Source: Game Biz in for a Fight Over Jack Thompson’s Utah Legislation

Despite a decade-long string of legal victories against video game legislation, the game industry appears headed for a fierce political battle in Utah.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this week, State Rep. Mike Morley (R) will soon introduce a new bill written by longtime game biz nemesis Jack Thompson. Having apparently abandoned past efforts to have violent games declared harmful to minors (an approach that he swore was constitutional), Thompson’s new legislative angle would put retailers at risk of false advertising charges if they sell mature-themed games or films to minors.

While there is a tendency in the game community to automatically dismiss any legal theory proposed by the permanently disbarred Thompson, the reality is that Utah could prove to be a battleground state for the video game industry. A lobbyist who is familiar with media content issues explained to GP that Utah’s ultra-conservative political landscape offers Thompson a window of opportunity:

This year the industry may face a tougher fight in Utah even with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s help. The reason is that the conservative wing of the [Utah] Republican Party deposed the moderate Republican Senate President, John Valentine, and replaced him with the conservative Senate President Michael Waddoups. 


[For example,] one of Waddoups most recent victories was defeating the Governor’s effort to modernize Utah’s antiquated liquor laws. Waddoups defeated the bill because he opposed "kids being able to see adults pour drinks."  Well, if he thinks seeing a drink poured in a restaurant is going to corrupt a kid, what will he think about your average video game?


Moreover, [Jack Thompson’s] new approach targeting false advertising could encourage and energize legislators to try yet again to pass a law that would survive judicial review.  

In reality, [Thompson’s proposal] is unlikely to withstand judicial review, as it would chill protected speech. However, legislators may be willing to roll the dice one more time. It is not their money.


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  1. hayabusa75 says:

    It could be worse.  You could be living in Australia.  Or China.  Or maybe Thailand?

    "There is no sin except stupidity." – Oscar Wilde

  2. Benji says:

    Unwritten policies don’t give anyone a legal leg to stand on in objecting to them – so long as stores do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, etc. they are generally free to deny service to whoever they want.

    For that matter, if this was law then retailers could revoke their store policies but store clerks may continue to card minors wanting M-rated games, if they personally feel it’s a good thing to do.  The retailers may not forbid this to avoid the bad press associated with selling violent games to kids.  The ESA and ECA can appeal to stores to allow this – they’re allowed to since they’re not related to the retailers at all and their requests aren’t store policy.  And JT gets his bill.  Basically everyone’s happy.

  3. nightwng2000 says:

    Here’s an interesting thought:

    Since this supposedly is about requiring retailers to follow through with their own policies, then, UnRated materials could actually become more popular for minors. 

    For example, Wal-Mart, at least some, have a policy regarding the sales of some magazines (such as Cosmopolitan)  to minors.  Most often, these policies are unwritten.  Even the sales of UnRated movies are not written policy.

    But, should such a bill become accepted law, then consumers can say "in some of your stores, you have a policy that certain unrated material cannot be sold to children.  Therefore, I find this other unrated material should fall under that policy and you must deny children the opportunity to purchase it."

    In addition, other products actually have age ranges for "appropriateness" on them.  Toys for example.  Perhaps someone should look into demanding that children shouldn’t be allowed to purchase toy guns, toy swords, or other items that a Parent may consider inappropriate for someone else’s child. 

    The argument that this isn’t about "harm to children" is the real phony issue because that is, in fact, the foundation that this bill is written on.  On the personal, religious, and/or political beliefs that individuals, organizations, and government entities should be allowed to dictate those personal, religious, and/or political beliefs to others who don’t follow those beliefs.

    It’s called circumventing.  Or, more appropriately, subverting the US Constitution for one’s personal, religious, and/or political motivations.

    The fact is, this bill is going to open some doors those supporters of the bill are not going to like.  And I hope it comes back to bite them in the arse.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  4. GoodRobotUs says:

    Sounds about the way I expected it, there are some influencial Censorship groups pushing the Bill hard enough to get it made into Law, but the moment it comes up against the laws of the rest of the country it’s highly unlikely to survive.

    Personally, I don’t see it heralding yet another round of attempts at legislation because of the simple fact that many states are not really in a financial position to lose the challenges any more, California is already suffering from increased dissatisfaction with wasteful Government spending, and that is far more likely to spread than diminish.

  5. drees31 says:

    Unfortuntally there is more truth to that than there should be.  Right now the bill does not have a number so it cant be debated yet.  I still have some hope that they will not have time to address it this year

  6. GM ace says:

    "However, legislators may be willing to roll the dice one more time. It is not their money."

    Well, that just sums it up, doesn’t it? Selfish buggers, especially with the economy being the way it is.

