Arizona State Senate Rejects "Dangerous" Media Content Bill

April 8, 2008 -
As GamePolitics detailed yesterday, the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB2660, a measure which would potentially hold media content producers liable for violent acts committed by consumers of books, movies, video games and the like.

According to a report in this morning's Arizona Republic, the measure, which was approved by the Arizona State House in March, was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 4-2 vote. From the newspaper account:
Saying they had too many unanswered questions, members of a state legislative panel on Monday snuffed out a proposal that would make companies financially liable for creating or distributing books, movies and other media that eventually led to a serious crime.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Warde Nichols (R), said that he planned to reintroduce a more concisely-written version of HB2660 in 2009. He told the Arizona Republic:
At the end of the day, companies will have to stand before their customers and shareholders and explain why they are OK with the production and distribution of violent, forced, non-consensual sex acts.

Wendy Briggs (left), a lobbyist representing various entertainment industries - including the video game sector - at the hearing, said:
The First Amendment is not a defense, it's a right. It is a right to have the freedom to speak and to not have that speech chilled in any way because of your fear of the collection of civil penalties.

Sen. Ken Cheuvront (D) explained his vote against the measure:
[Makers of movies depicting rape] are atrocious in what they create. But at the same time this bill is so broad based, we have to be careful about unintended consequences.

The Arizona Daily Star has more on the story...

UPDATE: Click here to watch video of the hearing (approximately two hours long). Click on HB2660 below the video window to jump directly to the hearing on the media content bill.

Comments

"At the end of the day, companies will have to stand before their customers and shareholders and explain why they are OK with the production and distribution of violent, forced, non-consensual sex acts."

Rape in movies IS consensual, they aren't forcing the actors to have sex or depict rape.

Pixels do not need consent since, and this is important, THEY AREN'T REAL!

In fact all of this stuff is OK because IT'S NOT REAL.

Is it just me or do they sound like they're trying to say that games cause rape now?

Sen. Ken Cheuvront (D) explained his vote against the measure:

[Makers of movies depicting rape] are atrocious in what they create. But at the same time this bill is so broad based, we have to be careful about unintended consequences.


Umm so the lifetime movie network would be screwed.

So, if this were passed, what would they do about award winning movies?

The more we try to shelter ourselves from the evils of the real world, the more evil the world gets. What ever happened to open discussions about these subjects rather than our increasingly "hear no evil, see no evil" attitude? Movies, music, and games that contain controversial subjects open up the floor for discussion. Destroying art depicting the evils of the real world isn't going to destroy the evils themselves.

“[Makers of movies depicting rape] are atrocious in what they create. But at the same time this bill is so broad based, we have to be careful about unintended consequences.”

I hope he meant to say glorifying rape. That would make a bit more sense. Otherwise 'A Streetcar Named Desire', my personal favorite play about bowling and rape, would be pwnt.

Though, my favorite movie about armwrestling and truckdriving may be safe.

@ busydoingnothing

You know, death used to be a normal part of growing up. Killing animals for food was standard, and funerals took place in the parlor. (now it's called the living room... take THAT dead guys!) I wonder how much the lack of it's presence has affected the world.

55 comments and not a single 'OBJECTION!'? Unless you guys save those for the 'He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named" stories. :P

But yeah, doesn't look like we had any reason to worry anyway... and besides, do you really think they'd dare blame The Bible on anything?

@ Kris

The market should be allowed to regulate itself. Companies won't produce 'whatever they want' but instead 'whatever they want, which they also believe we want, assuming there is a beneficial cost:effect projection.'

"It’s a liability bill, not a “forbidden from production” law."

That's a pretty way to say forbidden. Game companies have a responsibility to their shareholders. They also understand the desire of some people to 'sue anyone for anything, always'.

Do you honestly think that there will even be a discussion as to the viability of an FPS if this is passed? If they tried to 'forbid' game makers from producing basically anything.. it would be a simpler case against the idea, more obvious than this.

They were clever to use liability in order to have the imminent forbidding on an economic level.

