NYRA Preparing Amicus Brief for Schwarzenegger Case

August 16, 2010 -

The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) is not pleased about the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the California side of the Schwarzenegger v. EMA appeal and is asking for assistance from the gaming community as it prepares an Amicus Brief for submission to the Court.

In a blog post, the NYRA theorizes that no Supreme Court member has ever played a game, nor, (most likely) have the lawyers arguing for either side. As a “defender of the rights of youth,” and “as gamers,” the NYRA stated that “we need to make it clear that video games are more than random violence and that no one should be denied access to them.”

Here is what the organization is looking for:

EMA Reelects Chairman, Adds Heathers to Hall of Fame

August 4, 2010 -

Bob Geistman, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at entertainment distribution company Ingram Entertainment has been reelected to his post as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), according to a note on Home Media Magazine.

New additions to the board included Dish Network’s Bruce Eisen, Blockbuster’s Rod Murray, Netflix’s Erin Ruane and Amazon’s Steve Oliver. Current members reelected included Vice Chairman John Marmaduke from Hastings Entertainment, Treasurer Marty Graham from Rentrak, Secretary Bill Lee from Toys “R” Us and Executive Committee Members At-Large Troy Peterson from Target and Chuck Porter of Giant Eagle.

In other recent EMA news, the organization inducted the 1988 movie Heathers into its Hall of Fame, where it reside alongside Casablanca, The Godfather, Grease, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Wizard of Oz, and Scarface.

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EMA Report: Disc-Based Media Sales Up in 2009

August 2, 2010 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA, or the trade group that's set to battle the state of California over its videogame law before the Supreme Court later this year, if you prefer) reports that consumer transactions for prerecorded video content (DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and digital content) grew nearly 3 percent to $3.5 billion in 2009. The statistics come from a new report released by the trade organization representing retailers called "The D2 Report: Discs & Digital - The Business of Home Entertainment Retailing."

According to that report physical media including DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and video game discs remain the overwhelming choice of consumers, even as digital delivery channels such as electronic sell-through and rental are experiencing what the EMA calls "tremendous growth." Combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales totaled $17.9 billion in 2009, nine times the revenue generated by digital distribution channels, and 80 - 90 percent of paid video game software purchases were on physical media.

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ESA Responds to Schwarzenegger v. EMA California Brief

July 14, 2010 -

While the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has until September 10 to file its own brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in regards to Schwarzenegger v. EMA, the organization issued a statement in reaction to a brief filed by the state of California on Monday.

Trumpeting the ESA's dominating string of victories in such cases, and perhaps attempting to take some of the wind out of the sails of California State Senator Leland Yee, ESA President and CEO Michael Gallagher stated:

ESA Chief on SCOTUS Case: Confident, Yet Humble

June 16, 2010 -

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) President Michael Gallagher is “humble” about how trade group might fare in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, as the nation’s highest court prepares to rule on Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) v. Schwarzenegger, which centers on a California law that attempts to make it illegal to rent or sell violent videogames to underage consumers.

In a pre-E3 briefing recounted by Joystiq, Gallagher said about the case, “We believe we're on the side of right here. We've believed that for 10 years. That hasn't wavered one iota. You go into this preparing to win, but also very prepared to handle the other conclusions as well”

June is Rating Awareness Month

June 3, 2010 -

The Coalition of Entertainment Retail Trade Associations (CERTA) has once again billed June as “Entertainment Ratings and Labeling Awareness Month.”

The organization of organizations selected June as the month for its annual initiative since it is the kickoff to summer, when “young people have more free time to enjoy movies, music and videogames.”

The group offers the following tips to parents looking to ensure their children only view age appropriate material:

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Jury Still Out on Kagan’s First Amendment Stance

May 19, 2010 -

Following the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, some free speech advocates painted her First Amendment stance as a concern, which caused a bit of anxiety in the gaming world as Kagan (if confirmed) would have a voice in the SCOTUS review of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) v. Schwarzenegger.