  7. drees31 says:

    "The reason is that the conservative wing of the [Utah] Republican Party deposed the moderate Republican Senate President, John Valentine, and replaced him with the conservative Senate President Michael Waddoups. "

    John Valentine is hardly a Moderate he is on par with Waddoups if not further to the right he was beaten by Waddoups for other reasons not political ideology"
    Being from Utah my real hope is the budget issues will take enough time that this bill will not gain any traction in the legislature.  But I will be writing my legislator, the last thing our state needs is another legal bill for fighting for a law that is unconstitutional
  8. Arell says:

    This could have the reverse effect than what they desire.  Ignoring the fact that a store simply has to NOT ADVERTIZE their sales policy to avoid this bill, they could just drop their "no selling to minors" policy altogether.  Since it’s unconstitutional (proven several times now) to ban the sales of these games to children, the legislators couldn’t do anything if a store chose to just drop their policy and sell to kids.

  9. mogbert says:

    OOOOoooo… I hadn’t figured that before. You are right, if this is only a "false advertising" bill, the way he said it was, all they have to do is remove the restriction of selling M rated games to minors and they can’t be fined, because they never promised not to.

    I love the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  10. sortableturnip says:

    How about the game companies just stop selling M-rated games to Utah…and R-rated movies….and mature books…and the Bible….

  11. Benji says:

    So they aren’t saying the law is likely to stand – just that it’s likely to reach enough sympathetic ears in Utah that it’ll be passed but probably won’t survive judicial review.

    As was mentioned before, the unintended consequences of this are hilarious.  The law sounds like it’s to the effect of, ‘If a store has a policy of IDing for M-rated games, it’s illegal to fail to ID for M-rated games.’  And if that’s the case, and the law is passed and survives judicial review (which isn’t 100% out of the question) then stores will simply no longer have official policies against selling M-rated games to minors so that they aren’t criminally or civilly liable for huge penalties because a store clerk forgets to check a 16-year old’s ID before selling them a copy of Halo.  The law will probably only increase the likelihood of minors getting M-rated games by providing a strong disincentive to having an ID policy.

  12. SeanB says:

    Most important line in the article.

    "However, legislators may be willing to roll the dice one more time. It is not their money."

    Law should be passed that will make it thier money.

  13. TBoneTony says:

    Come on Videogame Industry, expose JT in the court for all the fruad that he has done not only to the American people but most importantly the fruad that he has done to the parents of America.

    Also this year is the 10th year since Collumbine, wouldn’t it be a fitting end for Jack Thompson to have this bill be strike down 10 years after he declared war on Videogames?

  14. TBoneTony says:

    Sad thing is, these people will try to pass bills and constitutions by this nut until the day he dies or the legislators get voted out of office.

    Another battle for the Videogame Industry in America if they are going to achive real freedom in this so called "Land of the Free".

    When you have to fear the legislation of the politicians and store owners afraid to say yes to an AO rating, then you have to think that America is not as free as other people think.


    I had the same feeling for my country Australia when I was younger thinking and believing that I was living in the lucky country, but when everything I like as an adult is kept out of my hands in the commercial market and I have to resort to getting what I want from then I don’t really think I live in a free country at all.

  15. Bigman-K says:

    I agree. Politicans should be held accountable for their unconstitutional laws. Perticularily if the type of laws they are passing have been ruled unconstitution time and time again. If their bill fails, they should be forced to pay for it through their own pockets. Here’s looking at you Leland Yee.

     "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  16. sqlrob says:

    However, legislators may be willing to roll the dice one more time. It is not their money.

    See here’s the problem. Legislators need to be responsible if something is unconstitutional. One can’t be a problem, people make mistakes. But when it’s obvious and you get the legislators saying "we know it’s unconstitutional, but we’re going to pass it anyway", they need to be banned from politics at a minimum


  17. Freyar says:

    I’ve already asked for my share of state tax dollars to be taken out of this bill and put directly into education. They didn’t answer of course, but hopefully the message comes across.
    There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  18. hayabusa75 says:

    The conservative makeup of Utah’s legislature isn’t totally unique, and neither is the idea of an unconstitutional bill being written into law by willfully ignorant politicians (see Sandy Pappas).  The title of the article suggests that Thompson’s bill should be taken seriously and that the game industry will have difficulty striking it down in court, when in actuality the lobbyist believes the bill has little chance of getting past a judge.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what the politicians do, it only matters what the judges do, and there is nothing in the referenced quotes that imply that Jack’s bill will do any better than all the other ones that flopped.