Who ginned up the rape-game angle, and WHY IN HELL ISN'T THE ESA SCREAMING BLOODY FUCKING MURDER ABOUT IT!? There is no rape in games. Name one. And seriously, the counter to that false argument is TWO FUCKING WORDS - Name One.

Dear lord, I am getting to the point where I hope these bills pass - the game industry deserves it if they just stand around playing 'Switch' when such defamatory lies get spread around. I'm tired of fighting their battles. If someone told me I made a product that includes interactive rape scenes and them marketed it to children (and no such thing exists), you'd be damn sure they'd get a call from a lawyer, State Senator or no.

(Switch is a game where you put a thumb in your mouth and the other in your bum - then switch every 5 minutes - typically 'played' while waiting for people to Raid with in WOW who are late. It is [disparagingly] considered a better game for 24 people to do than sitting around waiting for 1, but it seems the ESA likes to play it, too, instead of defending their interests.)

*NOTE* Not referring to the ECA. I know people still get them confused.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

... although the 4-2 thing is disconcerting, to be sure. :(

'Glorifying rape'... brings to mind those poor women that are forced to decide whether they have an unknown person's child or not... Much like the 'Virgin Mary'. There's no more glorified rape in ~supposed~ history.

That's enough malcontent from myself though. I suggest we form independent groups of government in-house tutors about games and modern media. G.I.T.A.G.M.M. anyone?

Why is no one paid to explain what exactly happens in ~real~ computer games and media to these people? Half of them barely have any concept of what happens in modern movies, let alone computer games. Also, how many classical works (aside from le Bible) would be censored/banned etc if rape in general was moved from media accessible to the general public?

Forget gamers, score one for human beings.

They're going to rewrite it, adding "...except for the Bible."

Re: previous post.
Before a flame war starts, I'm not bagging on christianity. Any nutjob can find a trigger in any book, movie, or peanut. The Bible has been used as an excuse by sickos to justify what they did, and therefore the distributors of the Bible would be liable under this law. If the AZ gov pulled his head out of his rear, he would understand where his legislation was leading.

Gee Wilikers, didn't see that coming!
[/sarcasm]

Ya know, I actually just went ahead and read the actual text of the proposed law. It is not NEARLY as dangerous as I thought.

The law states that the material MUST first be "obscene" before the law can even apply. It defines obscenity in almost the exact language of the prevailing Supreme Court test from Miller vs. California:

"Obscene" means material that:

(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.

(b) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by state law.

(c) Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

So this law actually set up a pretty high standard to pass before this law could be applicable.

Of course, if the material was deemed obscene the issue really should end there. Obscenity is not protected speech.

T_T

Ok so I was discussing this briefly with one of my cube mates here at work...and she was for the bill! She basicly said that the media is desensitizing america...and when I mentioned my point of view (every gamers view) that its not the media, its the people and dont hold the media responsible, blame the parents and indivisual who did it, she blocked it out like it was nothing.

Its sad when people are so close minded that they no longer want to view the problem as a whole, but only what makes them feel right. And last i checked this was a FREE COUNTRY! Well for the time being, and all this censoring of video games (and apperently thats not enough they want all media) is very VERY much so NOT free. Now my history is a bit sketchy but if I remember correctly...wasnt that one of the things the pioneers of America LEFT thier country for? You kno wthe whole not being able to speak your mind? Granted it was against the government that was prosicuting them, but First they Censor and tread on the 1st Amendment, then that lays the ground for limiting all other forms of speech and rights. This effin morons piss me off, If you dont like what is in the Media, crack down on the Parents, cuz ultimately, it is They who have the Final say so, and chances are, even if they DO by some chance pass a limit on games to be sold...the parents still will buy them for thier kids. They dont care now, why would they care then, most of the times its the parents who buy the games anyway. Last i checked most kids cant afford $65 video games and $400+ systems...where could they get the money from? The parents? no..it was...GTA GAVE IT TO THEM! ZOMG BAN BAN HOT COFFEE BAN CENSOR SUE!!!

JACK THOMPSON IS ON THE CASE!

