Massachusetts Will Consider Video Game Legislation This Week

March 17, 2008 -
The Massachusetts legislature will hold a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bill 1423, a video game measure introduced last year but not acted upon.

In its current form the bill closely resembles the Jack Thompson-authored Louisiana video game law, which was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge in 2006 (see: Judge Trashes Louisiana Govt. Over Failed Jack Thompson Law, Orders State to Pay Legal Fees). Indeed, Thompson was involved in drafting the original version of the Massachusetts bill, as GamePolitics reported in January of 2007.

Although Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has been an advocate of HB1423, the main legislative sponsor is Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry (D, left).

HB1423 is a "games-as-porn" bill which would seek to restrict minors from buying violent video games under the same rationale used to block them from buying sexually explicit materials. That is, HB1423 would define violent games as harmful to minors in the same legal sense as pornography. From the bill:
Matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, if taken as a whole, it... 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... and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.

Given the history, it is unclear why Massachusetts is pursuing a bill of this sort. Last year an aide to Mayor Menino told GamePolitics that officials were aware of the failure of the similarly-worded Louisiana law, but would were hopeful a Utah bill - also authored by Jack Thompson - would succeed.

It didn't - after contentious deliberations in which Thompson called for Utah's Attorney General to be impeached, the Utah legislature dropped the bill over concerns about its constitutionality.

At this point it is unclear whether Thompson has been participating in the recent activity surrounding HB1423. In an e-mail sent to GP following the publication of this story, Thompson writes, "Of course I'm involved, today even."

UPDATE: The Entertainment Consumers Association has issued an alert regarding the Massachusetts legislation to its members via the ECA website. By way of disclosure, we note that the ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.com.

UPDATE: This morning's Boston Herald has more, including comment from Larry Mayes, Mayor Menino's human services director:
Children aged 17 and under should not be sold this stuff, so they are not getting into the hands of 9- and 10-year-olds. Is it going to be an uphill battle? Sure. But it’s absolutely a battle that the mayor feels he should take on.


Comments

"...and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."

Wow. Fuck them, how ignorant can you be...

....lol....


that's all I have to say...we are all psyhics because we are fortelling the future of this bill...

;P

Re: The JT Comment

Okay, who wasn't guarding the doors and and allowed the lunatic into the room? Jack, whay are you wasting your time here? Shouldn't you be devoting more time to trying to save your legal career (for all the good it will do you)? That's exactly what you said about the last bill you authored. And the one before that... And the one before that... And the one before that...

At this point, I'd say if Jack himself guarantees it's constitutional, then it will definitely fail!

For those who haven't read the bill, it simply adds violence to the list of content which is "obscene." Then it adds interactive media to the list of media which is covered. This means books/movies/etc.. with violence in them would be obscene as well.

Ergo, this might even include violent books like the Bible. So unless this law is blocked by an injunction before it goes into place, one could theoretically call the police on religious bookstores and churches to have them arrested for distributing "obscenity" to minors. I don't have any problem with religion, but if I lived in Mass, I would be reporting such things by the boatload just to watch the political blowback.

Hooray for the Law of Unintended Consequences!

I was shocked until i reread the one piece of information: Massachusetts.

@DavCube

What's a 'trans fat'? Did they outlaw obese transvestites because frankly I think that might be doing a service to the community at large.

Believe me, I REALLY don't have the legs for a miniskirt.

@A viking

You make a mistake that many people both inside ad outside the US make and that is Democrat = Liberal and that Republican = Conservative. This is to say that there has been a lack of Republican Conservative leadership and that American Liberalism has become so far removed from Western Liberalism that to call Hilary or Obama a "liberal" does not mean much.

The bill is way too subjective to even be remotely considered a law. It will fail, just like all the others. If it does get passed, it'll get appealed, prevented from being enforced, then fail. Just like all the others.

@ Cheater97

That's another thing that the broadcast i mentioned brought up. They KNOW it's unconstitutional and similar laws have been slammed down at least nine times.

