Utah Game/Movie Bill Sent to Governor; Video Game Industry Responds


Having been passed overwhelmingly by the Utah House and Senate, HB 353, the Jack Thompson-conceived video game/movie bill, is now with Gov. Jon Huntsman (R).

The Guv can decide to sign the measure into law or veto it. He may also do nothing, in which case the bill will automatically become law. Given that Utah conservatives have portrayed the bill as protective of children and Huntsman is rumored to have 2012 presidential aspirations, it’s highly unlikely that he will exercise his veto power.

With HB 353 landing on Huntsman’s desk, game publishers’ lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association has upped the pressure ante a bit. The ESA-owned Video Game Voters Network is running an e-mail campaign which urges Huntsman to veto HB 353.

ESA VP of Communications and Industry Affairs Rich Taylor also criticized the bill in an interview with Salt Lake City public radio station KCPW:

Essentially, what it does it has the unintended consequence of creating liability exposure which could force many retailers to either abandon their voluntary policies to enforce video game rating systems, or maybe perhaps choose not to sell video games at all.

Here you have broadly drawn legislative language that seeks to address a fairly small instance of retailers failing to enforce their policies as promoted. The vast, overwhelming majority of retailers are complying, but now they fall within this swinging sight of harm that this legislation introduces.

For his part, Jack Thompson has challenged ESA CEO Mike Gallagher to a debate on the bill, but that’s an unlikely occurrence.

Assuming that Huntsman signs the bill into law, it will take effect on January 1, 2010. If and when Huntsman signs, the video game industry will decide whether to challenge the measure in federal court.

Also unclear at this point is where the motion picture industry stands on HB 353. If the ESA and EMA (game retailers) sue, will the MPAA join in?

UPDATE: An industry executive who has been actively involved in the fight against HB 353 assures GamePolitics that the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners are fully engaged in opposition to the bill.

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  1. joetron2030 says:

    Without knowing how UT’s state finances are, one of the best things that could happen would be the ESA, et al taking the state to court over this bill. Forcing the state to spend what is in this day and age very precious tax dollars to defend a bill that doesn’t seem to do jack and angering the constituents over it.

    Out of curiosity, what is the general constituent opinion over this bill?

  2. Zerodash says:

    I wish Howard Lincoln would write a book about his experience with Nintendo.  The fact that he was able to convince Nintendo, then an unknown company (in the US) with a tiny presence, that they could win against a giant like Universal Studios is amazing.  The way in which they humiliated Universal in that case and won is even more amazing…

  3. TBoneTony says:

    Kinda like the battle between Nintendo and Universal Studios in the early 80’s, except this time and videogame industry and the movie industry are fighting as one against the government.

  4. TBoneTony says:

    Finally the Videogame Industry and the Movie Industry are fighting as one.

    Hope things turn out for the best, because I know that in Australia, we have to rely on things being sold in America first before they come to Europe and then Australia.

    I think that we as Movie-goers and Gamers need to also stand as one against this bill.

    When the politicians realize that they have not only made the gamers stand against them, but also the movie-goers too, they will finally realize that this is an election loosing position.


  5. killatia says:

    "UPDATE: An industry executive who has been actively involved in the fight against HB 353 assures GamePolitics that the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners are fully engaged in opposition to the bill."

    Well im glad the gaming industry is getting some alies this time around.



  6. JDKJ says:

    While I’m not very impressed with the videogame industry’s response in opposition HB353, their lobbying efforts generally aren’t ever very impressive. They don’t usually do well at convincing legislators to leave them alone. However, they do have a very impressive track record for dragging various states before federal courts and getting legislation overturned. So, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they didn’t bother to waste their time playing a game they’re not particularly good at and, instead, they’re just waiting on HB353’s passage into law to play the game at which they are particularly good.

  7. Erik says:

    The MPAA is getting involved?  Good.  With any luck they won’t be as spineless as the game industry has been.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  8. JDKJ says:

    @GP: Any sense of what "fully engaged in opposition to the bill" actually means? Does this mean that if need be they’ll take it to a federal court — with or without the help of the videogame industry?

  9. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    All that is true, but I have not seen one ounce of bragging from Jack b/c of the bill’s success thus far since this story was posted.


  10. BearDogg-X says:

    True, but I’d argue that he’s already gotten on her bad side by loosening the liquor laws.

    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)

  11. mdo7 says:


    "Also unclear at this point is where the motion picture industry stands on HB 353. If the ESA and EMA (game retailers) sue, will the MPAA join in?"


    Uh oh, it looks like Jack Thompson will add the movie industry to his conspiracy list.  Anyone teaming up with video game industry even if the movie industry is involved is now part of the conspiracy to him.  Looks like JT will stop watching movies and TV shows because to him, the film industry supports video game industry.

    Also, if the governor veto the bill, JT will probably accuse of him taking bribes from the video game industry and wants him resigned.  I know JT will do that to the governor if the guy veto the bill.

  12. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Cue Jack bragging about the bill’s success thus far in 3, 2, 1…


  13. Michael Chandra says:

    Do note a Senator suggested an amendment saying that merely listing a rating and explaining what it means does not mean advertizing enforcement. This amendment did not make it into the law. So chances people will claim it IS an advertizement, especially since the Senate didn’t use that amendment after considering it, and will try to make any company bleed that merely LISTS ESRB ratings on the default game cases and has someone screw up.

