who play video games.

Ok I am slightly confused with this. They are saying if you DON'T sell the M rated game to 7 yr old Billy you will get slapped with a fine or whatnot? Am I reading this right?

What a pity. This bill is effectively useless, but stores as mentioned will likely panic in the face of impending lawsuits. Not to mention online retailers.

Why oh why, look ya' old fogies!

Why do you continue to attack us?, we don't have the protests and riots of the previous "in things" so you be peaceful too and leave us the hell alone.

It's their fault if parents impressiobable little retards become mass-murderers, and they won't become murderers because of games only either.

But alas, like anybody is going to listen. I think we should just out-nice them we're doing a decent job thus far, the media and politicians are like school yard bullies- give them nothing and they will get bored and go away.

So friends, I ask you not to join me for a protest I ask to join me in helping old ladies across the street, helping little girls get their cats out of trees. We can and will out-nice the common assumption that anything that is popular to a generation is immediately bad.

(And when I'm talking about the "youth's thing" of tmes gone by, I mean such as sex/drugs/etc.)

squid5580:
Ok I am slightly confused with this. They are saying if you DON'T sell the M rated game to 7 yr old Billy you will get slapped with a fine or whatnot? Am I reading this right?

I'm equally confused. This is how it sounds to me.

CUnk:

squid5580:
Ok I am slightly confused with this. They are saying if you DON'T sell the M rated game to 7 yr old Billy you will get slapped with a fine or whatnot? Am I reading this right?

I'm equally confused. This is how it sounds to me.

I agree with you two.

Soigieoto:

CUnk:

squid5580:
Ok I am slightly confused with this. They are saying if you DON'T sell the M rated game to 7 yr old Billy you will get slapped with a fine or whatnot? Am I reading this right?

I'm equally confused. This is how it sounds to me.

I agree with you two.

Basically, this Bill says that if you claim not to sell M rated Video Games to kids and yet somehow a kid buys it from you anyway, you'll get fined. If you don't say you'll not sell those games to kids though and they buy it from you... you're completely fine.

CustomMagnum:

Soigieoto:

CUnk:

squid5580:
Ok I am slightly confused with this. They are saying if you DON'T sell the M rated game to 7 yr old Billy you will get slapped with a fine or whatnot? Am I reading this right?

I'm equally confused. This is how it sounds to me.

I agree with you two.

Basically, this Bill says that if you claim not to sell M rated Video Games to kids and yet somehow a kid buys it from you anyway, you'll get fined. If you don't say you'll not sell those games to kids though and they buy it from you... you're completely fine.

Wow just wow. So the economy is in the shitter, there is a freakin war goin on, and the Gov is wasting its time with this? What companies would be stupid enough to say ya we won't sell them to kids regardless of thier actual policies?

CustomMagnum:

Soigieoto:

CUnk:

squid5580:
Ok I am slightly confused with this. They are saying if you DON'T sell the M rated game to 7 yr old Billy you will get slapped with a fine or whatnot? Am I reading this right?

I'm equally confused. This is how it sounds to me.

I agree with you two.

Basically, this Bill says that if you claim not to sell M rated Video Games to kids and yet somehow a kid buys it from you anyway, you'll get fined. If you don't say you'll not sell those games to kids though and they buy it from you... you're completely fine.

What I don't understand is how are they really going to know if this goes on are they going have a cop standing in every retailer that sells games to make sure this law gets enforced? Where I live I get carded every time I buy an M rated game and im 23.

So it's a bogus attempt to enforce game age restrictions. Wow, that's familiar. Next they'll be censoring internet sites.

There's been plenty of coverage on this already but I guess the search button and the links in the article must be broken or something...

Anyway, it works like this: Videogames are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, meaning their sale cannot be legally restricted to anyone, including minors. Thus we have the voluntary ESRB system which says, in effect, your kids probably shouldn't be playing certain games and we, as respectable retailers, will do our best not to sell them to children without the explicit say-so of parents. Simple enough.

What this bill does is put any retailer who advertises that it does not sell M-rated games to children at risk of private litigation if, for whatever reason, it does. So your local Best Buy has a sign up that says "no M-rated games for kids," but some 15-year-old plunks down his green for GTA4 and an underpaid counter-jockey rings it up and suddenly that store can be sued for violating Utah's "truth in advertising" laws.

This is the creative part of the thing: It doesn't actually violate the First Amendment because it doesn't say that retailers can't sell these games to minors. It just punishes those who claim they don't, but then do. So, as everyone is putting together on their own, what you end up with is a situation in which retailers say fuck this and do away with any age rating policies. A lot of people unfamiliar with this are having a hard time grasping the proposed law because it's so wildly counter-intuitive, but yes, the net effect of the law will be to drive retailers away from age rating enforcement.

Most of the Jack Thompson spew has actually been cut from the bill in order to get it passed, which makes it even more... I don't know, I was going to say hilarious but it's really just pathetic. As I understand it the original bill pretty much nailed any retailer who mistakenly sold M-rated games to underage kids but various amendments have been made to render it largely toothless. Retailers have various "outs" to avoid litigation, so in the near term at least, it looks like it'll actually be pretty hard to bring suits against game sellers. But if the law is allowed to stand and that early grace period is passed, it'll become easier - again, with the ultimate result of driving retailers away from ESRB enforcement.

One can only hope it'll be struck down if the ESA, EMA, etc., challenges the law but because it doesn't actually violate any Constitutional rights (that I know of) it could be a dicey situation. Previous attempts at legislating game sales were can't-lose cases for the industry because they were clearly in violation of established precedents, ie., games are protected speech. Some state-level politicians, apparently, are just so goddamn stupid and desperate to score cheap political points that they seem to think the Constitution applies different to their states than it does to the rest of the country. But some observers are predicting that while a legal challenge against HB 353 will be successful, it won't be quite the slam-dunk of previous cases.

 

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