New Kagan documents released today by the White House, may cast the nominee in a different light however. AOL News gathered some details from the document dump that could be interpreted to show Kagan as a champion of media. The following are “significant cases” listed by Kagan herself from the time period when she served as an associate at Williams & Connolly from 1989 to 1991:

SCOTUS Decision Focus of Public Radio Discussion

April 28, 2010 -

Southern California Public Radio yesterday aired a 30-minute segment (MP3) on the California violent videogame law that will be discussed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

California State Senator Leland Yee appeared, and voiced much of the same opinions that he offered up through a mini-podcast his camp released yesterday. Representing the other side was Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) VP of Public Affairs Sean Bersell.

Bersell framed the current drama as he sees it:

Yee on SCOTUS Decision

April 27, 2010 -

California State Senator Leland Yee (D), the man behind the original legislation that has now made its way to the United States Supreme Court, released a short piece of audio (MP3 here) in which he offers reactions to SCOTUS’ decision to review the law.

Yee termed himself “thrilled” with yesterday’s news, calling it an “affirmation of some of the things that I have been thinking about, working on…”

He called the law a “balanced bill,” saying that “it tries to do what it can to protect and help kids, but at the same time, not trample on our First Amendment.”

Yee on the surprise most felt when hearing that SCOTUS would review the case:

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Breaking: SCOTUS Will Review Schwarzenegger v. EMA (Update 3)

April 26, 2010 -

Via Orders of the Court (PDF) just issued at 10:00 AM ET this morning, The Supreme Court of the United States has granted the petition for a writ of certiorari to the California side of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) v. Schwarzenegger.

This means that the nation’s top court will indeed review a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of California in February of 2009, which struck down a California law that would make it illegal to rent or sell violent videogames to consumers under the age of 18. Retailers who violated the law would be subject to fines of up to $1,000.

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EMA v. Schwarzenegger Back on SCOTUS Radar

April 21, 2010 -

The nation’s highest court will gather this Friday in order to discuss, among other things, whether or not it should review a California law preventing the sale of violent videogames to children.

The Supreme Court’s website shows that Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) v. Schwarzenegger was “distributed for conference of April 23, 2010.” The order was dated April 20, 2010, giving more credence to popular thought that case number 08-1448 was shelved until a decision was reached on the First Amendment case of United States v. Stevens, in which the Court voted 8-1 that the government cannot outlaw expressions of animal cruelty.

SCOTUS Rules on Case that Could Lead to EMA v. Schwarzenegger Decision

April 20, 2010 -

The Supreme Court today issued a ruling on a First Amendment case that could have a direct impact on the Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger appeal which has been languishing in the nation’s top court.

United States v. Stevens centered on the rights of Robert Stevens to sell or traffic in media that depicted animal cruelty. Stevens was arrested under a 1999 law that attempted to forbid the depiction of cruelty against animals. SCOTUS ruled 8-1 that the government, per the SCOTUS Blog, “lacks the power to outlaw expressions of animal cruelty, when that is done in videotapes and other commercial media.” The decision (PDF) essentially nullifies the 199 law.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wrote that the court “was not restricting the power of government to punish actual acts of animal cruelty,” but that “there was no similar history behind Congress’s attempt to ban video or other portrayals of acts of cruelty to living creatures.”

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ECA Prez Discuses Gamers’ Rights

October 22, 2009 -

Entertainment Consumer Association (ECA) President Hal Halpin recently discussed gamers’ rights with the website Skewed & Reviewed.

Among the topics broached were Digital Rights Management (DRM), M-rated game sales, triumphs of the past year and the challenges still remaining.

Halpin on the greatest single current threat to gamers’ rights:

Again, generally, digital rights as it relates to consumers. More particularly, I’d say that a challenge within that challenge may be that we still have a lot of work to do regarding combating negative stereotypes of gamers and gaming.

On further reducing the sale of adult-rated games to minors:

Beyond that, I believed and continue to believe, that parental responsibility must begin there. To ask more of the merchant is unfair and unprecedented, compared with how DVDs, music and motion pictures are sold. They¹ve done and are doing enough.

