Louisiana Bill Targeting Sexually Explicit Games Dies in Committee

June 19, 2009 -

Louisiana Senate Bill 152 began life as a clone of Jack Thompson's failed Utah legislation and died quietly this week in the Commerce Committee of the Louisiana House, according to The Old River Road, a blog which tracks Louisiana politics. Although we haven't yet seen a post about SB 152 at TORR, blogger Charlie Buras dropped us a line via Twitter last night to say the bill expired in committee.

Between birth and death SB 152 was completely reworked by its sponsor, Sen. A.G. Crowe (R). As for Thompson, he was nowhere to be seen in the process. The truth in advertising legal theory advocated by the disbarred Miami attorney quietly morphed into proposed civil sanctions against those who would distribute sexually explicit material to minors. The need for such legislation is not entirely clear, since such conduct is already an offense under Louisiana criminal law.

Although Crowe's Senate colleagues passed the bill overwhelmingly, House members seemed less impressed. At a hearing earlier this week the bill was diverted to the Commerce Committee.

UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has more details, including word that the Commerce Committee voted 12-2 to kill the bill. The estimated $1.6 million cost to administer the bill didn't help any. (GP: thanks to longtime reader BearDogg-X for the link!).

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Passed By Louisiana Senate, SB 152 Targets Sexually-Explicit Content

June 11, 2009 -

By a 35-0 vote yesteday, the Louisiana Senate passed SB 152, a bill which would make a pattern of distributing sexually explicit material to children a deceptive trade practice under state law.

GamePolitics readers may recall that in its original form, SB 152 was drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson as a back-door means of enforcing ESRB content ratings. The original SB 152 mirrored Thompson's Utah bill, which was vetoed by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) in March. However, bill sponsor Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) subsequently gutted Thompson's focus on age ratings from the bill, amending it instead to its new focus on the distribution of sexually explicit material to minors. It should be noted that distributing such material to minors is already an offense under Louisiana's criminal statutes.

Unlike the Utah bill, SB 152 doesn't make reference to video games, advertising, age ratings or any specific product, for that matter. However, Sen. Crowe did mention video games as an example during yesterday's session:

This body has over the years passed numerous laws to protect our children... And with the growth of...  the market of materials that would be considered by most of us here objectionable as it relates to obscenity such as that is found... in video games either rented or purchased, could fall again into the hands of some of our children. So it is a step in the direction of moving, passing legislation that would allow for, again, protecting our children from this type of thing...

Oddly enough, SB 152 specifically excludes the Internet from its provisions. These days the online world would seem the most likely source for a child to stumble upon sexually explicit material. 

The nature of sexually-explicit conduct defined in the bill would seem to exclude any ESRB-rated video game published to date. It seems clear that a game meeting the standard defined in the bill would have already been rated Adults Only (AO) by the ESRB. Curiously, the bill does not relate its provision for sexually-explicit conduct to the legal definition of obscenity. Should the bill eventually be signed into law, this could prove to be a fatal flaw from a constitutional sense.

Now that it has been passed by the Senate, the next stop for SB 152 is the Louisiana House of Representatives.

GamePolitics readers can watch yesterday's debate on SB 152 by clicking here. Scroll down to "Chamber" for June 10th. The SB 152 segment begins at 4:01:39.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable video game industry source criticized SB 152 in comments to GamePolitics:

The bill as passed by the Senate is clearly unconstitutional. It would penalize the sale of sexually oriented material to minors, but does not require that the material be legally obscene for minors, referred to in Louisiana as 'harmful to minors,' or 'obscene,' as U.S. Supreme Court precedents mandate. This was the same flaw that doomed the Illinois 'sexually explicit video games' law.
 
While it might seem that mainstream retailers have little to fear from the amended bill, as they don't carry pornography, the fact that a single depiction in an otherwise unobjectionable video game, DVD, or other material could open a retailer to liability is of grave concern.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch Calls Pirate Bay Case a Win, Slams Canada Over Copyright Issues

June 11, 2009 -

Influential Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) referred to a Swedish court's recent conviction of the operators of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay as "important" and a "victory." He also reiterated Congressional claims that Canada is a leading copyright violator and pointed with pride to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which he helped pass more than a decade ago.

Hatch, who has served in the Senate for 32 years, made the remarks while addressing the World Copyright Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Utah Senator co-chairs the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC):

For years, countries like China and Russia have been viewed as providing the least hospitable environments for the protection of intellectual property. But this year, it was particularly disappointing to see that Canada, one of America’s closest trading partners, was listed on the Watch List. This is another sobering reminder of how pervasive and how close to our borders copyright piracy has become in the global IP community...

 

Appallingly, many believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free. I have heard some estimates cite no less than 80 percent of all Internet traffic comprises copyright-infringing files on peer-to-peer networks.

That is why the Pirate Bay case is so important. While the decision does not solve the problem of piracy and unauthorized file sharing, it certainly is a legal victory and one that sends a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. We can and must do more...

 

When we passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, one of my goals was to address the problems caused when copyrighted works are disseminated through the Internet and other electronic transmissions without the authority of the copyright owner.

By establishing clear rules of the road, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act served as the catalyst that has allowed electronic commerce to flourish. I believe the DMCA, while not perfect, has nonetheless played a key role in moving our nation’s copyright law into the digital age...

The Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group for IP rights holders (the ESA is a member), applauded Hatch's remarks:

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) once again was charming, informed, thoughtful and inspiring in his speech. Once again he was a passionate supporter of creators and copyright owners, and told the 500 or so international delegates here that he has been, and always would be, their champion...

Hatch, who last won re-election to the Senate in 2006, has been a regular recipient of campaign donations from the IP industry. A quick check of donations by political action committees shows that Hatch received $7,000 from the RIAA (music industry) between 2004-2006 and $12,640 from the MPAA (movie business) between 1998-2006.

IP Watchdog has the full transcript of Hatch's remarks.

Texas Attorney General Warns Parents About Video Game Risks

June 10, 2009 -

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) warns parents about a variety of potential threats which he says video games pose to children in an editorial for the Hill Country Times.

Abbott, GamePolitics readers may recall, sued GamesRadar in 2007 for allegedly failing to adequately protect the privacy and safety of children who frequent the website. Abbott later withdrew the suit after GameRadar's parent company, Future, Inc., agreed to make appropriate changes.

While online game predators are the primary focus of his editorial, Abbott also reminds parents about parental control features built into console systems as well as the use of ESRB ratings. The A.G. previously partnered with the ESRB on a 2007 campaign to raise awareness of the video game industry's content rating system. In today's editorial Abbott writes:

When we were young, our parents warned us not to talk to strangers... Today, children are more likely to frequent a digital playground that can be even more dangerous. For example, many game systems have evolved dramatically and now have many of the same capabilities as home computers. In particular, these games’ online interfaces allow users to interact with each other using text, voice or even video chat. Parents should beware of the potential for child predators to use these systems to prey upon and contact their children...

 

Parents should also consider participating in their children’s game-playing activities. Hand-held gaming devices also pose potential risks to children. Many of these devices have wireless-communication capabilities and are popular among kids who use them to communicate with others who are within range, usually about 30 feet. Child predators may be able to exploit this feature in certain public settings...

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City Sued Over Shutdown of Controversial Video Game Exhibit

June 9, 2009 -

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city of Troy, New York and its Public Works Commissioner suppressed free speech by shutting down a controversial video game exhibit in March, 2008.

GamePolitics readers may recall our extensive coverage of the politically-charged situation surrounding Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal. His Virtual Jihadi exhibit employed a modded PC game which included a mission to blow up then-President George W. Bush. Bilal said that the exhibit was intended to express his view that U.S. policy in Iraq helped create terrorists.

Bilal, a U.S. citizen and a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to display his work at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy but was abruptly ordered off campus after the school's College Republican Club raised objections to the game. Bilal was then offered space to display Virtual Jihadi at a nearby gallery, the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The gallery, however, was suddenly shut down for building code violations by Troy's Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch (left). Mirch, who is named as a defendant in the suit, had earlier led a demonstration protesting the exhibit. He called the suit politically motivated.

The Albany Times-Union offers comment on the suit from Melanie Trimble of the NYCLU's Capital Region Chapter:

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful. Mr. Mirch abused his authority to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagree with, an unconstitutional act that must be challenged.

According to the Times-Union report, the NYCLU seeks a court order to block the city from using its building code to infringe on civil rights. The suit also seeks damages on behalf of the non-profit which owns the Sanctuary for Independent Media as well as for the gallery's executive director. The NYCLU has posted a press release on the suit.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the complaint from the NYCLU website...

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Colorado Attorney General Partners with ESRB on Ratings Awareness

May 28, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics broke the news that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is partnering with the ESRB for a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the industry's video game rating system.

Colorado Springs TV station KRDO-13 is now reporting that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) has also jumped on board the ESRB bus. A press release on Suther's website quotes the A.G.:

I know parents face tough decisions these days about the media they allow into their homes. There’s simply no substitute for parental involvement and responsibility, and it is important that parents play an active role in choosing games for their children. ESRB ratings are an effective and informative resource that allows parents to decide if the video game their child wants is appropriate.

Suthers' message to parents will be broadcast on Colorado TV and radio.

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Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus Singles Out Five Nations

May 22, 2009 -

On Wednesday game publishers' lobbying group ESA issued a press release praising members of the bipartisan Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus for singling out Spain, Canada, Mexico, Russia and China as anti-piracy priorities for 2009.

ESA CEO Michael Gallagher praised the IAPC in a press release:

We thank the Caucus for this year issuing a challenge to Canada and Mexico to pass additional legislative protections – such as prohibitions on ‘mod chips’ and other circumvention devices that are used to play pirated games – and to follow through with greater enforcement and border controls.

We also thank the Caucus for highlighting the severe problems that exist for our industry and other copyright industries in Spain. Online and peer-to-peer piracy are rampant and virtually unchecked in Spain and in other major European markets...

But Nick Farrell of the U.K.-based Inquirer, doesn't think much of the caucus, implying that the senators and representatives on the IAPC have been lobbied by the RIAA and other IP rights holders. Farrell writes:

The RIAA has got its tame politicians in the US congress to rail at other nations that don't hold such a jack-booted attitude toward copyright infringement as the Land of the Free...

