UPDATED - Jack Thompson-Authored Truth In Advertising Bill Passes Utah House

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UPDATED - Jack Thompson-Authored Truth In Advertising Bill Passes Utah House

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A Jack Thompson-authored bill that would put retailers in Utah at risk of being sued if they sell "violent or sexually explicit" videogames to kids after promising not to do so has been passed by the House and will now head up to the Senate.

Bill HB 353 amends Utah's Truth in Advertising Act to allow parents to file lawsuits against businesses who sell explicit material to minors in violation of pledges not to do so. The bill includes numerous loopholes and exemptions aimed at heading off opposition from the Utah Retail Merchants Association, which fears - rightly so - that the amendments could result in stores being sued even if they make honest efforts to avoid selling inappropriate games and movies to minors.

As a result of those amendments, stores have until January 1, 2010 to implement training programs that would exempt them from lawsuits, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, and retailers are also immune to civil suits if the buyer "intentionally misrepresented" his or her age at the time of purchase. Companies also have the option of simply not advertising that they won't sell age-inappropriate material to kids.

The bill has been criticized as yet another ill-conceived end-run around the First Amendment but Rep. Michael Morley, who introduced the bill on behalf of Utah Eagle Forum President and Jack Thompson ally Gayle Ruzicka, claimed otherwise. "This is not an attempt to regulate or to enforce ratings," he said. "This is simply a bill that is intended to encourage people who take a pledge and actively advertise that they will not sell to minors this age-inappropriate material [to follow through]."

"It's the right thing to do," he continued. "We have a responsibility to our children, to our families to make sure this media" doesn't end up in the hands of children.

While the large number of amendments to the bill have rendered it considerably changed from Thompson's original draft, he nonetheless claimed to be pleased with its passage in a brief comment to GamePolitics. "This is a huge victory for parents everywhere," he said. "The bill, by the amendments we fashioned, is better. Now we go on to the Senate, where I expect passage, with the Governor then likely to sign it into law!"

HB 353 passed the Utah House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 70-2. The full text of the amendments to the Truth in Advertising Act can be read here.

UPDATE: Describing the bill as "a solution in search of a problem," Dan Hewitt, the senior director of communications at the Entertainment Software Association, said, "The fact is, Utah has a 94% enforcement rate when it comes to video games. Also, Utah state legislators are unfairly targeting video games. Representative Morley's anti-video game bill (HB 353) would expose game retailers to frivolous lawsuits if the store promotes the ESRB rating system."

"The perverse effect of this bill is that Utah retailers will stop promoting the ESRB rating system, which has been applauded by media watchdog groups like the National Institute on Media and the Family and the Federal Trade Commission," he continued. "In short, this is a step back for parents and undercuts the positive work of the ESRB and others who promote the tools and resources available to parents."

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Yes what a victory for the parents, who will now be even more likely to buy these games for their kids. The problem isn't the retailers misrepresenting these games, it's the kids who do it to get their parents to buy it for them - when will people learn that the majority of games sold to those underage aren't by the gamers themselves walking into shops saying they're 18 but by the parents themselves.

I always thought it was dumb parents who bought these games for their kids rather than cunning kids duping the storeclerks. How wrong I was. Thankyou Utah Reps for showing me it was the stores fault all along.

...zing?

Some things are impossible to change.

well i suppose we are going to hear more about lawsuits

Figures it would be Utah...

This bill only hurts the businessman and citizens that sells these M-Rated games. My other problem with this bill is that it is one man who is enforcing his beliefs on a state/nation. No man should ever press his beliefs that are based on religion, politics or his own fame/fortune on a people that will have a much bigger effect than most people will ever be able to see.

The state needs to be less of a parent. The state need to focus on bigger problems like this economy and employment. Parents need to be parents of children and not let the government do their job for them.

Should we start the countdown on a violation of the 1st Amendment now and start a pool on how big the tax payers are going to have to spend to remove said bill?

WNxSajuukCor:
Should we start the countdown on a violation of the 1st Amendment now and start a pool on how big the tax payers are going to have to spend to remove said bill?

Whatever the average cost of the US Supreme Court hearing a 1st Amendment case is.

o this again...Jack Thompson authored huh? Then we already know how this will end.

Ya know, I'm not so sure that this bill is evil. I mean, what's wrong with prohibiting stores from selling violent videogames to kids? It's probably not addressing the real problem, but isn't this bill simply enforcing the law? Feel free to smite me with your logic as to why it's evil.

yup i can see the ACLU firing up the lawsuit engine right now

Wouldukindly:
Figures it would be Utah...

I didn't realize Utah had power, I thought Jesus had ruled electricity a blasphemy ;).

gmer412:
Ya know, I'm not so sure that this bill is evil. I mean, what's wrong with prohibiting stores from selling violent videogames to kids? It's probably not addressing the real problem, but isn't this bill simply enforcing the law? Feel free to smite me with your logic as to why it's evil.

Apparently not. Though I think some states have similar laws about theatre owners being liable if they let children in to see movies whilst under the age rating.

