Miami-Dade Transit Officials Explain GTA IV Ad Ban Decision (sort of...)

May 6, 2008 -
It took a few days, but GamePolitics has tracked down some background on the process which led Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) officials to pull ads for Grand Theft Auto IV.

As we reported late last month, the South Florida transit agency yanked GTA IV ads from bus shelters following pressure by anti-game attorney Jack Thompson.

While following up on this story GP communicated with MDT Deputy Director Hugh Chen and Marketing Director Michael DeCossio. It was media relations official Manuel Palmiero, however, who ultimately supplied the information below. What follows are GP's question, MDT's verbatim answers and a few bits of commentary:

GP: The GTA IV ads themselves are inoffensive. Is Miami-Dade Transit making a value judgment as to the underlying product? If so, this judgment is based on…?

MDT: The Miami-Dade County Commission has adopted three resolutions in the last five years dealing with violent video games -- R-1447-03, R-248-04 and R-573-06. You may look up all three at www.miamidade.gov/govaction/searchleg.asp?Action=searchleg.

The first resolution specifically condemned the “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” video game for its “hate-filled messages" and for appearing “to encourage or condone violence against ethnic minorities” and called on retailers to remove the game from their shelves. The other two condemned violent video games in general and urged retailers not to make such games available to minors. 

Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such follows the policies set by the Miami-Dade County Commission and Mayor.

(GP comment: This seems a rather bureaucratic justification. None of the three resolutions address public transit. Nor do they direct county agencies to take a hands-off posture with regard to video games. Nor does MDT answer the question as to whether they made a value judgment concerning GTA IV, although it seems obvious that they did.)

GP: Which official made the final decision to remove the ads?
 
MDT: After receiving and evaluating the request for removal of the ads, MDT staff made the recommendation to remove them.  [Ad company] Cemusa was instructed to remove the ads last Friday, April 25.

(GP: we received this info from MDT on Friday, May 2nd)
 
GP: Is MDT familiar with Change the Climate vs MBTA, in which the US First Circuit Court ruled that a quasi-governmental transit agency could not restrict ads based on viewpoint?
 
MDT: Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such is a unit of County government, not a quasi-governmental transit agency.

(GP comment: This answer is puzzling. The First Circuit Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a quasi-governmental agency to restrict free speech. Since MDT is organized as a full-fledged unit of government, it has at least as much - and probably more - of an obligation not to restrict free speech. Nor does the answer acknowledge the Change the Climate case.)

GP: Is MDT aware of [complainant] Mr. [Jack] Thompson’s longstanding contentious history with the publisher of this game [Take Two Interactive], including his involvement on the plaintiff side in a pair of wrongful death lawsuits seeking $1.2 billion?
 
MDT: We were not aware of this information but it is not relevant to the matter at hand and would not have affected our decision to remove the ads.
 
GP: Other than Thompson’s, were any other complaints received about the ads?
 
MDT: We are not aware of any others to date.

GP:  Would you characterize MDT as a unit of government, as opposed to quasi-governmental? (I note the .gov website address)
 
MDT: As stated above, MDT is a department of Miami-Dade County government and therefore is a unit of government, not a quasi-governmental agency.

GP: What other types of ads are restricted? Alcohol? R-rated movies? How about a cable show along the lines of The Sopranos or Sex in the City? 

MDT: MDT's contract with CEMUSA lists several types of ads that are restricted, including:

-Advertising that contains traffic-related symbols or words like "Stop," Drive In" or "Danger" that are designed to distract vehicular traffic

-Ads containing immoral, lascivious or obscene material as well as ads promoting businesses engaged in any activity that requires that exclusion of minors

-Ads for alcoholic beverages
 
In addition, the contract states that MDT may "at its sole, absolute discretion" disallow any questionable ads, such as those that may violate community standards as we understand them based on our knowledge of the community and the feedback generated by certain types of ads in the past.

(GP comment: Now that Take Two has sued the Chicago Transit Authority over that agency's removal of GTA IV ads, a similar suit against MDT seems highly likely...)

Comments

Oh and GP, as always, thank you for doing what you do and getting this information.

Allowing JT to get away with this would be setting up a precedent for when other games are released and advertised.