[IAPC] singled out Baidu, China's largest Internet search engine, as being "responsible for the vast majority of illegal music downloading in China." That's interesting, because Baidu does the same thing as Google which, as a powerful US company, the music industry has not dared to denounce...

It seems almost as though the entertainment mafiaa would like the US to mount a cross-border raid into Canada over its perceived lack of draconian copyright enforcement and wants the US to treat its NATO ally Spain as a pariah for having the temerity to say that peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet isn't a crime.

Online Video Game Predators Among Those Targeted by Alabama Bill

May 18, 2009 -

In a time when pedophile cases in which suspects contact their victims through online video game networks are on the rise, Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) will consider legislation that seeks to protect children from high-tech predators.

WAFF-48 reports that SB 120 is headed to the Guv for his signature after the Alabama House passed the bill on Friday. The measure, proposed by Sen. Myron Penn (D, at left) had previously gained the approval of the State Senate.

SB 120 makes illegal any use of an electronic device to solicit a child and includes cases in which law enforcement personnel are posing as children. From the WAFF report:

The bill outlaws many new ways that predators try to solicit minors... predators can be prosecuted for luring text messages from cell phones, PDA's and even video game systems...

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Dubya Immortalized on the Famicom

May 7, 2009 -

In a bit of political commentary, George W. Bush - looking very much like a chimp - has turned up on a fanciful cartridge for Nintendo's Famicon

Kotaku notes that the former President's cartridge is one of 58 contained in retro game shop Meteor's 2009 Famicase exhibit.

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Utah Congressman Says He's Way Better at Halo Than Rock Band

May 7, 2009 -

Perhaps more than any freshman congressman in recent memory, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has a knack for getting his name mentioned by the media.

Here at GamePolitics, we've covered Chaffetz for his Rock Band duet with Stephen Colbert. The Republican Congressman is also an active Twitter user (jasoninthehouse) and just a tad to the right of Attila the Hun. After all, he is from Utah.

But his conservative rants got the best of GP yesterday and we couldn't resist sending him a jab via Twitter:

Will you be doing anything with Rock Band again any time soon? Otherwise I may have to stop following your updates.

Chaffetz is nothing if not a good sport. He quickly followed up with a private tweet and we couldn't help but laugh:

I suck at Rock Band. Best if I stick to Halo.

By the way, Chaffetz isn't kidding about his Rock Band suckitude. Check out that 24% score from the Colbert show appearance. In any case, it's reassuring to know that at least one member of Congress enjoys a round of Halo now and again.

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Louisiana Senate to Consider Jack Thompson Video Game Bill Today

May 6, 2009 -

The Louisiana Senate will apparently discuss a Jack Thompson-authored video game bill in a hearing scheduled for later this morning.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs has SB 152 on its agenda for today.

The measure was proposed by Sen. A.G. Crowe (R) and is similar to the Thompson bill which recently passed the Utah legislature before being vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. Like the Utah bill, SB 152 would hold companies that advertise age restrictions on products guilty of a deceptive trade practice if the product is then sold to someone underage.

While video games are not specified in the measure, they were clearly Thompson's intended target in crafting the legislation.

A review of SB 152 indicates that it goes a step beyond the Utah bill by also holding retailers guilty of a deceptive trade practice for selling a product labeled with an age restriction (for instance, an M-rated game) to someone underage. This section seems to be very close to the type of content-based sales restriction which federal courts have consistently found unconstitutional.

In addition, the bill requires retailers to check the I.D. of buyers and to post signage indicating that I.D. will be checked.

GamePolitics has left messages for Sen. Crowe to inquire about the bill. So far, he has not returned our calls. We asked Thompson last night whether he would be testifying on behalf of SB 152 today. He told us it was uncertain whether the hearing would go forward today. However, we reached a staffer in Crowe's office this morning who told us the hearing would take place.

UPDATE: The committe is webcasting its hearing now. Click here for the committee list. Click on the TV icon to the right of the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs to watch the hearing. The committe is now discussing SB 29. As I write this the Thompson bill is fifth in line for consideration.

UPDATE 2: We had to wait until the very end of the committee hearing to learn that Sen. Crowe has deferred the SB 152 hearing until next week. Join us then...

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Texas Guv Puts Secession Plans on Hold, Signs Game Biz Tax Break

April 23, 2009 -

When not making bizarre references to seceding from the United States, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is  good friend to the video game industry.

The Guv, who delivered last year's E3 keynote in Los Angeles, today signed into law HB 873. The bill increases the amount of state grants available to video game, film and other digital media production companies.

As reported by the San Marcos Daily Record, Perry was enthusiatic about the legislation at the bill signing ceremony:

With this legislation, we are strengthening our state’s investment in a vital industry that not only shows off our state to the rest of the world, but also draws investment and creates jobs for Texans.

ESA CEO Mike Gallagher praised Perry via press release:

I commend Governor Rick Perry and the Texas state legislature for recognizing the contributions that the video game industry already has made in the state, and for acting quickly and decisively to ensure that the industry has the opportunity to reach its full potential. Today, Texas showed its strong willingness to stay competitive with other states that are seeking to attract video game developers and publishers.

KVUE has a video report on the bill signing.

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Utah Bill Sponsor Apologizes to Colleagues for Jack Thompson

April 22, 2009 -

Although anti-game activist Jack Thompson's latest campaign to pass video game legislation in Utah got off to a fast start, it is ending both unsuccessfully and with rancor.