    The DEMAND you make an employee follow a strict training program if they screw up, which costs much more money than "don’t do it again or you’re fired", is also quite the dangerous factor.

    In short: If the bad guys get it their way, ESRB rating on game = advertizement = liability.

  14. zel says:

    Ya its basically a dumb-law that needs to be inducted to dumblaws.com

    basically its less an anti-game law and more of a false-advertising law. long as you don’t advertise that you don’t sell M rated games to kids, you can do it all day long and this law won’t apply to you.


    I am a signature virus, please copy and paste me into your signature to help me propagate.

  15. Wormdundee says:

     Yes, you have the gist of it.

    But how they really wanted it to be used is if some retailer advertises that they will follow the ESRB ratings in regards to who they sell to, and then an employee sells to someone who’s ‘underage’, they will be fined.

    So what’s going to happen here is that retailers will not simply not advertise the fact that they follow the ESRB ratings. It can still be store policy to follow ESRB, but as long as they don’t advertise it, it’s all good.

    It’s even funnier, because to get the fine, the same employee has to sell to an underaged kid 3 times. Even then, there is no fine if the employee is ‘retrained’, which I imagine constitutes telling that employee, ‘Hey, follow the ESRB ratings.’

  16. jsmuli2 says:

    Ok am I missing something here?  what exactly is this bill proposing?


    I read the summary of it and all I got out of it is that this bill will prevent retailers from advertising that they don’t "sell to the underaged" but then turning around and then selling to them. 


    I don’t get it.  Is this basically over ruling company policy and making it a law to not sell to underage children if that is what they advertise? 


    So basically, If I own a gaming/movie store and i don’t have an ad specifying who I do and don’t sell to,  I am free to sell to who I want because the law only applies to companies that publicly claim to not do as such??

  17. Mattsworkname says:

    While this bill seems to be a realivtivly harmless bill, the industry needs to fight it, and fight it hard as possible. The last thing you want is to set a precident, of ANY kind, that would give a dirtbag like Jack a foot in the door. With the MPAA behind it, the industry can probably kill this bill with minimal effort.

    Yukimura is still here. "Well done Yukimura. You are japans greatest hero. Now, the chaos ends." spoken by Tokugawa Ieyasu to Yukimura sanada just moments before Yukimuras death in Samurai warriors 1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR9qIUXOjYY

  18. JDKJ says:


    Did you miss the part where I said "and Congress is out of session?"

    And it doesn’t work the same in Utah. The 2009 Session of the Utah Legislature has just ended. They are out of session. A failure by the Governor to take action on a bill now before him doesn’t result in a veto. Rather, it has the exact opposite effect: the bill becomes a law. 


  19. PHX Corp says:

    So we have a chance to pocket this veto

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  20. Benji says:

    According to Wikipedia, that’s NOT the case.  The federal system works the same insofar as a law that reaches the president’s/governor’s desk and is not either signed or vetoed within ten days becomes law by default.

    The except (also probably in both cases) is when Congress adjourns for the session before the ten days are up.  In that case failure to act is a pocket veto and the law dies.

  21. JDKJ says:

    I recall the federal system works the opposite way. If the President does nothing with the bill and Congress is out of session, then it’s vetoed. A "pocket veto."

    Most likely designed to allow the Governor to save face by effectively passing a bill into law without having to bear the responsibility of actually signing it into law.

  22. MaskedPixelante says:

    So, wait. There’s a 2 out of 3 chance this thing gets passed? Who decided "He can turn it into a law, or do nothing with it, and it automatically becomes law" was a good idea?

    —You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

  23. BearDogg-X says:

    I don’t think that a veto by Gov. Huntsman is as highly unlikely as you think, GP. While Gov. Huntsman may be considering a run for President in 2012, it seems that he’s trying to become more viewed as a maverick similiar to John McCain. Huntsman already reformed Utah’s liquor laws and has been critical of the national Republican party, so there is a good possibility that he may veto this bill.

    That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did end up signing it, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he did veto it.

    Now, if he does sign it and the inveitable Constitutional challenge is made, I think the MPAA will join in, since the bill actually affects the movie industry more than the video game industry.

    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)

  24. Roh02 says:

    let me get this straight this guy could let it pass not because its right or not or because he agree’s with it. or wether its moral or not he may not even care either way… he could do it just to get votes? …. thats just wrong how is that even legal URGH there should be a system in place to stop that from happening I swear.

  25. DarkSaber says:

    "For his part, Jack Thompson made damn sure to get his name mentioned in the news."



    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  26. JDKJ says:

    "If the ESA and EMA (game retailers) sue, will the MPAA join in?"

    Why not? It’ll be a six-figure payday for their lawyers at the expense of Utah’s taxpayers. Everything to gain, nothing to lose. 

  27. JDKJ says:

    Speaking of debate, isn’t Sawdust Brains scheduled to spew his trademarked brand of rubbish at Backwater College next week?

  28. Nekowolf says:

    If this debate is accepted, who wants to guess on how Jack will get out of it?

    I think he’ll go with "I was in a terrible plane crash. My entire family was killed, and I am a vegetable."

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