@nightstalker160

To admit this bill is to throw away scientific evidence and legally claim that videogames and other media turn kids into violent killers and sexual predators. It's part of that whole "slippery slope".

There have been several cases of teens commiting suicide and parents claiming it was the result of bands like Judas Priest and Marylin Manson. The courts wisley found that the kids were troubled anyway and that music wasn't the cause. Those rulings will be irrelevant now.

Sure, a prosecutor will have to prove cause, but this law would open the door to frivolous lawsuits. They will become more of a nuisance than they were before, costing the defendants millions in defense. Arizona will be filled with Jack Thompsons, and no one will print anything that "might" be construed as obscene.

@nightstalker:

I read the bill too, and it doesn't make it any less dangerous. Who decides what is "obscene?" Who is the "average person?" The "average person" would probably find almost every game out there to be "obscene." Lesbians in Mass Effect, prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto, naked chicks and three-somes in God of War, surly drunks in Bard's Tale, stereotypes in Bully, plenty of blood shed in any war game, pinata cannibals in Viva Pinata (ok, that one's rather silly, but even so....). They've also been arguing the literary and artistic values of games for years. But just who decides that?

Nothing against Christianty either (Im one myself), but like Vinzent said people can attach anything to any form of literature or media, but what about all the people who commit crimes cuz "god told them too" when they were just plain effin insane? The Bible is the most widly published and known literature in print so naturally since it is so readily available many people will read it and when the wrong people do they will intrepret some things to suit thier needs. This law would make it so that the publishers would pay for the crimes of some lunatic. GG Lets find a way of blaming someone else and hold them accountable cuz..."it wasnt me." Sad state of affairs.

I never said the bill wasn't dangerous. All I said was that the bill was significantly less dangerous than I first thought.

This might come from the fact that I'm a law student and just have more knowledge about how the court has applied the obscenity test.

It is VERY difficult to have something declared "legally obscene"

The crux is the third prong, the lack of serious value.

The courts have employed that prong much more strictly than its language suggests. A document, taken as a whole, must be almost completely devoid of value beyond merely appealing to sex

For example: The Mass Effect "sex" scene might ON ITS OWN be considered "obscene" but the entire game itself would not be declared obscene because of "artistic" value and the fact that the game, as a whole, does not "appeal to the puriant interest in sex" (i.e. the average person is not playing the game purely to see the sex scene and nothing else)

The court has also held that you cannot separate such a scene from the work as a whole when evaluating obscenity.

Basically, the way the obscenity doctrine has been employed means that you have to show that the "game" "movie" "book" or whatever serves NO PURPOSE WHATSOEVER except to show sex.

It's an extremely difficult case to make, extremely difficult. There's a reason movies like "Showgirls" aren't covered by obscenity (NC-17 rating or not), its because even THAT movie has "artistic" value.

@ Kris specifically:

Sure those ELEMENTS of a game might be obscene, but the way the doctrine works, they do not make the game as a whole obscene. And the courts have held that you cannot ban an entire work because one part is obscene. You have to show that the work in its entirety exists for no other purpose than the obscene element. You are not allowed to ban based on a single, or even multiple, elements.

For clarity, I think this law is stupid, the law itself might have actually been upheld. But it would be utterly without force.

Almost nothing would be covered by it, the Courts simply have not ever extended the obscenity doctrine that far.

I'd wager money that the guy proposing it KNEW this. He knew it wouldn't be enforceable, BUT he would be able to show, at election time, how he passed this law that was going to "protect the little ones."

Most people wouldn't bother to check that the law was unenforceable against anything except games like "Custer's Revenge" all they would see is this law that was supposedly keeping the REALLY bad stuff away from their kids. They would just assume it was being used to keep those evil game companies (and other media companies) in check.

In practice, in reality, its almost completely unusable as an actual regulation. But it makes a GREAT talking point and stamp on this guys "Family Values" membership card.

Wow if that did pass, can anyone say "Get out of jail free card"

@ ~the1jeffy

Custer's Revenge

Not that I disagree with you, it's the only game in my lifetime that I'm aware of with simulated rape and it's not really that realistic. I just wanted to be a smartass.