@ JT

Yes, Mr. Thompson, this is unconstitutional. MUST you have those tossed bills reach the unlucky number 13 before you even get a hint? The text in the bill in this article totally opens the floodgates to allow ANY AND ALL MEDIA to be subject to be next. TV? Gone. Movies? Forget about it. Books? Govt-sanctioned burnings. You of all people should know about those things. You know, you being a lawyer and us not and all.

@ Aliasalpha

Aha ha haaaaa not really funny.

But in all seriousness, trans fats are manmade fat-type things added to food. People have been cracking down on their use worldwide. Very few fast food joints use them anymore. Surely you've seen a '0g trans fat' on a bag of chips somewhere?

---
"Matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, if taken as a whole, it… 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… and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."
---


So if I happen to make a game about the horrors and trouma of rape, but then put it in a way that is a serious literary, artistic, political and a sceintific value to teach people that rape is wrong...will that get passed????

This bill makes no sence and is so contradictory...how can anyone define what is art when art can be so many things INCLUDING controversial themes????

i like how people seem to claim that these violent games have no educational value but at the same time claim they teach how to kill.

"The bill is constitutional and will be held constitutional."

OH MY GOD I NEVER HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE!

Jack, you are a fucking retard who fails at life. Please continue to provide great humour for this site and the gaming community as a whole.

I do wish you would stop wasting money on this shit though. That money could be used to actually identify the real issues out there, but instead you squander it on your personal agenda. That is what makes you a disgusting piece of shit.

Oh how I cannot wait for the Florida Bar to perform a level 3 execution on your "career". Your tears will help cleanse all that you have tarnished with your hate bile.

Fuck you John Boy, and have a great day!

"Children aged 17 and under should not be sold this stuff, so they are not getting into the hands of 9- and 10-year-olds."

"Are your children corrupting themselves using timetravel? Find out more at 11!"

Why are people surprised? This is the same state that freaked out over a litebrite. This is the same state that feels the need to have all gumball machines licensed and inspected because of possible terrorists using them to poison our children.

This state is prone to kneejerk responses to "possible" threat. None of the threats they have freaked out about have been actually. They have all been perceived.

This bill will fail and it will fail just as hard as all others.

[...] Quote taken from this blog post [...]

@E. Zachary Knight
Overreacting to video games corrupting the youth (Which is total bull in my oppinion) and overreacting to suspicious looking lights being put all over cities are two different things.

Plus considering someone went up to a similar looking device left around Boston a year before that and ended up dying due to it being a real bomb, I'd rather not take any chances and have people overreact compared to people dying. :P

[...] can follow responses to this entry through the Comments RSS feed. Feel free to leave a response or trackback from your ownsite. [...]

@IN Kraft;

I believe that was Bill Hicks first. If you haven't heard/read or seen his old stuff I highly recommend.


This, as always is doomed to fail.

I love the smell of doomed legislation in the morning.

For those that care about the legal underpinings, FYI, the bill's language is lifted almost word-for-word from the seminal Supreme Court case, Miller v. California, which establishes the legal test for determining if speech is obscence ("obscence" speech is not protected by the First Amendment and can be regulated against).

For those that care about the historical underpinings, more than twenty years ago, the Miller case was the basis for overturning the ruling in the 2Live Crew case that Nasty As They Wanna Be was obscene. Who was one of the driving forces behind the erronious lower court decision? Jack Thompson.

Twenty years later, apparently Jack now knows as much about the First Amendment as he did back then.


"Oh! Me so horny. Me love you long time."

What I think is hilarious is the attempt to incorporate the "Miller Test" for obscenity regulation.

It's almost word for word: To regulate media as obscenity accordoing to the Sup. Court you have to have

1) Patently offensive the average reasonable person when taken as a whole
2) Completely lacking in artistic, political, literary or scientific value
3) And appeals to the "puriant" interest in sex (Miller applied only to obscenity)

She's trying to regulate video games as obscenity, but I'm sorry Madam Rep. The Court says to the AVERAGE REASONABLE PERSON. A minor does not qualify, it fails the test. You cannot retool the ruling by adding in "minor." Your law will be subject to the Average Reasonable Person Test.