Disclosure: GamePolitics is a publication of the ECA

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EMA v. Schwarzenegger: Half-way Home?

September 30, 2009 -

As noted earlier this week, the Supreme Court was scheduled to look into an appeal of Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger yesterday, September 29.

EMA v. Schwarzenegger was not on the list of Miscellaneous Orders issued this morning by SCOTUS, which could mean that the petition was denied. When considering a petition for certiorari, SCOTUS will deny such appeals without comment, but the official outcome won’t be known for sure until Monday morning, when an Order List is issued from the Court.

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Supreme EMA v. Schwarzenegger Decision Within a Week

September 28, 2009 -

The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to address an appeal of a Californian videogame law tomorrow, September 29.

Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger (formerly known as The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) v. Schwarzenegger), revolves around a Californian law that banned the sale of certain videogames to anyone under 18 years of age. First signed into law by Schwarzenegger in 2005, the law was rejected again in February of 2009 by the 9th Circuit Court of California, which upheld an earlier 2007 ruling that deemed the law unconstitutional.

Schwarzenegger and California Attorney General Jerry Brown appealed to the Supreme Court in May of this year, marking the first time a case involving the restriction of violent game sales to minors has ever been considered by the top court of the United States.

As part of the proceedings, The Supreme Court will also decide whether to accept the amicus brief filed by California State Senator Leland Yee (D) in July of 2009. In the brief, Lee, who authored the original statute at the center of the whole case, argues why the Supreme Court should approve the state of California’s petition for a full hearing. He was supported in the brief by the California Psychiatric and California Psychological Associations.

The Supreme Court’s decision could take a few days or more. A final decision should be made public by next Monday, October 5.

Update: Just to clarify, The Supreme Court did consider a similar topic when ruling on American Amusement Machine Association et al. v Kendrick et al. in 2001, when it denied the City of Indianapolis' petition for certiorari. That case centered on an attempt by the city to limit the display and operation of currency-based machines deemed harmful to minors.

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If Necessary, EMA Preparing for Media Testing

September 18, 2009 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) has informed replicators and disc manufacturers on the steps they may need to take in order to comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

The act calls for “children’s products” to undergo testing for lead and “children’s toys” to be tested for phthalates (industrial compounds). According to Home Media Magazine, the EMA has asked for an exemption for physical media, but the broad scope of the act appears to have left many questions on both sides of the fence as to what exactly needs to be tested.

Previous testing by Cinram, Arvato Digital Services, Technicolor and The Walt Disney Co. have shown “neither lead nor phthalates appear in significant levels in home entertainment products.”

Sean Bersell, EMA Vice President of Public Affairs, commented on the confusion:

There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. As the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) starts to provide more guidance … some of these issues will resolve themselves.

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Media Coalition Gets Behind Game Biz Lawsuit Against Chicago Transit Authority

July 23, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, the Entertainment Software Association has filed suit against the Chicago Transit Authority. The video game publishers' lobbying group hopes to overturn the CTA's ban on ads for M and AO-rated games on its vehicles and facilities.

The Media Coalition, an association that defends the First Amendment rights of producers and consumers of First Amendment protected material, has issued a press release announcing its support for the ESA in the case. Executive Director David Horowitz commented on the situation:

Ex-[Illinois] Governor Blagojevich spent hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully to defend a law that barred minors from buy or renting similar video games before it was struck down as unconstitutional. The Chicago Transit Authority should repeal this ill-conceived ordinance rather than using scarce resources to fight this in court and get the same result.

The ESA, which represents U.S. video game publishers, is a Media Coalition member as is the Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents video game retailers.

The Entertainment Consumers Association, which represents the interests of gamers, is also a Media Coalition member.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Retail Activation Codes Target Shoplifting, Not Piracy

June 26, 2009 -

Earlier this week, GamePolitics reported on “benefit denial,” a loss-prevention technology proposed by game retail trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association. The EMA plan would disable movies and video games until unlocked at the point of sale.
 
Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.
 
Writing for CNET, technology columnist Don Reisinger dubs the plan "a loser."

Piracy and theft is indeed a problem in the video game industry. But it's not so bad that it requires games to be shipped in an unactivated state. Moreover, game piracy is really a bigger problem on the PC than on consoles... And since most of the issues affect the PC side of the business, not even benefit denial will be able to stop piracy...

However, EMA Public Affairs VP Sean Bersell told us that benefit denial is “all about retail theft,”  not piracy. He points to a comment to Reisinger’s article posted by Capgemini, the firm commissioned by the EMA to evaluate the feasibility of benefit denial.

[The benefit denial study], announced by the EMA, doesn't even mention piracy.  And that's because the whole project is about elimination of physical theft of discs, whether DVDs, or CDs, or games on optical discs. It has nothing to do with piracy. Zero.

Reisinger also raises concerns about how well this technology will work with second-hand games, whether Internet connectivity will be a factor, and if the Big 3 console makers' participation will be required.  Bersell commented:

We are not talking about DRM or other software-based technology. The technology to which we are referring would be a physical lock that is opened via radio frequency in the store at the point of sale...
 
The purpose is to make it easier for the consumer to purchase the product... And since EMA is pursuing this and we have been protecting the First Sale rights of retailers and their customers for 28 years, I can assure you that nothing in this will interfere with the rights of consumers to sell, lend, or give away their used games.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the benefit denial study here.
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

Proposed System for Game Retailers Would Activate Discs at Time of Purchase

June 24, 2009 -

If you purchase your video games from local retailers you’ve no doubt gone through the inconvenience of trying to track down a store associate to release your selection from its display cabinet prison. Or perhaps you’ve dealt with GameStop’s annoying habit of opening games and storing the discs behind the counter.
 
Hey, it’s an imperfect world where people steal stuff so it’s understandable why retailers take measures like this. But what if there was a better way?
 
The Entertainment Merchants Association, a trade association which represents a large segment of North American video game and DVD retailers, thinks it may have a solution which could save the retail industry billions by reducing costs, curbing theft and potentially making the purchasing experience more pleasant for the consumer.
 
The EMA’s solution is “benefit denial” technology that would disable movies and video games until unlocked at the point of sale - sort of like gift cards which have no value until activated by a sales clerk. EMA president Bo Andersen commented on the plan:

It is intuitive that, if we can utilize emerging technology to reduce the shrink in the DVD, Blu-ray discs, and video game categories and eliminate barriers erected to deter shoplifting, consumers will have easier access to the products, additional retail channels will carry these products, and costs will be eliminated from the supply chain.

Baring obstacles such as a lack of accepted standards for such an activation system, the need for staff training, and the cost of implementation, the EMA believes such a solution could debut in late 2010.
 
Via: Gamasutra
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Sustainability on the Menu at Greener Gaming Gathering

May 27, 2009 -

While most of the video game world's attention next week will be focused on the Los Angeles Convention Center and the glitz surrounding E3, a small group of industry professionals will meet to tackle environmental concerns.

On Monday the Greener Gaming Gathering, billed as a "video game sustainability luncheon" will take place in Burbank. The event is sponsored by AGI Polymatrix, which manufactures media packaging and is being held in association with game retailers trade group the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers at the invitation-only event will include Wal-Mart's senior buyer for video game software, Darin Dickson. Cody Sisco from Business for Social Responsibility will make a presentation and an expert panel will discuss sustainability issues related to replication, packaging and transportation of video games.

GP: It's encouraging to see the video game industry thinking proactively on environmental issues.

Media Coalition Slams California Appeal of Violent Video Game Law

May 21, 2009 -

The Media Coalition, a free speech defense trade group has criticized California's Supreme Court appeal of a lower court decision striking down its violent video game law as unconstitutional.

Media Coalition Executive Director David Horowitz said in a statement:

We are very disappointed that the California Governor and Attorney General have decided to spend the state’s scarce resources to ask the Supreme Court to carve out a new exception to the First Amendment.