In the latest development, GamePolitics has learned that Rep. Mike Morley (R), the Utah House sponsor of the Thompson-authored HB 353, circulated an e-mail to his legislative colleagues last week in which he apologized for Thompson's behavior.

Morley's apology came in response to the flap caused by an Easter Sunday e-mail sent by Thompson to numerous Utah legislators. The e-mail, which ultimately prompted State Sen. President Michael Waddoups (R) to threaten Thompson with prosecution, depicted GTA IV 's Nico Bellic receiving a lap dance from a pair of strippers. Thompson also included links to videos of graphic GTA IV content.

Here is Morley's e-mail:

Subject: My apologies for Jack Thompson
Dear Fellow House Members:

Over the past few days, I have received three emails from Jack Thompson regarding his concerns about mature video games being sold to minors.  Certainly, I am concerned about the graphic violence and sexuality of some of the mature video games, I am apalled by his use of what I view as pornographic images.  I want to make it clear that I had no previous knowledge of his intention to send the images and I apologize to each of you who received his email and were offended as I was.

Mr. Thompson is a nation [sic] advocate for this cause, but he doesn't speak for me nor do I condone or appreciate his actions nor some his tactics.

Mike Morley

When asked for comment by GamePolitics, Thompson said that he hadn't seen Morley's e-mail and "couldn't care less." Within minutes, however, he fired off an e-mail of his own to Utah largely conservative legislators:

I understand that Mike Morley apologized to you all for the shocking image I sent you of two women in bikinis in a strip club.  Sorry, Utahns, but you can see that on a beach.  To see more explicit material as to what is in the GTA IV game, you had to click on the two links I provided, and that was your choice. I warned you what you would see if  you chose to do so.
 
Mike Morley's apology is ridiculous.  I didn't scandalous [sic] anyone with an image of two clad women.  What is really going on here is that I upset the Republican club that runs Utah, and those in that club are seizing upon this harmless image as a ruse to scold the outsider who unfortunately showed that some in Utah aren't serious about protecting children.  Your Governor isn't serious, and we sure as heck know your AG is not.  Heck, he takes money from the video game industry to say how well the ratings are working... Incredible.
 
The only apology that is owed is by each of you for not insisting upon an override session [of Gov. Huntsman's HB 353 veto]...  Your family values stance is a sham.  

GP: Pictured: Gov. Huntsman, Rep. Morley, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Thompson.

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What Impact Will Texas Secession Have on Video Game Biz?

April 21, 2009 -

Late last week Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) indicated that seceding from the United States was an option for his state, albeit an unlikely one.

The Guv, rumored to have presidential aspirations of his own, is upset about the economic policies of the Obama administration.

It would appear that Perry, who delivered the keynote at last year's E3 (that's him along with ESA boss Mike Gallagher at left), has forgotten what happened the last time secession was attempted in 1861: There was a bit of a disgreement that is commonly known as the Civil War.

But wouldn't a Texas secession make a great real-time strategy game? Call it Six Days in Austin. Konami could publish it.

From a video game industry perspective, establishing a new, independent nation of Texas would certainly impact publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association, which is chartered to represent the interests of video game publishers in the United States.

Canada has its own ESA and there are plenty of game industry firms based in Texas. If the Lone Star state gains independence, perhaps there will be a need for an ESA Texas as well.

Or perhaps Gov. Perry is just going off the deep end.

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Tax Day Tea Party Staged in Second Life

April 17, 2009 -

With federal income tax returns due yesterday, conservative "tea party" protests were staged at a variety of locations around the United States.

For those who prefer their political activism to be of the virtual type, the Second Life metaverse featured a Tax Day tea party of its own.

The Second Life Newspaper reports:

A diverse crowd of dozens of men and women gathered... They picked up various protest signs: “Born Free, but taxed to death,” “Give Me Liberty ... not debt!”  ...A video screen on display played a short movie with a man portraying Thomas Paine speaking out against the expansion of today’s government...

 

The Tea Party in SL was sponsored by the GOP Cafe... The big topic was what the participants saw as runaway government spending gone out of control...

A few times, the sim was griefed with floods of particles. Twice, a strange loud voice pierced the air for about half a minute. Some joked this was the work of liberals, “they can’t stand the criticism...”

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Twittering Michigan Congressman Cops to Owning a Wii

April 16, 2009 -

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) has, it would seem, something of an up-and-down relationship with digital technology.

GameCulture reports that Hoekstra visited a second-grade class in Holland, Michigan yesterday. While there, Hoekstra revealed that he owns a Wii:

After lofting Hoekstra a string of softballs, such as "Do you like your job?" "Have you, um, ever, like, gone to Hong Kong?" and "How old are you?" the shorties laid in with the bomb — "Do you own a Wii?"

After confessing that he was 55, "really old," Hoekstra broke down and conceded that, yes, he owns a Wii. He also let slip that he has a dog and a cat and that the two are friends.

Nice.

Also to his credit, Hoekstra is heavy Twitter user, although GamePolitics readers may recall that in February, Hoeksta spilled the beans about a top-secret congressional trip to Iraq by tweeting about it

During the Bush years, Hoekstra presided over a 2006 congressional hearing during which House Intelligence Committee members were told that a YouTube video featuring stock Battlefield 2 gameplay footage and a voice-over from Team America: World Police were products of an Al Qaeda propaganda campaign.

