New Video Game Legislation in Massachusetts …Drafted by Jack Thompson

If you thought the video game industry’s uninterrupted string of federal court victories might discourage states from proposing further legislation, think again.

GamePolitics has confirmed that the Massachusetts legislature will soon take up consideration of a video game bill of the “harmful to minors” variety. This is the same legal concept traditionally used to block distribution of pornography to minors.

The proposed legislation, which does not yet have a primary sponsor, would block underage buyers from purchasing any game which:

  • depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors
  • is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors
  • and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.

According to spokesperson Lynne Lyman of Boston’s Office of Human Services, about a dozen members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives are prepared to sign on to the bill, as are some state senators. The bill enjoys the backing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino as well as other influential community members.

Lyman told GP the bill is patterned on Utah’s, which Massachusetts officials believe has the best chance to succeed. However, the Utah bill, which failed to clear the state legislature in 2006, is very similar to Louisiana’s video game law, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. The legislature in Utah is expected to reconsider the video game bill in 2007, albeit with a new sponsor.

Lyman also confirmed that controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson assisted in drafting the bill. Thompson was the author of the Utah and Louisiana bills.

Of his involvement, Thompson told GP:

The Mayor of Boston asked me to draft a bill, on his behalf, for the Massachusetts legislature. Mayors get to do that in Massachusetts. Secondly, it is very much like Louisiana. The difference is that these people intend to win the court fight, unlike the knuckleheads in Louisiana. That bill was constitutional. They took a dive because of (ESA boss Doug) Lowenstein’s threats.

Thompson’s “knuckleheads” reference pertains to the ugly feud which developed between the activist attorney and Louisiana officials, particularly Attorney General Charles Foti and Deputy A.G. Burton Guidry. The “threats” comment apparently pertains to remarks made by Doug Lowenstein to the effect that, “Signing this bill into law would no doubt hurt the state’s economy, essentially hanging up a ‘Stay Out of Louisiana’ sign on the state’s borders for video game companies.”

Speaking of Massachusetts, GP readers may recall the recent controversy there involving the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) in which a number of local officials and prominent citizens successfully lobbied for a ban on M-rated game advertisements on buses and trains.

GP: We originally broke this story on Monday evening, but we’re bumping into Tuesday’s coverage due to its impact on the gaming scene.

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