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier declined the state’s invitation to create a new class of speech outside of the First Amendment. This is settled law. In recent years, in addition to California, similar laws in Indianapolis, Michigan, Illinois, St. Louis County, Minnesota, and Washington attempted to ban video games with certain violent content were uniformly found unconstitutional.

Media Coalition members include video game industry trade groups the Entertainment Software Association (game publishers) and Entertainment Merchants Association* (game retailers). It was these two entities which originally brought suit against the California law in 2005.

The Entertainment Consumers Association is also a Media Coalition member.

* Prior to its 2006 merger with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, the Entertainment Merchants Association was known as the Video Software Dealers Association, and the California case continues as VSDA v. Schwarzenegger.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Video Game Industry Reacts to California Supreme Court Appeal

May 20, 2009 -

As GamePolitics has reported, California is appealing the constitutionality of its 2005 video game law to the U.S. Supreme Court. Reaction by the video game industry has been both swift and blunt.

Entertainment Software Association CEO Michael Gallagher issued a statement criticizing California's decision to petition the Supreme Court:

California’s citizens should see this for what it is—a complete waste of the state’s time and resources. California is facing a $21 billion budget shortfall coupled with high
unemployment and home foreclosure rates. Rather than focus on these very real problems, Governor Schwarzenegger has recklessly decided to pursue wasteful, misguided and pointless litigation.  

We are confident that this appeal will meet the same fate as the State’s previous failed efforts to regulate what courts around the country have uniformly held to be expression that is fully protected by the First Amendment. California’s taxpayers would be better served by empowering parents and supporting the ESRB rating system.

Meanwhile, Sean Bersell (left), VP of Public Affairs for the Entertainment Merchants Association, forwarded a statement to GP:

It boggles the mind that, on a day when the state of California finds itself in the worst fiscal crisis it has ever faced and is considering massive layoffs of teachers and cuts to public services, the state would choose to waste tens of thousands of dollars on pursuing this frivolous appeal.

This law was found by two lower courts, relying on long-established legal precedents, to be unconstitutional as an infringement of the First Amendment. There have been eight similar laws enacted around the nation this decade and every single one has been found unconstitutional on similar grounds. There is no reason to expect a different outcome in the Supreme Court.

So far, this case has cost the state of California approximately $400,000 just in legal fees and court costs that it has had to pay the plaintiffs. This doesn’t even include the state’s legal fees and costs. And if this appeal is unsuccessful, as it will be in all likelihood, the state will owe the plaintiffs even more in legal fees and court costs.

The taxpayers of California should demand that their elected officials stop wasting precious tax dollars on this quixotic quest.

Both the ESA and the EMA (under its former name VSDA) are parties in the California case. The EMA maintains a web page listing background on VSDA v. Schwarzenegger.

Reactions to Utah Veto...

March 26, 2009 -

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's dramatic veto of the Jack Thompson-conceived HB 353 has drawn reaction from a variety of quarters:

We support the efforts of the Entertainment Merchants Association and other industry groups in battling this legislation. It was extremely broad and could have fostered ancillary anti-consumer consequences, such as pushing retailers and publishers to stop promoting and using ESRB ratings, which have been extremely effective in educating consumers about game content. Jennifer Mercurio, Director of Government Affairs, Entertainment Consumers Association

A very laudable decision. National Coalition Against Censorship

This is an absolute win for families. Utah’s parents will benefit from Governor Huntsman’s leadership and thoughtfulness on this issue. His decisive action helps caregivers and prevents businesses from being opened to unproductive, wasteful civil litigation and needless expense. Parents can be assured that the strength of the ESRB rating system remains intact and continues to serve as a valuable resource and will continue to effectively serve them. Michael Gallagher, CEO, Entertainment Software Association