Gamepolitics: Where rational gamers and fundamentalist terrorists collide.

Im a little suprised they even tried putting up the ads in miami, did they forget jack lives there?

@Iliad

I'm sure they remembered, but like the rest of the world they probably didn't care. For example he lives in America but I don't consider him to actually be an American citizen.

I guess all we can hope for is another lawsuit, maybe one that'll tie Thompson in and make him look like even more of a jackass.

I realize this is slightly off-topic, but since i don't have the game, i want to clarify.

Does that supposed incident that JT alleged to be in the game (ie, killing a video game-hating lawyer, therefore it MUST be him /sarcasm) actually exist? Or did he just make that one up too because there was a lawyer character in a trailer?

@DavCube

There is a lawyer you have to kill. And he is described as being a "crusader" but it's actually against real crimes. Also, his assistant tells you that anyone caught against him better get out of the way.

Therefore, it can't be him, because, I mean, he's never won a case.

Also, the lawyer in game teaches children to swim, and no parent is going to let their children near JT.

@ Wessels

Ah, as i thought.

Jack's back. I thought it smelled like shit around here.

Oh hey, Thompson was here?

Hehe, I guess he should be around more and more. I mean, what else is he gonna do after he gets unemployed?

@Jack Thompson, Attorney

Just to be fair, have you asked the Miami-Dade Transit Authority to pull ads other than GTAIV before? Ads that also would be questionable to children or morals? Documented proof is optional. I'm just wondering if your latest stunt was motivated by your "unilateral hate" of GTA/Rockstar/Take-Two, or if it is part of your [religious] crusade against crude media.

@ Delta

Jack Thompson is not doing this for a religious crusade, he is doing this because he is a thrill seeking trouble maker.

@Condemned 2 fan

Seriously. If he was interested in helping people, or 'good Christian Fellowship' he'd be helping set up relief aid for Myanmar rather than threatening TT and R* over things he knows aren't going to change.

@Condemned 2 fan

He wants the media attention. Otherwise he wouldn't spam everyone at all hours of the day about everything he does. But I for one would like to listen to him explain what he is doing, without his typical cliche references to past trials, current civil suits, appearances on X show. I want to listen to him debate this topic like a civil human being and point-counter-point with reputable people and sources.

I know. A fairy tale. We all can wish, right?

Jack will still be listed as an attorney when he appears on FOX news.

@ GRIZZAM 512

Do you know what the penalty is for claiming you're an attorney when you're actually a disbarred attorney?

If anyone has the answer to this it would be an interesting factoid to have. You KNOW he's going to keep calling himself an attorney even when he's disbarred.

I bet you that despite JT's assertions, Take Two will sue all advertisers who pulled their ads based on breach of contract. In this case with Miami-Dade, the MDT had the responsibility to apply one of their rules prior to accepting the contract. In fact, the only way they won't get sued is if arbitrary elimination of paid advertisement is in the contract.

JT's best argument in debates and such is "saying it is so doesn't make it true." I repeat that back, just because JT's assurance to Dennis that the lawsuit won't happen doesn't make it so.

[...] Officials of the Miami Transit Authority have made an official response to GamePolitics regarding the pulling of the transit adverts for GTAIV. Miami Transi Authority talks GTAIV advert Pull with GamePolitics [...]

@ JackDon'tKnowJack: I think we've found your successor for "Too Many Over-Dramatic Posts In One Topic", and it's Shadow Darkman, hands down.
Is anyone else finding this retard annoying?

@ Jack Thompson, Attorney: Welcome back. We missed you!

@GP: Great post. Unfortunately, MDT doesn't scare easily, unless you're a sensationalist, over-zealous old fart thumping a bible in front of the TV cameras.

@Loudspeaker:

Depending on a more complete description of the facts underlying your hypothetical (praticularly the motive for making the false claim) the potential criminal charges could range anywhere from fraud to the unauthorized practice of law. In most states, fraud and UPL are, I believe, both felonies (fraud certainly is a felony) punishable by substantial fines, more than one year of incarceration, or both. The actual penalty would depend on a host of factors (past offenses; damage to the victim, if any; restitution made; etc.; etc.).

@yowzers:

Good. Then maybe now you'll raise up offa my nuts and go bother Shadow Darkman.