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Following Tumultuous Utah Stint, Jack Thompson Heads to Louisiana

April 16, 2009 -

Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best: It's like deja vu all over again.

On the heels of ugly, public dust-ups with both the Utah Attorney General and the President of the Utah State Senate, Jack Thompson is taking his pursuit of video game legislation to Louisiana.

Again.

On Friday Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) will introduce SB 152. The bill, with the addition of a few bells and whistles, is essentially the same truth in advertising measure that passed the Utah legislature in March, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Last week Thompson circulated a press release indicating that a bill "nearly identical" to his failed Utah legislation would be proposed in Louisiana. While he did not name the sponsor, GamePolitics has learned that it is Sen. Crowe. In the press release, Thompson said that he expects to testify before the Louisiana legislature along with "four experts."

Sen. Crowe is apparently untroubled by the acrimony that marked Thompson's 2006 attempt to legislate video games in Louisiana. At that time a Thompson-authored bill unanimously passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature and was signed into law by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The measure was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, but not before Thompson got into an ugly, public dispute with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office (see: Suddenly Thompson is Feuding With Former Louisiana Allies).

Since Thompson's last chaotic go-round in Louisiana, he was permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for more than two dozen professional misconduct violations. Thompson has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the failed 2006 legislation ultimately cost Louisiana $91,000 in video game industry legal fees, it also provided some typically bombastic Thompson quotes, including: Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer.

For more background on Thompson's earlier Louisiana experience, check out The Circus Comes to Louisiana, a piece I wrote for Joystiq in 2006.

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Jack Thompson Criticized by Utah Senate Website over E-mail Flap

April 15, 2009 -

In our previous story GamePolitics broke the news that Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) threatened to have anti-game activist Jack Thompson prosecuted if Thompson did not stop sending him e-mail.

In a remarkable development, a website run by Utah Senate Republicans has publicly taken Thompson to task over the issue:

Jack Thompson sends a lot of Email.

At 6:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday he sent another Email message to a group of contacts and highlighted a picture that, if not legally pornographic, was certainly offensive.

President Waddoups was on the recipient list. He sent a polite but direct request back to Mr. Thompson:

    OK, I've had enough. Please remove me from your Email list.

Jack Thompson wrote back:

    Sir, did you look at the material being sold to minors in Utah that I sent you?

President Waddoups responded with a second request to be removed:

    Yes, I read them all and I got the picture. No more please.

Well . . . a few days went by with no relief. This morning Michael Waddoups – probably a little bugged - sent a third request to be removed from Thompson's Email list...

    I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list. I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again. If I am not removed I will turn you over to the AG for legal action.

So Jack Thompson issued a press release... Jack Thompson might be right. He might be totally, completely, dead-on right on his video game issue. He might not (smart people can disagree). Either way, this behavior doesn't help his cause.

GP: It's not clear who edits the Utah Senate blog, but there is an offer to post the original e-mails if readers request them.

UPDATE: In order to provide some context to this story, in the comments section I've posted the (NSFW) GTA IV screenshot that apparently pushed Sen. Waddoups over the edge. It's clearly not pornographic although it is racy.

UPDATE 2: The Utah Senate Site has posted the series of e-mails between Sen. Waddoups and Thompson.

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Utah Senate President Wants to Prosecute Jack Thompson Under CAN-SPAM Act

April 14, 2009 -

It seems as though Jack Thompson may have burned his final bridge in Utah - and turned a former political ally into an adversary in the process.

In an e-mail sent out earlier today, Thompson claimed that Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups (R, at left) has threatened to have him prosecuted if the disbarred attorney doesn't stop sending him e-mails.

Waddoups, who presided over the Utah Senate as it overwhelmingly passed Thompson's video game bill last month, apparently became upset by an Easter Sunday e-mail in which Thompson attacked Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

As GamePolitics has reported, the disbarred Florida attorney and the popular Utah A.G. have been trading insults ever since the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. On Sunday Thompson slammed Shurtleff in yet another e-mail which claimed that the A.G. is ignoring the sale of pornography to minors. That's a highly questionable assertion, since in this case Thompson is defining Grand Theft Auto IV as pornography.

To back up his point, Thompson included a screenshot depicting of a pair of strippers giving GTA IV protagonist Nico Bellic a lap dance. Why Waddoups reacted so strongly is not entirely clear, although it is possible that he was offended by the pic. Or perhaps he has grown weary of Thompson's persistent attacks on Gov. Huntsman and A.G. Shurtleff, both fellow Republicans. GamePolitics contacted Waddoups for comment, but the Senate President did not return our call.

In any case, Thompson supplied the text of an e-mail that he says he received from Waddoups earlier today:

I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list.  I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again.  If I am not removed I will turn you over to the AG for legal action.

In response, Thomson re-sent the lapdance pic to the entire Utah legislature:

If you are offended by seeing this, as was Senate President Waddoups, then know that you should be more offended by the fact that Utah kids can buy the game in which there are repeated sexual encounters like this... 