EMA and video game retailers are grateful to Governor Huntsman for his courageous veto of this ill-conceived and inappropriate initiative. We are heartened to see an elected leader look beyond the emotion, rhetoric, and distortions surrounding video games and evaluate a proposal on its merits. As we have consistently noted, House Bill 353 would have been counterproductive for the consumers of Utah, because it would likely have led retailers to abandon their commitments to enforce the video game and motion picture ratings at the point of sale. Sean Bersell, VP of Public Affairs, Entertainment Merchants Association

We appreciate Governor Huntsman’s decision to defend the Constitution and protect retailers by vetoing this bill. The bill may have been well intentioned but it would have undermined the video game and movie rating systems and possibly book age recommendations while leaving local businesses with the constant threat of frivolous lawsuits. David Horowitz, Executive Director, Media Coalition
 

GP: Via e-mail, we've asked Utah Eagle Forum boss Gayle Ruzicka for her reaction. We've asked HB 353 sponsor Rep. Mike Morley, too. So far, we've received no response from either.

(more to follow as we receive them...)

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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

March 20, 2009 -

UPDATED

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.
 

Game Biz Opposes Utah Bill

March 4, 2009 -

The video game industry is beginning to respond - and not in a positive way - to yesterday's passage of HB353, a Jack Thompson-conceived bill, by the Utah House of Representatives.

As GamePolitics reported late yesterday, the Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents a large bloc of game retailers, remains opposed to the measure.

That news seemed to contradict bill sponsor Rep. Mike Morley's assertion during yesterday's hearing that amendments to the proposal had caused "retailers" to drop their opposition. However, Morley was apparently referring to the more general-purpose Utah Retail Merchants Association (more on that below).

The Escapist heard from Dan Hewitt of game publishers' trade group the ESA:

[HB 353 is] a solution in search of a problem. The fact is, Utah has a 94% [retailer ratings] enforcement rate when it comes to video games. Also, Utah state legislators are unfairly targeting video games. Representative Morley's anti-video game bill would expose game retailers to frivolous lawsuits if the store promotes the ESRB rating system.

The perverse effect of this bill is that Utah retailers will stop promoting the ESRB rating system, which has been applauded by media watchdog groups like the National Institute on Media and the Family and the Federal Trade Commission. In short, this is a step back for parents and undercuts the positive work of the ESRB and others who promote the tools and resources available to parents.

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BREAKING - Appeals Court Terminates Gov. Schwarzenegger's CA Video Game Law

February 20, 2009 -

The 9th Circuit Court has affirmed a U.S. District Court decision which struck down California's 2005 violent video game law.

As GamePolitics reported last November, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit heard the state's appeal in Sacramento. In upholding the District Court's 2007 ruling, the 9th Circuit rejected several research studies presented by the states as failing to demonstrate a causal link between violent video game play and negative behavior:

Nearly all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.

The Court also rejected as unconstitutional a section of the law requiring retailers to label violent games with a four-inch square label with "18" printed on it.

Reactions to the ruling are beginning to come in. Jennifer Mercurio, Director of Government Affairs for the Entertainment Consumers Association, said:

We couldn’t be happier. Federal courts have found all nine legislative attempts to curtail the sale of violent video games invalid under the First Amendment, definitively showing that video games are protected speech, just like other content such as books, comic books, movies and music.

Bo Andersen, CEO of game retailers' group the Entertainment Merchants Association, said:

Retailers are committed to assisting parents in assuring that children do not purchase games that are not appropriate for their age. Independent surveys show that retailers are doing a very good job in this area, with an 80% enforcement rate, and retailers will continue to work to increase enforcement rates even further. The court has correctly noted that the state cannot simply dismiss these efforts.

I understand that some government officials will push for the state to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review this decision. The state should not acquiesce in this demand, particularly in light of its budget difficulties. The state has already wasted too many tax dollars, at least $283,000 at last count, on this ill-advised, and ultimately doomed, attempt at state-sponsored nannyism.

ESA CEO Mike Gallagher called the ruling "a win for California's citizens."