    "There is no sin except stupidity." – Oscar Wilde

  19. Bigman-K says:

    Minors have First Amendment rights and rightfully so. The government has no business restricting, censoring or regulating the flow of ideas, information, messages, viewpoints and opinions presented in media to either minors or adults. Allowing the state to do this is dangerous and nothing more then an indirect form of thought and mind control.

    As for appropriateness or suitability of certain media when it comes to children, that is the sole decision and responsibility of the individual parents, not the nanny-state, to decide and enforce themselves. 

     "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  20. Beacon80 says:

    The way I see it, this skirts around the problem of legislating based on a 3rd party’s (the ESRB) system by focusing on the promises of the retailer.  If the retailer says "we won’t sell M rated games to minors", then they can be held accountable.  I don’t know if this is constitutional or not, but like with so many things, I think Thompson and the politicians are looking at the best possible outcome as the only outcome.  What they’re failing to realize is that the retailers could simply stop promising to not sell games to minors.

  21. mogbert says:

    Yes and no. I don’t think kids should be playing or buying M rated games, however, I don’t support legislation to that effect. For one thing, the ESRB isn’t a government agency, so making a law based on their ratings wouldn’t be allowed. For another, I don’t support anything that singles out video games over movies. I can play Doom, Duke Nukem, Mortal Kombat, etc… but I can’t even WATCH a Saw commercial. I can’t even sit through it, I have to change the channel. And these things are sitting in the middle of the isle of WalMart, where everyone has to walk past them. I don’t propose that children can watch anything and not be affected, we have ratings for a reason. My wife saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre when she was little and it still bothers her more then 20 years later. However, I still don’t beleive that legislation is the answer.

    Basically, it just isn’t legal or logical. Parents should be the ones in charge of raising their kids, not the government. The argument that parents aren’t doing enough to raise their children right ISN’T a legal argument. The whole "it takes a village" is just another way of saying the government should be the ones raising your kids. Yes, some parents aren’t doing the right thing, there have ALWAYS been some parents that didn’t raise their kids well (Cain just needed more hugs as a child, I’m sure. mommy always loved Able more).

    I support continuing to educate parents about ratings. There isn’t a parent around who doesn’t know what "Rated R" means, even though the phrase itself don’t say. How can a parent NOT understand "Rated M for Mature"??? It even TELLS you what the M stands for. What needs to change is the idea that video games are for kids, and therefore M is for Mature children, like 9 and 10 year olds. This will change naturally and automatically now that the child bearing ages are starting to overlap the video game generation.

    Education, not legislation.

  22. Seiena_Cyrus says:

    The thing is we can’t prohibit the sale to minors on a government level the Ratings system is a private sector ratings system so the government can’t back it and even if they could…I wouldn’t want them to, our Government has hit a new trend in years past that if we give them that inch they’ll start eatting inch after inch and working their way to the people having no rights that the government doesn’t personally approve…Sometimes I get the impression with the way they act that it’s like "What? You like that cheap nameless brand? Too bad we expect…no we demand you use this high brand one because we are god…" Literally that’s the vibe that our government gives me these days and it worries me about our future.

  23. Monkey says:

    I  really dont see the issue. For all of Thompsons objectionable statements, his wild assetions, his utter misunderstanding of the nature of aggression and violence the man has the truth of the matter even if he doesnt realise it.

    Computer games, music and movies do not turn people into killers but at the same time there is no reason what so ever that we should be selling mature content to children. If a legislative system can be put in place that prohibits the sale of mature content to children with out censoring games as a medium I’d support it.

    It even has the possability of being a positive force on the industry. At the moment all but a scant handful of games are cheesey, immature and driven by economic forces to appeal to the lowest common denominator. A change like this may specifically open up new market possablities for games that are more mature than the average level of popcorn flick movie such as the fast and the furious.

  24. HarmlessBunny says:

    Doesn’t stop him from blaming the industry for a month…and then blaming a judge…and then blaming the Florida Bar…and then blaming the US Marshalls….then etc etc etc…

  25. Mattsworkname says:

    Jack can talk and talk all he wants. His bill is just another failure. I wonder what will be more humorous. The industry going to the Utah senate and telling them to back off lest they want to be associated with an unethical hack attoreny who was already disbarred, or the judge who looks at jacks record and just laughs him out of court.


    Oh jack, you never fail to entertain us.

    BTW, Don’t play the new Fallout 3 expansion. You’ll feel bad killing communist chinese, since you seem to think so much like them in regards to free speech. Or maybe you’ll get a kick outta it, since you do sometimes act like a new age Mccarthy


    Bring it jack, the industry beat you, killed your career, and made you a laughing stock.


    It won’t be a challenge for them to do it again.

    Dennis, I love your work, but, honestly, you really think he has any chance in hell?

    He couldn’t win when had a license, he certainly wont now that he doesn’t.


