“Video Game Decency Act” Introduced in Congress

A Michigan congressman has proposed federal legislation which would make it illegal for game developers to hide content in the hope of gaining a less restrictive ESRB rating.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) filed the Video Game Decency Act of 2007 late last week. The bill, H.R. 1531, mirrors a 2006 proposal by Upton which expired with the end of the 109th Congress.

Upton was a major critic of the now-infamous Hot Coffee scandal, and it shows in the language of H.R. 1531, which reads in part:

It shall be unlawful… to… distribute… any video game that contains a rating label… for that video game where the person, with  the intent of obtaining a less restrictive age-based content rating, failed to disclose content of the video game that was required to be disclosed to the independent ratings organization…

Violations would constitute an unfair or deceptive practice under guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, of which Upton is a member.

When he introduced the original bill in 2006, Upton said it was designed to give the FTC more enforcement power over video game content in the wake of Hot Coffee:

I guess I thought the FTC would have had some more teeth than they apparently have… I’m not at all happy… In essence there are no consequences. None… I would like to have thought that (Take-Two and Rockstar) would have been able to be fined for millions of dollars for the trash they put out across this country.

I am going to be looking to write legislation giving the FTC the authority to impose civil penalties. 

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