With the 9th Circuit's rejection of the California video game law, the question now becomes whether Gov. Schwarzenegger will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Retailers' Trade Group Weighs in Against Warning Label Bill for Games

February 12, 2009 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association, the trade group which represents the interests of numerous video game retailers, has weighed in against game-oriented legislation currently before the Congress.

GamePolitics readers will recall last month's report that Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) had proposed a measure in Congress which would require cigarette-like warning labels for any game rated T (13+) or higher by the ESRB.

The EMA has termed the proposed legislation "unnecessary."

As we have previously noted, Rep. Baca has proposed a number of bills targeting video games over the years. To date, none have passed. In 2008 Esquire named him to its list of Ten Worst Members of Congress.

UPDATE: We've received the EMA's full statement on the Baca bill:

Retailers educate parents about the ESRB video game ratings and content descriptors and enforce the "Mature" rating at the point of sale. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission found that children it sent into video game stores to buy Mature-rated games were turned down 80% of the time.

 

The video game turn-down rate is higher than the turn-down rate for movie theaters and R-rated tickets, DVD retailers and R-rated and “unrated” DVDs, and music retailers and “Parental Advisory”-labeled albums. In fact, it is the highest turn-down rated ever recorded for an entertainment category in any of the undercover shopper surveys the FTC has conducted since 2000.

Media Coalition Gets First Amendment Scholar as New Chair

January 8, 2009 -

The Media Coalition, a free speech defense trade group which numbers the Entertainment Software Association (game publishers) and Entertainment Merchants Association (game retailers) among its members, has a new chair.

As reported by Video Business, First Amendment scholar and author Chris Finan (left) will succeed the EMA's Sean Bersell at the reigns. Of the transition, Bersell commented:

I am extremely pleased that Chris Finan, who is incredibly knowledgeable about free speech issues and well respected, is assuming the chair of Media Coalition. The leadership and credibility he brings to our efforts will enhance our ability to counter government censorship of publications and entertainment.

Speaking about his new assignment, Finan said:

Media Coalition plays a critical role in protecting what the American people can see, read and hear.

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Work for Game Retailer? You Might Be Eligible For Scholarship

January 7, 2009 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association, the trade group which represents a large slice of video game retailers, has announced that it is accepting applications for its 2009 Entertainment Merchants Association scholarship.

Grants are awarded to incoming freshman as well as current college students. In order to be eligible, the student, a parent or spouse must work for an EMA-member company. Since 1987, more than 215 students have received over $1 million for college expenses.

EMA CEO Bo Andersen commented on the scholarship program:

The EMA Scholarship Foundation is more important than ever in these tough economic times. We are pleased to be able to assist the employees of EMA member companies and their immediate family members to be able to afford higher education.

Click here for scholarship application details.

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ECA's Hal Halpin Dissects the Political Side of Gaming

November 23, 2008 -

In a no-holds-barred interview with Crispy Gamer, Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin dishes on the uneasy relationship between Washington, D.C. and the video game community.

As part of his leadership role with the ECA, Hal does quite a few interviews, but this one with CG's James Fudge is probably the most in-depth yet. Here are some of Hal's thoughts:

On game publisher group the ESA's new (in 2008) practice of making campaign donations:

The [ESA] represents the rights of game publishing companies and as such has a duty to do what it can to influence legislators by lobbying. I know that starting up a PAC (Political Action Committee) was a decision that they grappled with for over a decade... PACs can be effective tools, but yes, you do run the risk – nowadays – that the ends may not justify the means...

On game ratings and whether the industry does enough to keep mature-themed games away from minors:

I’ve been a fan of ESRB for quite some time. Of all of the ratings systems... it really is the most comprehensive and valuable... That said, there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps ESRB having more independence from the ESA would be one great step. Another might be to work more closely with us... which we’re working on...

 

I do [think the industry is well at keeping M-rated games away from minors]...

On supposed tensions between the ESA (publishers group) and the ECA (consumers group):

We should be clear that the ESA represents the rights of game publishing companies, not gamers... It’s a trade association that looks after the interests of their member corporations... That said, much of the legislative work that the ESA has done over the years, with regard to First Amendment in particular, has benefitted the sector as a whole – gamers included.