She could try to get it covered under the Brandenburg v. Ohio test for free speech. But THAT test is even worse for her because it requires that speech "Incite imminent lawless action." In Brandenburg a Klansman saying "We're going to march to Washington to seek our revengence [sic]" wasn't even considered such an incitement.

This woman doesn't seem like she's ever taken a Constitutional Law class.

Evey law like this that's been passed has been struck down in court. I may not be a lawyer but I know unconstitutional when I see and smell it.

The "prevailing standards in the adult community" component of the Miller test has also created some interesting wrinkles when applied to highly localized attempts to regulate so-called obscence speech (many subsequent cases have focused on local city ordinances which concern neighbourhood strip clubs). It requires the court to examine the prevailing standard not on some national level but in the particular neighbourhood. Kinda interesting. Or, maybe just to me (who found Mircosoft's antitrust prosecution "interesting," a view I'm sure not shared by all).

This whole law is just so ludicrous. For something to be banned under "Miller" it has to be pretty much WORTHLESS, it's not enough that it's crude or violent.

Hell, the movies SAW and HOSTEL get through the test. What makes her think GTAIV would be banned under Miller

@nightstalker160:

You raise a good point. These silly attempts to get past Miller are doomed to failure and Brandenburg would be a better legal precedent upon which to base these legislative attempts. After all, isn't that the Jack Thompson argument? That violent video games incite violence? But the Brandenburg case doesn't really help for the same reason that Thompson's argument is bogus: lack of any clear causal relationship between violent video games and violence. For Brandenburg requires that in order for the speech to fall outside the protections of the First Amendment, it must be directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

It would make more logical sense to go under Brandenburg. But I think the major problem is the factual precedent, a militant racist saying he would march on Washington to seek "revengeance" for the civil rights movement (it cracks me up that he actually said that) was ruled protected speech.

How the heck are you supposed to overcome that kind of precedent. The guy basically threatened Congress and he was cool. It's a more logical choice but I think it's even more doomed than the Miller test.

At least with Miller she can appeal to the fact that a lot of older judges (people in their 70s) might video games as culturally worthless and offensive.

Dear god that post is a grammar nightmare. We need an edit feature.

[...] Link // Cache-busting and pageid values var random = Math.round(Math.random() * 100000000); if (!pageNum) var pageNum = Math.round(Math.random() * 100000000); document.write(''); document.write(''); [...]

Why do these people keep coming back with

Why do these people keep coming back with these laws when they are obviously unconstitutional and extremely vague?

Even if some old grey-hair could reasonably argue that video games are culturally worthless and offensive, they would have a hard time getting around the scientific value prong. I don't know squat about game development and code programming and the like, but it seems to my untrained eye that video games are on the cutting edge of today's computer graphics and audio technology (compare Pong to GTAIII).

Massachusetts Will Consider Video Game Legislation This Week...

The Massachusetts legislature will hold a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bill 1423, a video game measure introduced last year but not acted upon....

@Toxicity²:

Because every politician needs an issue or two to ride which they think will get them some sympathy from the voters. Plain and simple.

It'll fail. Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way, but this is massachusettes for crying out loud. Don't they have legal same-sex marriages? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not taking a stand for or against homosexual marriage, what I am trying to point out is that we have a state here that's open minded enough to make same sex marriage legal, and actually make some pretty interesting healthcare laws ACTUALLY HAPPEN. (as opposed to the federal stance which is just to talk about it). I can't imagine the mindset that would say that homosexuality is OK, but video games, oh, no, those are bad! That's a level of hypocrisy that boggles the mind. (Then again, Thompson did say he was involved = )

[…] Link // Cache-busting and pageid values var random = Math.round(Math.random() * 100000000); if (!pageNum) var pageNum = Math.round(Math.random() * 100000000); document.write('’); document.write('’); […]

i agree completely

Why do these people keep coming back with these laws when they are obviously unconstitutional and extremely vague?

here's what happens:

step 1: mass media, with help from a certain lawyer, makes ignorant masses paranoid video-game haters

step 2: politicians who want votes see this new mass paranoia as a way to get votes

step 3: politicians, partially for votes and partially from their own ignorance, make anti-game laws

step 4: law is unconstitutional and fails to pass, which makes ignorant masses think video game companies are controlling the government and preventing such laws from being passed. paranoia ensues.