@JackDon'tKnowJack

BURN! Oh, and in your defense, I tend to blog a bit excessively myself.

@JDKJ

@yowzers

STFU, both of you. You think I friggin' LIKE the fact that T.O.S. is immature for a 16-year-old? Cripes, he friggin' annoying as hell!

T.O.S.: Hey, I resent that!

Shadow: Get over it, little boy.

T.O.S.: *sniff* WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! [Shadow]'S BEING MEAN TO ME!!! *runs away, crying*

Shadow: *sigh* Hope he drowns in his tears.

@Shadow Darkman:

Go easy, my man. It wasn't I that attacked you and my response to yowzers wasn't intended to validate anything he said about you. I think I'm underserving of your STFU.

T.O.S?

That's "undeserving," not "underserving."

@GRIZZAM 512

Stands for "The Other Shadow" as he likes to pretend he's me.

@Shadow,

Do you see anyone posting nonsense like your own? Your antics are doing nothing but making the signal to noise ratio on these forums worse. Please, for the sake of people who enjoy this forum, behave yourself.

@Shadow Darkman

Well I'm glad there's not another GRIZZAM for me ta' have ta' fuck with.

Geez...its a never ending cycle.

Here's the part I don't at all get:

Isn't it more cost-effective and result-certain to drag Jack's ass back to court for clearly violating the settlement agreement than it is to allow him to disparage T2, its products, and their marketing efforts to a transit authority (in violation of the agreement) with the result that their advertising gets pulled and they then have to drag the transit authority to court? They're suing the effect but not the cause. That kinda backasswardness don't make a lick o' sense to me. Does it to anyone else?

[...] At least sites like Gamepolitics are willing to stand up for the industry and investigate what causes these actions to occur, such as interviewing Miami Dade Transit about why they revoked their GTA 4 ads. [...]

@JackDon'tKnowJack

I think that's one reason he gets so viral, no one has tried to sue him directly and make his mouth pay those checks.

I think the best thing about reading this was to just see what it is like when the person doing the interview is actually informed about the topics being discussed. It is getting to the point when you see interviews on TV or read them in the paper you can see that the reporter has no background information or knowledge pertaining to the subject at hand.

I have to believe that after this interview Mr. Chen ran back to his office and said, "hHey guys, we have to look up some court case called 'Change the Climate vs MBTA' quick! And what does 'uasi-governmental transit agency' mean?"

@kurisu7885:

T2 sued him and forced a settlement -- no doubt owing to Jack's fear that they were going to collect a grip of attorney fees from him -- which prohibits him from doing precisely what he's been doing to them. If T2 want to disregard the value of their settlement and let Jack run around unfettered, talking smack about them, then they deserve anything they get as a result of their choice not to enforce the settlement. I actually hope Jack's complaining to each and every transit authority in the country hosting GTAIV advertising and that they respond favorably to his crazy ass and pull T2's advertising. Maybe that's what'll it take for T2 to finally grow a pair and make some attempt to shut Jack down.

@JackDon'tKnowJack

Or maybe Take Two is letting him do it so he can't "Oh, but you never said I wouldn't do this."

Meant to read "couldnt"

Damn lack of an edit button.

@kurisu7885:

Or maybe he's terrorized them into submission. If so, shame on Strauss.

Do any of you have an idea as to why Take Two has not taken any action on Jack Thompson yet?

I just find it very wierd why they are suing the Chicago transit yet they are not taking any action against Jack Thompson after what he was doing after the agreement.

@ JDKJ & Condemned 2 fan

I believe Take 2 may be waiting for Jack to be disbarred before they go after him. I'm not exactly sure of the rules, but I remember hearing somewhere that it is somehow more difficult to successfully sue an attorney. They have the legal equivalent of diplomatic immunity or some such. I guess they feel his disbarrment is all but assured and they're just going to bide their time and strike when he will no longer have the protection of the legal system and be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the expenses.

@yowzers

I for one found it funny and I find you to be an asshole, that retard comment was uncalled for.