You will apparently read in the Salt Lake Tribune tomorrow morning that Senator Waddoups has now threatened me with criminal prosecution by Mark Shurtleff for sending him “porn.”...  Mr. Waddoups now threatens me for alerting him to this... I look forward to my criminal prosecution in Utah...

GamePolitics readers may recall that Thompson has a bit of a track record for attaching actual porn - not the GTA virtual variety - to his e-mails. In 2007 a federal court judge and the Florida Supreme Court took him to task for doing so (see Judge Spanks Jack Thompson For Including Gay Porn in Court Filing).

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Waddoups wants to pursue Thompson under federal anti-spam legislation:

Waddoups, on Tuesday, confirmed he would attempt to pursue legal action under the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

While that law carries a punishment of up to $11,000 in fines, it covers "e-mail whose primary advertisement purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service," according to the Federal Trade Commission.

UPDATE 2: Predictably, Thompson has written to the U.S. Attorney in Salt Lake City, urging that Waddoups be prosecuted for violating his civil rights. The letter, which we have also received via e-mail, can be viewed in the comments to the Salt Lake Tribune story.

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Check Out the Interactive George W. Bush Presidential Librarium

April 13, 2009 -

The authors of the parody children's book Goodnight Bush are back with a bit of post-presidential Dubya bashing.

While not excatly a game, The George W. Bush Presidential Librarium is an interactive parody:

Completion of the George W. Bush Presidential Library... may be stalled indefinitely, due to an apparent lack of funding, public support, and basic legality. Make no mistake, the public's desire to endlessly relive Bush's greatest achievements may go unanswered for years to come—and his legacy remain (like America) in limbo.

All hope is not lost. We at Origen & Golan Architects are proud to unveil the plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Librarium! Themed attractions provide more entertainment than a library, and more accurately represent Bush's remarkable legacy—start by exploring The Stax, Supreme Food Court, Book BBQ, and the ever-popular Golden Parachutes...

Via: Water Cooler Games

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Video Game Bill Fuels Conservative Talk Radio in Utah

April 6, 2009 -

Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) may have vetoed HB 353, the Jack Thompson-devised video game bill, but the debate over the bill certainly hasn't ended.

Thompson recently spent two hours bashing the Guv, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the video game industry on the Utah Eagle Forum Radio Show.

A caller gets into a heated argument with Thompson and the program host at about 30 minutes into the second hour. A second caller gets into it with Thompson and the host right at the end of the second hour.

Of note, we didn't hear the word "disbarred" during the two-hour program.

You can catch the program here: Hour 1   Hour 2

HB 353 sponsor Rep. Mike Morley (R) debates the merits of the bill with Sean Bersell, VP of Public Affairs on Inside Utah Politics (fast forward to 28:00).

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, urges an override of Huntsman's veto on yet another episode.

55 comments

Report: Override of Utah Guv's Game Bill Unlikely (but still possible)

April 5, 2009 -

An override of HB 353, the video game/movie bill vetoed recently by Gov. Jon Huntsman, seems unlikely, according to Utah's Deseret News.

Citing "legislative sources," the paper reports that a poll of lawmakers indicates that neither the Utah House nor the Senate have the two-thirds majority needed for an override session:

[Bill sponsor] Rep. Mike Morley... said he sent out a letter to his 74 House colleagues refuting some of the "misunderstandings" about his bill detailed in Huntsman's veto letter. Morley says his bill did not have constitutional problems.

Other than that, Morley said he has not tried to contact individual legislators seeking their support for an override session...

Senate President Michael Waddoups... said he believes he could get a two-thirds vote for an override, but if the House couldn't find two-thirds to override a vetoed bill sponsored by a House member (and both were), "we aren't going to go out on a limb if they don't want to do it."

The override deadline expires in May.

27 comments

Utah Attorney General to Thompson: Bring it on, Jack

April 1, 2009 -

On Monday GamePolitics reported on disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson's vague threat to "proceed" against Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) if the popular, third-term A.G. didn't immediately take action against major retailers like Best Buy, Target and Wal-mart for alleged sales of Grand Theft Auto IV to minors.

On that score, we should note that no law enforcement official anywhere in the United States has done what Thompson is suggesting Shurtleff do.

The backstory to Thompson's ire seems to stem from Gov. Jon Huntsman's veto last week of HB 353, the video game/movie bill conceived by Thompson. Following the veto, Shurtleff told the Salt Lake Tribune that he had been troubled by concerns about the legality of the bill. Going further back in history, in 2007 Thompson called for Shurtleff's impeachment after the A.G. gave a legal opinion that a measure proposed by Thompson was unconstitutional.

Given the nature of the public attacks on Shurtleff by Thompson (which include referring to the A.G. as "dead meat"), GamePolitics interviewed Attorney General Shurtleff yesterday on the HB 353 fallout:

GP: You’ve come under severe criticism from Jack Thompson in recent days in regard to the video game bill vetoed by Gov. Huntsman last week. Can you comment?

Shurtleff: Well, I just consider the source. I don’t take what Jack Thompson says – give it much credence. This latest demand that I prosecute certain crimes shows me that he knows about as much about criminal law as he does about constitutional law...

GP: Thompson, as you probably know, was given a lifetime disbarment last year by the Florida Supreme Court.

Shurtleff: Right. Yes.