Repeat steps 1-5 until hair takes on a smooth glossy tone


every generation has a sub-culture that is used as a scapegoat for all the world's problems.

tomorrows rationale for anti-game laws: games cause global warming

also, on the bottom of the bill's PDF file, it says "This Document Has Been Printed On 100% Recycled Paper."

i have just printed it on NON-RECYCLED PAPER

what do you plan to do about THAT, Senate and House of Representatives in General Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts?

"But it’s absolutely a battle that the mayor feels he should take on."


Yeah, but then again, so are Lite-Brite advertisements for Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

[...] Link. Link [...]

Well the video game is at least getting rich off of lawsuits over these failed anti-game laws.

[...] Link gaming news, playstation3, nintendo wii, xbox 360, video games,Nintendo News Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

Anything Jack Thompson takes part in is doomed to fail.

I bet you if the courts, when striking down these laws as unconstitutional, instead of sticking the taxpayers with the legal fees required to challenge the laws, stuck the idiot legislators themselves personally with those legal fees, you wouldn't see not one of these bills being introduced. But if isn't their own money that's being wasted, what should they care, right? Tells you how much the average politician cares about the people they represent.

And that the taxpayers of post-Katrina Louisiana (who have yet to return themselves to any semblance of life pre-Katrina) would have pay those legal fees still makes my blood boil just to think of it.

To paraphrase my boy, Kayne West, "Jack Thompson don't care about black people."

Well to me I don't care if they legislate the mature video games because it's the only way to end this "violent games make our kids killers" issue...which I don't think so but if it's going to shut them up from saying those senseless things so be it, and it will keep those annoying kids,like in CoD4 or Halo, to limit the noise in future mature games in multiplayer......

Just another unconstitutional law that if passed, will fail in the court system with more taxpayer's money wasted.

Not quite sure is going on.

I’d support the law that would prohibit kids under 15-16 from buying M-Rated games on their own. I’m not saying that all kids under 17 can’t handel it. I’m just saying I know ALOT of lil prick-jobs who don’t have the intelligence to pass basic english, and if thats a uphill battle then I’d be a little concerned if they started playing manhunt…

The thing is this is already in effect in most places, you have to have parental permission from a phone call or in person if your 15 and want to buy a M-Rated game, its the same as movies, and although its not the best, it works well enough.

k.

Appeals court in the Minnesota case just issued a ruling that says the state cannot regulate violent video games:

http://www.startribune.com/local/16749351.html

"The thing is this is already in effect in most places, you have to have parental permission from a phone call or in person if your 15 and want to buy a M-Rated game, its the same as movies"

The difference is, that it's all voluntary. Movies fought their battle in the 70's, and won the right to police themselves (with the exception of pornography, but that's a hot-potato issue, nobody wants to try to overturn Miller...), same with comics and music. Politicians pick on games a) because it's new, and so they can exploit the generational gap, and b) because there's no higher court rulings on games specifically to slap them around with, so they figure they can get away with it for now.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

[...] Legislators in Massachusetts will hold a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would treat violent games like smut. That is, it would be a crime to sell them to a minor. Jack Thompson originally advised the state on the bill in 2007. It is similar to Thompson’s Louisiana bill that was declared unconstitutional in 2006. So why is Mass wasting time with it?read more | digg story Share: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

I only wish this was being held on Friday. I'm spening that weekend in Boston and would have attended it; but I'm sure the government would rather take the day off for a rather sad excuse for a holiday anyways.

maybe they should just post this on all video games in Mass: http://www.craphound.com/images/notabombsticker.jpg
 
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