 

As Mike Gallagher (ESA president) and I have discussed several times, the vast majority of the time ESA and ECA are on the same page... but there are clearly other times where our interests are necessarily divergent. Inherently, Mike’s issues will sometimes be in opposition to the best interests of consumers solely because they’re in the best interests of publishing companies...

On frequent game violence critic Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT):

Joe Lieberman has been largely misunderstood and painted with a very broad brush in my opinion. While I haven’t agreed with much of what he has said in the past, he alone among legislators was responsible for effecting non-legislative change in our business and did it with a lot of class, I might add.

 

Again, back when I was running [game retailers group] IEMA, I received a call from one of his staff inviting me to his office in Hartford. We had a frank meeting in which he requested that game retailers begin carding for the sale of mature-rated games in much the same way that movie theatre owners were doing, via self-regulatory efforts, with R-rated movies. The IEMA retailers... met the challenge head-on and reacted quickly and efficiently – changing the way in which games were sold, forever.

On game rentals and used game trade-ins by consumers, which some publishers and developers would like to see ended:

I understand the concerns that developer friends of mine have about not getting a second bite of the apple... In the movie business, they produce a theatrical version and then DVD, Blu-ray, Video on Demand (VoD), PSP and pay-per-view versions...

 

[Game biz types] see rental and used as businesses in which they don’t get to participate. And while I understand and appreciate their perspective... I’m still not convinced that rental and used are bad for the sector. We’ve witnessed how rental has provided a low-cost venue for people to try before you buy; same for used...

On the U.S. Supreme Court and its potential impact on video games:

Well, [a change in the balance of the court] will most definitely present a problem for the industry, but not necessarily consumers. The more conservative judges are also the ones that tend to side with intellectual property owners over consumers, for instance. Tech policy is in for a major shift from the right to the left in my opinion, and that would be very good for consumers, but quite disconcerting for the IP-concerned trade associations (MPAA, RIAA and ESA).

 

We’ve also heard that the conservative judges would be more likely to be open to anti-games/gamer bills, so a shift to the more liberal side would be good for both the trade and consumers in that regard.


Hal also points interested gamers to a detailed listing of ECA's position statements.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

 
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Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
Matthew Wilsonok than they should not protest when the consequences of that choice occur.04/17/2014 - 1:06pm
NeenekoIf people want tall buildings, plenty of other cities with them. Part of freedom and markets is communities deciding what they do and do not want built in their collective space.04/17/2014 - 12:55pm
Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
Matthew WilsonSF is a tech/ economic/ trade center it should be mostly tail building. this whole problem is because of the lack of tail buildings. How would having tail apartment buildings destroy SF? having tail buildings has not runed other cities around the US/world04/16/2014 - 10:51pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the issue is you can not build upwards anywhere in SF at the moment, and no you would not. You would bring prices to where they should have been before the market distortion. those prices are not economic or socially healthy.04/16/2014 - 10:46pm
ZippyDSMleeYou still wind up pushing people out of the non high rise aeras but tis least damage you can do all things considered.04/16/2014 - 10:26pm
ZippyDSMleeANd by mindlessly building upward you make it like every place else hurting property prices,ect,ect. You'll have to slowly segment the region into aeras where you will never build upward then alow some aeras to build upward.04/16/2014 - 10:25pm
Matthew WilsonSF have to build upwards they have natural growth limits. they can not grow outwards. ps growing outwards is terable just look at Orlando or Austin for that.04/16/2014 - 4:15pm
ZippyDSMleeIf they built upward then it would becoem like every other place making it worthless, if they don't build upward they will price people out making it worthless, what they need to do is a mix of things not just one exstreme or another.04/16/2014 - 4:00pm
Matthew Wilsonyou know the problem in SF was not the free market going wrong right? it was government distortion. by not allowing tall buildings to be build they limited supply. that is not free market.04/16/2014 - 3:48pm
 

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