GP: Given that fact, does it seem odd that he was invited to Utah and apparently met with the Lt. Governor and other political forces there to help craft the video game legislation?

Shurtleff: Yes. Absolutely. I do think that’s odd. I also think it’s odd that he received some kind of award from [the] 4th of July celebration in Provo last year. (click 'Read more' below for the rest...)

Jack Thompson Threatens to "Proceed" Against Utah Attorney General

March 30, 2009 -

In the fallout from his latest, apparently unsuccessful attempt to legislate video games in Utah, disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson has issued a vague legal threat to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. The popular Republican is serving his third term as Utah's top law enforcement officer.

On Friday the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Shurtleff had expressed concerns about the legality of HB 353, the Thompson-conceived video game bill which was vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman last week.

Thompson, clearly, was not thrilled with the news. He referred to Shurtleff as "dead meat" in the header of an e-mail forwarded to GamePolitics later on Friday.

A Sunday e-mail from Thompson to Salt Lake Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke (and cc:'d to GP) threatens to "proceed" against Shurtleff if the A.G. doesn't move against major retailers for what Thompson claims is "the distribution of pornography to minors in violation of state law." By way of defining porn, Thompson attached links to strip club and hooker scenes from Grand Theft Auto IV. However, while certainly not intended for younger buyers, GTA IV has not been declared obscene in any U.S. jurisdiction.

Oh, and there's a deadline for Shurtleff to act: 5:00 P.M. today.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, Thompson called for Shurtleff's impeachment in 2007 when the A.G. suggested that a piece of Thompson-authored video game legislation then before the Utah House was unconstitutional.

GamePolitics has requested comment on Thompson's threat from Rep. Mike Morley, the sponsor of HB 353, as well as from Gayle Ruzicka, the politically-powerful Thompson ally who heads the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum. We have also asked Shurtleff's office to comment. We'll post any comments that we receive.

UPDATE: Apparently unable to wait for his own 5:00 P.M. deadline, Thompson has written to Utah's Obscenity and Pornography Complaints Ombudsman... Except that the person he addressed his letter to is a law enforcement director in Utah A.G.'s Office. The "porn czar" position was eliminated in 2003 for budgetary reasons - which may be an indication of how serious Thompson is about all of this.

UPDATE 2: Rep. Morley has commented to GamePolitics on Thompson's threat to "proceed" against Shurtleff: "I know nothing about that."

Hit the jump for Thompson's Sunday letter to Shurtleff, the "dead meat" e-mail and the new letter to the porn ombudsman:

207 comments | Read more

No Decision Yet on Override, Says Utah Video Game Bill Sponsor

March 30, 2009 -

The sponsor of Utah's HB 353 told GamePolitics that he is undecided as to whether he will seek an override of Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman's veto of the controversial measure.

Rep. Mike Morley (R) told us via e-mail:

As far as a potential override, I haven't decided whether or not to pursue that.  We'll see as we get a little further down the road.

Morley (left) also gave his reaction to Huntsman's veto:

I was somewhat surprised by the governor's veto and disappointed that he didn't contact me prior to the veto to discuss the issues.  I believe that his decision was made based on false or misleading information from the gaming industry which constituted nothing more than posturing.  The bill was carefully crafted to provide safe harbor for those retailers who followed their own advertising.

GP: To be fair, the decision on the override is not likely to be Morley's alone; Utah's House and Senate leadership will surely be involved. As GamePolitics reported last week, House Majority Leader Kevin Garn (R) termed an override unlikely, suggesting instead that HB 353 be "retooled" and submitted in the 2010 legislative session.

14 comments

Columnist Praises Guv, Spanks Thompson Over Utah Video Game Bill

March 29, 2009 -

In a Saturday column, Salt Lake Tribune political reporter Paul Rolly praises Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) for his recent veto of HB 353, the Jack Thompson-conceived video game/movie bill. Thompson, however, comes in for some heat:

Gov. Jon Huntsman's veto of House Bill 353 underscores the importance of the constitutional checks that can be imposed on the Utah Legislature, whose members often are influenced by ideological extremists or questionable special interest groups.

In this case, while 25 of 29 senators and 67 of 75 representatives voted for the bill that supposedly protected children, it was Huntsman who proved to be the adult, protecting us all from the childlike antics of the legislators and their puppet masters.

In discussing Thompson's involvement with the vetoed legislation, Rolly cites a pair of GamePolitics stories. The first was our February interview with HB 353 sponsor Rep. Mike Morley (R). That interview's bizarre turn of events offered clues as to who wielded the real political clout behind HB 353. Hint: It wasn't Morley:

Thompson teamed up with Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka to push the legislation, a fact that Morley seemed reluctant to admit when he was interviewed by Game Politics, a publication that tracks the video-game industry.

The SL Trib columnist also dug up a 2007 GamePolitics interview with Jack Thompson. At the time Thompson was pushing a different piece of video game legislation in Utah. When Attorney General Mark Shurtleff suggested that the measure was unconstitutional, Thompson called for his impeachment. In the interview, I asked Thompson how such over-the-top verbiage was helpful to his cause. Ever the charmer, he called me a "goofball" and referred to Shurtleff as a "moron."