Also, happy fun fact time: This is how the law already works in the entire rest of the damn world. If a retailer in the UK sells a game with an 18 rating to a 17 year old, the retailer is in the shit. Same for Australia, Germany, Japan (Albeit only with Z rated games), and pretty much every other country that actually sticks age ratings on things.

So, does this bill/act/law (whatever stage it's in) mean that, even if it was the parent that bought the video game for the child, the retailer could be sued? Or is there a clause stating that the onus is on the parent(s) to prove that the retailer sold the video game to the minor, with intent to sell the explicit video game to the minor without the parents'/parent's concent?

This bill is the legal equivalent of menacingly shacking your finger at people who have already promised to do their best to do the right thing while ignoring everyone who is stealing purses and throwing rocks at babies. All these retailers have to do is stop claiming that they refuse "M" rated game sales to minors, and they're automatically off the hook. This bill will no longer apply to them. Jack Thompson is a backwards brained idiot. I hate to just come out and insult the man(it's a bad way to argue), but that's what it boils down to. The bills he tries to pass are founded in his morals and created by his mind. This bill will accomplish the exact opposite of what it is designed to do. (Unless, of course, he has some scheme to use this outcome to bring undue hatred on the gaming community.)

*Gets down on knees*
"God...I know we don't talk much any more, I know I haven't been the best Jew I could be, but for what I've done I am sorry, but please...PLEASE...strike Jack Thompson down now, please, a bus, a gun, anything please..."

Now would be an appropraite time for De-rez to do a sequel to his 'Jack Thompson movie'!

All I can see in this resulting in the stores not advertising that they sell the games, or a ton of lawsuits. Either way, I don't see how anything good can come of this.

Yeah, this ain't going to do nothing. I know parents who have bough GTA:SA for their 11 year olds(although, in their defense, they do monitor the kids play and actively stop him from being violent outside of missions(and sometimes stop him from doing story missions) and involving in prostitution, etc.
I just used to pirate them(my parents refused to buy games for me, not matter what game, except educational).

I was raised by ultraconservative Evangelicals. My dad spent my whole school career making sure I didn't really believe in evolution and trying to keep me from watching the Addams Family. My mother "forbade" me from seeing a rated-R movie until I was a sophomore in high school.

And now I have a hard drive full of the filthiest contents of the Internet, I buy music videos by the Genitortures, and illegal narcotics may or may not be somewhere in close proximity to where I sleep.

Keep on the banning, Mr. Thompson. Preventing kids from being exposed to stuff only makes them so amazed by it when they inevitably find it that they gorge until they explode.

On a personal note, I thought Mormons were brighter than this.

TheBluesader:
On a personal note, I thought Mormons were brighter than this.

Remove the second m to get your answer

Any fellow GP reader will know that this bill is completely toothless.

Utah. Motto: Everything unique about us is also everything that's wrong with us.

So they've bought the US in line with the UK, then.

The law over here is you cannot sell age-related products to anyone under the age specified or to someone you believe is buying it for a youngster. So when a bloke comes in and stumbles up to the counter and asks for Halo Killzone 3, you know to refuse him.

Simple, really.

Once again, Thompson's principled response makes things worse. The ends don't justify the means, but the means don't justify the ends either.

Dear god what next. I think he's aiming to be public enemy #1 for the gaming community. If so he's doing a damn good job of it. Ultimately, his goal is to get rid of gaming all together because "it poses a threat to society" well sorry old Jack, gaming is here to stay. DEAL WITH IT!! Now watch, I'll laugh my ass off if we find out later on that his son is a hardcore gamer. Life works in funny ways like that.

I have to agree on the whole "I'm not seeing the big issue here"

putting this *thing* through is extremly pointless as it's redundantly saying the exact same thing ANOTHER thing says isn't it? "We promise not to sell to underagers" they sell to underagers BAM lawsuit. I can only see this as a way for people to be reminded that they can sue eachother.

Yes technically this law isn't encroaching on anyones rights, as it's just backing up something else thats said

on the OTHER hand, it's also extremly pointless to be put through and will only stir up more trouble then it's worth.

NiceGurl_14:
Dear god what next. I think he's aiming to be public enemy #1 for the gaming community. If so he's doing a damn good job of it. Ultimately, his goal is to get rid of gaming all together because "it poses a threat to society" well sorry old Jack, gaming is here to stay. DEAL WITH IT!! Now watch, I'll laugh my ass off if we find out later on that his son is a hardcore gamer. Life works in funny ways like that.

btw, fun fact: the wanker who is primarily in charge in australia for resisting r18+ games here... his son is a hardcore gamer.
The primary reason his son plays so many games and doesn't respect his father is because his dad spends all his time acting like a self righteous tool trying to impose his own beliefes on things and not spending any time with his kid to earn his respect.

gmer412:
Ya know, I'm not so sure that this bill is evil. I mean, what's wrong with prohibiting stores from selling violent videogames to kids? It's probably not addressing the real problem, but isn't this bill simply enforcing the law? Feel free to smite me with your logic as to why it's evil.