[...] There is no word whether Take Two Interactive will pursue any sort of legal action against Miami-Dade Transit. However, GamePolitics conducted a brief interview with Miami-Dade Transit Deputy Director Hugh Chen and Marketing Director Michael DeCossio concerning the pulling of the ads: [GamePolitics]: The GTA IV ads themselves are inoffensive. Is Miami-Dade Transit making a value judgment as to the underlying product? If so, this judgment is based on…? [...]

@Black Manta

"I guess they feel his disbarrment is all but assured and they’re just going to bide their time and strike when he will no longer have the protection of the legal system and be forced to pay out-of-pocket for the expenses."

Under normal circumstances I'd say that is just cold-blooded. Kicking a man when he's down and such. But hey, you reap what you sow. After all the lying, deceiving, harassment, preying on the families of victims, double standards, unprofessional conduct and behavior and let us not forgot all the poor, innocent fax machines he's maimed and destroyed along the way, he deserves nothing less.

If the game, GTA 4 is not designed and intended for minors, wouldn't it fall under the clause about adverts for products or activities that exclude minors? With that, I'm less likely to criticize the transit authority, but at the same time, I still have that bit of gamer in me that would like to see Rockstar get it's take out of this, especially since they were canceled at the absolute worst time.

There's actually a good argument to be made that by failing to timely enforce the terms of their agreement with Jack and thereby unnecessarily exposing the corporation to lost profits and needless litigation against third-parties, T2's corporate officers are breaching duties owed to the company's shareholders. And for which breach of duty, the shareholders can sue T2. Matter of fact, if I was a T2 shareholder, I'd do just that.

(Note to self: call broker tomorrow re: purchasing one share of T2).

@Freyar:

A regulation that prohibits advertising of products or activities that exclude minors may itself be unconstitutional. Protecting minors from the harmful effects, if any, of adult-orientated advertising is an insufficiently compelling interest to justify the regulation's restrictive effect on free speech. So said at least one court.

Plus, as one poster already noted, the resolutions to which the MDTA's spokesperson pointed GP are just that: resolutions. Unlike ordinances, resolutions don't have any real legal force to them. You can't violate a resolution; only an ordinance can be violated.

I'm sorry to say, but I live in Miami-Dade county, and I was quite shocked to be scrolling down the page here on GP and see the county's name. I'm really not surprised that the Transit Authority removed the ads after Jack Thompson complained about them, nor am I surprised to learn of the previous legislation passed by the County Commission regarding GTA: Vice City... the County Commission is notorious for having their priorities out-of-order. It's just the way things are down here... the local government in general doesn't seem to be living in the same reality as the rest of us.


Playing Devil's advocate though:

"... as well as ads promoting businesses engaged in any activity that requires that exclusion of minors."
-- I suppose you could look at this and infer that since GTA is rated M, and minors aren't supposed to be playing it anyway, that they are being "excluded," and that violates the rule.

@Kira:

To play Jesus' advocate:

An "M" rating signifys a "Mature" rating which, according to the creators of the rating system (the ESRB), means 17-year-olds and older. Technically, because the age of majority in Florida is 18 years, a 17 year-old minor isn't excluded and, therefore, the rule, to the extent it has any force of law to begin with (this is debatable because the "rule" is merely a resolution, not an ordinance), isn't being violated.

@ BrandonL337: Well, I'm not really surprised that someone with "L337" in their name finds Shadow Darkman's unintelligent and attention-whoring comments funny.

@ JackDon'tKnowJack: You have nuts? I've been down here looking all over, and I can't find a thing!

@yowzers:

You've casted your baited hooks my way on at least two occassions before. I didn't bite then and I'm not biting now. But feel free to continue casting 'til you're blue in face. Whatever floats your boat.

@yowzers

Knock this shit off. I personally don't have time for this, so I say now. If you have only negative comments about how I post comments, then please keep them to yourself.

*T.O.S. enters as a waterlogged zombie*

T.O.S.: Uhhhnnn... Uhhhnnn.... Braaaiiinnnsss....

Shadow: Ah, shit. Time to go Resident Evil on him.

*Shadow takes up an AK-47 and chases after T.O.S.*

T.O.S.: AAAAHHHHH I WAS JUST KIDDIIIIIIIING!!!

Shadow: You choose strange reasons to die, boy!

Oh grow up.
 
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