Yes...but you still do not collect $200 if you pass go -_-

@nightstalker160:

"Of course, if the material was deemed obscene the issue really should end there. Obscenity is not protected speech."

And thus why people are so eager to classify videogames as such. (Best thing I've read in this thread, btw.)

@ nighstalker160

Well put sir. This whole obscenity talk reminds me of the Dead Kennedys "Frankenchrist" trial.

I wonder, would this law have made bible publishers responsible for people killing in the name of god?

...And would it mean I can sue the people who made superman 64?

[quote]Who ginned up the rape-game angle, and WHY IN HELL ISN’T THE ESA SCREAMING BLOODY FUCKING MURDER ABOUT IT!? There is no rape in games. Name one. And seriously, the counter to that false argument is TWO FUCKING WORDS - Name One.[/quote]

Battle Raper.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Raper

RapeLay

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RapeLay

Biko 2:Reversible Face

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biko_2:_Reversible_Face

I could go on.

Most such games are Japanese exclusives.

The bill requires that the bill be "dangerous" or "obscene" the problem here is not "obscene", but "dangerous".

It has long been held that speech which presents a clear and present danger can be punished or restrained. However, this has always been construed very narrowly and tends to apply only to disinformation calculated to cause mass panic (yelling "fire" in a crowded theater) and political speech advocating violent action against the government or third parties. In times of war, it also includes political speech which advocates draft-dodging.

The bill that was written is obviously not intended to address those types of speech which are traditionally considered to present a clear and present danger. There already exist a myriad of criminal laws and civil torts which are more than adequate to punish those sorts of speech. Another tort would have been totally unnecessary. Rather, it is obviously calculated to provide an avenue to successfully sue makers of entertainment which depict and, in the opinion of the bill's sponsors, glorify various forms of violence. It is squarely and obviously an anti-Doom, anti-GTA ,and (probably) anti-Special Force bill that would have been used to punish game publishers and motion picture studios in the wake of the next inevitable tragedy had it passed.

Victory!

Once again I feel the need to suggest that attempting to pass obviously unconstitutional laws should be an impeachable offense.

This is a very good thing. Yes, people that make rape movies etc are horrible, but leave it up to the PEOPLE whether or not that company gets business-- this is supposed to be a democracy, not a "let's go crying to the legislature to ban things we don't like"-cracy.

Where are our talking heads?

When are we going to get serious about defending ourselves?

When are we going to learn that the majority of the population doesn't educate itself on a topic before making a decission?

When will start taking offense to these suggestions that we create porn and intentionaly teach children to be violent?


When will we go on the offensive?



JBentley
Game Designer

People need to stop with Custers Revenge. In the game you save the tied up woman, and have consensual sex with her.

The developers openly said it was consensual, and not rape.

@~the1jeffy

There is custard's revenge but that game is over 20 years old and is for an old system that is rare, (the atari 2600 specifically), the game itself is even rarer.

So really it's either Name two, or name one made within the past 15 years.

Another dodged bullet.

ok, it would appear to me that nobody read the original article (the one from yesterday's post) this bill, while i agree with everyone that it's far to broad and overreaching, was not written with video games in mind

the bill was written with things like online rape video's in mind, but they extended it to all forms of media so that they were not singling out a single form of media (something we always complain about them doing), i fully feel that the bill was written with the best of intentions in mind, which was to help rape victims. however the language used is much to broad based and basically any form of media could really be viewed as "Dangerous"

but please people stop complaining that these people are talking about rape in video games, they are not, they are talking about rape in media (which does happen)

The only rape in media would be that in a 'snuff' film. Otherwise it is not real. 'rape' scenes in porno are not believable in any way. They are not meant to be real, it is entertainment. I am not saying I enjoy it, but it isn't hurting anyone.

Murder is terrible, but many movies involve plots with murder. The key is to separate fact and fiction.

There was certainly a lot of confusion over the bill. The wording relies on the previously established court definition of obscene.

The spirit of the bill as presented is admirable. The drafting seems poor.

