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.