    Yukimura is still here "Honor, that is what matters, isn’t it? " Yukimura Sanada, from Samurai warriors 2

  26. Baruch_S says:

    And that $900 billion will probably get abused and misused instead of going to keeping jobs like it’s supposed to. If these companies didn’t give their CEOs multi-million dollar bonuses on top of their ridiculous salaries for doing next to nothing, they might actually have more money to pay to workers who make the product or work to develop new, better products.

  27. Austin_Lewis says:

    To be fair, it’s a grand day for pork barrel projects.  Just look at the 900 billion congress wants to blow on ridiculous shit.

  28. black manta says:

    If Utah does indeed become a battleground state, it’ll probably be Jack’s last hurrah as far as legislation is concerned.  His broadening of scope to include movies as well as games, plus the vagueness and broad wording of his bill, suggests a desperation ploy.  That and it doesn’t surprise me he’d use his friends in the Eagle Forum as they’re the only allies he has left and that Utah’s ultra-conservative political landscape would be friendly to his restrictive way of thinking.

    Aside from the points Beardogg succintly made, it’s also flawed because one has to wonder who the bill is really targeting.  Jack claims it’s against the industry, but once again here he fails to grasp the connection and the relationship between game developers, publishers, advertisers and retailers, instead thinking they’re all one whole.  He seems to think that somehow it’s the publishers who are selling these games to kids through the retailers, when in actuality the publisher’s responsibility ends where the retailers’ begins.  And the retailers aren’t the ones who are really doing the advertising (unless it’s through their own store ads telling customers what’s on sale).

    It would be hard to claim fraudulent advertsing, then, if the retailer isn’t really the one advertsing the game in the first place.  The publisher would be doing that, and by stating in the ads that the game is rated M would make pretty clear who its intended audience is.  The only responsibility the retailer would have, then, would be to enforce the rating at point-of-sale.  The only problem that could be encountered is when you have poorly-trained/underpaid employees who either don’t know or don’t care.  But that’s not the same as knowingly selling the game to kids when they proclaim that they aren’t.  Jack would have us believe, though, that somehow Wal Mart, Best Buy, Target and the rest are somehow in cahoots with the game publishers to do just that, just like the Big Tobacco companies were accused of trying to market cigarettes to children (a comparison Jack has made many times in the past).  But again, in that instance it was the companies (RJ Reynolds, etc) who were doing the advertising, not the retailers.  And the stores were already implementing ID checks by that time anyway.  So again, the question is, who is this bill targeting?  If Jack is trying to go after the publishers for false advertising, then go after the publishers.  By going after the retailers, it would only be punishing them for trying to do their job, and they’re not the ones who are encouraging kids to buy these games anyway.

    As someone else said, fraud implies intent to defraud, and it would be hard to prove that given the role the retailers have in the whole process.  Any rational person could see that, but we all know by now that Jack is not a rational man.

  29. nightwng2000 says:

    It seems rather rediculous that an individual well known for making false and fraudulent claims, the Traitor John Bruce, would pen and support a bill claiming to be against false advertisement.

    Heck, just his support of FOX News, who won a legal case that supported their First Amendment Right to knowingly and intentionally lie to and deceive their audience, shows just how hypocritical he truly is. 

    Then, there’s his knowingly and intentionally lying to and deceiving the US government when he publically posted a letter he sent claiming that a particular game, Bully, contained "gay sex".

    Then, there’s his screams about everyone who doesn’t post his rants to be "fascists", but then he turns around and openly admits he supports the legalized execution of his opposition.

    And then, there are the repeated false claims of studies or at least the misinformation he spreads regarding studies.

    If the courts held HIM to those same standards of Fraudulent And Deceptive Practices, he’d either own $100 trillion in fines or 10 years in solitary confinement for every $100 million he fails/refuses to pay.

    But of course, as with all his others actions, it ain’t his fault.  Someone else is responsible.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  30. BearDogg-X says:

    It might be a fight, then again it could easily be a cakewalk. Thompson’s circus is quite boring as it’s the equivalent of the ringmaster playing the human cannonball over and over again.

    Thompson’s bill is clearly unconstitutional without even looking at the bill, on First Amendment(free speech), Fourteenth Amendment(equal protection), Fifth Amendment(due process, a law cannot presume guilt), and the Commerce Clause(Article I, Section 8; Only the U.S. Congress can file legislation covering interstate commerce).

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  31. magic_taco says:

    But i hope the Game companies can fight to take this bill down, Otherwise, I think it just tries to regulate free speech,And im not completely sure if Utah is also a highly religous state, Not to mention, I hope a judge strikes this down, IF not, Then i’d get to see Honeycakes do his little "victory" dance.

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