My State Senator loves him some Tom Clancy, though.
Very concerned about Clancy's financial well-being.

It seems a pretty ballsie move to try and include books and movies in this bill. These have been protected by First Amendment so long that even if this bill passed it would be shot down the first time it came to play in court. Just glancing at my book and movie collection I can see maybe two dozen media items that contain one or more of the following themes in them: guns, violence, child abuse, war, infancide, murder, not-exactly-consentual-sex, magic used with violent intent, abuse of power, racism, and more.

The fact of the matter is that violence in some form is a common catelyst in storytelling. It's not even a modern part of stories. Greek, Norse, and just about any of the old mythologies involve violence of some kind. Seriously, how many of Aesop's Fables involve something being beaten, killed, enslaved, or other violent act? Hint: about half, and several more imply violent acts.

Politicians have to learn that no about of legilation will change human nature.

"[Makers of movies depicting rape] are atrocious in what they create."

Well there goes every Lifetime made for TV movie.

After reading the article in The Republic, it looks as if the bill was actually intended to target rape, which is what the amendment narrowed it down to and is probably why 2 people in the judiciary committee voted on it. Though I have to wonder why Nichols and the Never Again Foundation took such a vague and shotgun approach on their initial draft in the first place if they only meant to target rape all along?

So in the end, Nichols may reintroduce the bill, but if it's going to be more narrowly tailored like he says, chances are it will only specifically mention rape. I wouldn't worry too much about it then.

I decided to watch the entire video, this was the longest part. That is sad considering some of the other issues put forth throughout it.

How hard is it to say, "Unconstitutional, move on."? I know, they gotta talk it out, explain it, decide, ect. But still, how many of these bills are going to be put forth before they start getting sick of it?

[Makers of movies depicting rape] are atrocious in what they create.

I saw a movie depicting rape during high school. This was during Law class and I forgot the title but the point is basic law education would've been targeted by this bill as well

岩「…I can see why Hasselbeck's worried about fake guns killing fake people. afterall, she's a fake journalist on a fake news channel」

@hyzmarca

I just read the Wikipedia entry for Rapelay, and it's funny that the player's character is the son of a politician

岩「…I can see why Hasselbeck's worried about fake guns killing fake people. afterall, she's a fake journalist on a fake news channel」

@ Kincyr

The kind of crap that is found only in Japan. It's really amazing how perverted they can be sometimes.


I can also think of one other example of that rather heinous act in video games; when the pyramid head ravages the androngenous creature in Silent Hill 2. Of course this was done by a demon thing that's also trying to kill you, but we all know that little details like the facts won't stop this people from using it as an example.

@ GodKarma

Ya know I always wondered why "Lifetime: Televistion for Woman" Has an awful lot of rape and murders of woman.

@GryphonOsiris

People being let out of jail due to corrupt politicians is not really exclusive to Japan (look at Mike Huckabee), and I can think of quite a few sick American fetishes as well. For the sake of taste and staying on topic I will not post them.
I do agree with you on the Silent Hill 2 example: politicians will go to great lengths to ignore the facts, such as, in the case of Silent Hill 2, Pyramid Head being symbolic.

岩「…I can see why Hasselbeck's worried about fake guns killing fake people. afterall, she's a fake journalist on a fake news channel」

@hyzmarca:

So, remind me; which one of those were officially released in america and rated by the ESRB?

Yeah. So the arguments about those games hold even less water than Custer's Revenge (again, good luck finding it, let alone a 2600 to play it on... Where are you going to hook it up to your HDTV, anyway?)

@DarkTetsuya

if you mean Battle Raper, Rapelay, and Biko 2, they're all made by Illusion Soft, whose policy is for it's games not to be sold outside Japan. Therefore, they're not officially available in America and thus not rated by the ESRB.

If what America's politicians say actually held any water, then Japan's crime rate would be the definition of the word "Irony" (ex: despite the porn and violence in the media, a woman is only 20% as likely to be attacked in Japan than in the States)

岩「…I can see why Hasselbeck's worried about fake guns killing fake people. afterall, she's a fake journalist on a fake news channel」

 
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