It's called the First Amendment. Here, read this.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/op-ed/5491-A-Crash-Course-in-ESRB

It explains, briefly, why videogame sales (among other things) cannot legally be restricted in the US, which is why Thompson's bills have inevitably failed, but also why this one may not. Of course, the irony is that by taking real steps to ensure this bill doesn't violate the First Amendment, it's bee made not just worthless and unenforceable but actually harmful to everyone involved in the process by essentially forcing Utah retailers to step away from the ESRB and any voluntary attempts to regulate sales to minors. It's both mind-boggling and disgraceful what this man will do to claim a "victory" over his perceived foes.

Having read and translated the bill+amendments into English:
It would be illegal if:
-The company advertised "We follow ESRB guidelines"
AND EITHER
-The company sold games in violation of the guidelines on two separate instances
OR
-The company has a training program in place to prevent inappropriate sales, and the SAME employee makes an inappropriate sale for the THIRD time.

Oh, and if the kid "Misrepresents" his/her age, they're off the hook. So a sign saying "Don't attempt to purchase 18+ games if you're underage" is a valid defense. Asking "Are you old enough to buy this" is a valid defense. Documenting that you told your cashier not to do it is a valid defense, provided that you fire them the second time they screw it up.

I recall going to a Gamestop and listening to the cashier explain to a buyer what the content was on a game she was buying for her son... I think it was Halo 3, which doesn't have the name of a violent or illegal act IN THE TITLE.

Seriously, you buy a game named Killzone 2, you got no right to say you didn't know what it was.

What game retailers in Utah need to do if this becomes law is to hold a press conference and announce:

"In order to comply with the Thompson Act* without risking prosecution, the retail industry must now sell any game to anyone. We are sorry for the inconvenience this will cause parents, who will now have to spend more time with their children understanding their hobbies and pass-times and who will now bear the burden of controlling their children's access to games, but we must abide by the laws of the land."

After all, the bill only punishes those who don't live up to an advertised age restriction promise. The most reasonable response for the retailers, then, is to stop promising to restrict sales by age.

-- Steve

*not its real name, but used for humourous effect.

Sadly, that is what's almost certainly going to happen: Retailers will be forced to abdicate any responsibility over who gets these games because otherwise they'll be at risk of getting sued. It's a bit like those stories, true or not I have no idea, of people who attempt to help strangers in dire or life-threatening circumstances, then find themselves being dragged to court by those same people for some unintentional or imagined collateral damage their actions caused.

What really sickens me is not that Thompson would do something like this - his insanity and desperate attention-whoring are well-known by now - but that legislators in Utah, people who have been elected by their fellow citizens to run the state because they're presumably the best and the brightest, went along with it. It's either blatant, heavy-handed political pandering - we're thinking of the kids! - or they are one of the most jaw-dropping collection of bumbling lackwits ever assembled. How could they not see how this would work out?

My only concern is that Thompson and/or the Utah legislators are actually playing the long game here: They put into place a law they know will force retailers away from the ESRB, then wait a year or two and introduce a new bill legislating game sales - which is what Thompson really wants - because there's no rating system being used, there are no controls over game sales at all, it's goddamn Thunderdome out there and somebody has to do something! I don't know whether Thompson is capable of such deviousness, but politicians... yeah.

Malygris:
My only concern is that Thompson and/or the Utah legislators are actually playing the long game here: They put into place a law they know will force retailers away from the ESRB, then wait a year or two and introduce a new bill legislating game sales - which is what Thompson really wants - because there's no rating system being used, there are no controls over game sales at all, it's goddamn Thunderdome out there and somebody has to do something! I don't know whether Thompson is capable of such deviousness, but politicians... yeah.

That's why I suggested doing it by press conference. Make it plain to the people of Utah that this law forces them to sell anything to anyone, that it's political chicanery and not reasoned policy, that it's plainly poorly thought-out... much as I hate encouraging the public to have even more distrust of their public officials when such has already reached toxic levels in the US, in this case the distrust really is deserved.

Make the legislation plainly ridiculous; make people laugh at those who voted it in. That'll make it harder for them to get away with Phase Two.

-- Steve

edited to add: And also make it clear that retailers would gladly return to the voluntary ESRB system, that actually works very well, after the Supreme Court slaps down this silly law.

The Utah legislature is being fuckin' retarded at this point in time. They are thinking over a bill that would force all Restaurants with bars to build a giant fuckin' wall so children can't see alcohol. Yeah seriously. I mean even as a Mormon this retarded shit is over the top. I mean Utah has some major problems in the whole United States Utah has the highest amount of Porn Subscriptions so why are we wasting out time with this nonsense when we have some real problems elsewhere like I don't know...the economy?

They failed to follow through on exactly where this is leading, should it not be found unconstitutional:

1. Store owners stop promoting ESRB.
2. Other states pass an identical bill.
3. Sales to minors go up.

5-10 years later -

4. Jack Thompson points out that there is no private regulation of videogame sales. Sure there's the ESRB, but no one uses it.
5. Government is forced to create its own governing body for videogame sales.
6. Selling M-rated games to those under 18 becomes a crime for everyone.

The people who pass this stuff aren't actually stupid. They know exactly what they are doing. Jack WANTS to undermine the ESRB.

EDIT: Didn't quite get through the massive number of posts before I posted, but yeah same thing as a couple of posts up.

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