Thompson's involvement in Utah's legislative process is clearly troubling to Rolly:

This is a guy who is guiding legislation in Utah, the latest example of the influence certain ideologues can have on a Legislature controlled by one political party and too often predisposed to approve legislation, no matter how bad or bizarre, from right-wing zealots.

Pictured: Gov. Huntsman, Rep. Morley, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Jack Thompson

43 comments

Utah Attorney General: We Had Concerns About Jack Thompson Video Game Bill

March 27, 2009 -

The Salt Lake Tribune reports this morning that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) harbored reservations about the legality of HB 353, the video game/movie bill conceived by Jack Thompson.

Trib reporter Robert Gehrke writes:

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff... told me last night that his office had expressed its concerns "with several different iterations of the bill" while it was pending before the Legislature.

"Ultimately, we could probably make an argument to defend it, but we will be sued, it will be costly. If we lose we will pay attorneys fees. Wouldn't you rather spend that money educating people about the rating system?" he asked. "The governor apparently decided it wasn't worth the risk."

There would seem to be little love lost between Shurtleff and Thompson. During the disbarred attorney's previous attempt to legislate games in Utah, he called for Shurtleff's impeachment after the A.G. opined that Thompson's 2007 bill was constitutionally-challenged. The bill was subsequently tabled by the Utah House.

Thompson, who apparently got wind of Shurtleff's comments in advance, disputed the A.G.'s remarks in a harshly-worded e-mail sent last evening:

We told you for weeks that if you had any constitutional concerns, we wanted to provide you any information you wanted in that regard.  I offered repeatedly to meet with you and talk with you, and you ignored my repeated plaintive requests to do so... 

We heard absolutely NOTHING from you as to the bill’s alleged unconstitutionality, and yet now we hear... that you were badmouthing it in that regard, I presume to Gov. Huntsman as well... 

For his part, Shurtleff has been both a critic of violent video games as well as a supporter of the ESRB rating system. In 2005, for example, he urged Utah retailers to boycott Eidos's controversial cops-and-robbers shooter, 25 to Life.

In 2006 Shurtleff made an industry-funded public service announcement in which he urged parents to utilize ESRB ratings. As GamePolitics has reported, Shurtleff received a $3,000 campaign donation from the ESA in May of 2008.

53 comments

Grover Norquist High-Fives Utah Guv Over Video Game Bill Veto

March 26, 2009 -

A nationally-prominent conservative has given props to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) for vetoing HB 353, the video game/movie bill crafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson.

Earlier today, Grover Norquist (left), president of Americans for Tax Reform, forwarded the Guv a congratulatory letter, and GamePolitics has obtained a copy. From Norquist's message to Gov. Huntsman:

In vetoing such a clearly unconstitutional bill you have spared the taxpayers of your state the fate of too many others, picking up the legal tab for those that challenge the bill...

 

Your veto spared not only the legal costs states like the now nearly bankrupt California ($282,794) and Illinois ($545,078), but the harm to retail outlets in these difficult economic times, as well as the interference of parental rights by the state...

 

I know there is a push by well-intentioned groups... to override your veto, but that is a bad idea. Beyond the obvious First Amendment violation this bill presents and the dubious nature of making legally binding voluntary industry ratings, H.B. 353 violates the Dormant Commerce Clause of the Constitution as well...

 

As you know, Americans for Tax Reform opposed passage of H.B. 353 and supported a veto. I thank you for standing up for the taxpayers of Utah in this matter and encourage you to stand strong and fight against attempts to override that veto.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of Norquist's letter to Gov. Huntsman here (pdf).

16 comments

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.

17 comments

Jack Thompson Lashes Out at Utah Guv Following Game Bill Veto

March 26, 2009 -

Following abortive attempts to bring video game legislation to Utah in 2006 and 2007, Jack Thompson's fortunes in the conservative Western state seemed to be improving this time around.

Despite early confusion as to whether Thompson or bill sponsor Rep. Mike Morley deserved credit for dreaming up HB 353, the bill quickly gathered momentum. The Utah House and Senate passed the measure overwhelmingly and it was known to enjoy the support of Utah power broker - and Thompson ally - Gayle Ruzicka, head of the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum.

Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman pulled the rug out yesterday, however. Huntsman vetoed the bill, citing constitutional concerns and the potential for "unintended consequences."

For his part, Thompson went on the offensive. A letter from the disbarred attorney to the Governor took a harsh tone and threatened even more restrictive legislative action in the future:

You got suckered [by the video game industry]. Further, there is no constitutional, First Amendment problem... 

If your veto is not overridden, then we will be back with a bill to ban the sale of these products altogether, in light of the recent massacres in Germany and in this country directly caused by these murder simulation products that are being copycatted by teens who are being fraudulently sold them.

GP: The threat to ban violent games for players of all ages - including adults - would appear to be highly suspect, in light of the First Amendment. We asked Thompson about that, but he did not respond.

Thompson also circulated public records showing a May, 2006 campaign contribution of $500 from video game publishers' lobbying group the ESA to Huntsman. In an e-mail, Thompson accused the industry of buying Huntsman's veto.

We have verified that the $500 contribution from the ESA was received on behalf of Huntsman's 2004 campaign fund. But for Thompson's assertion to be correct, the ESA would have been prescient, indeed, to forsee - and pay for - a gubernatorial veto three years in advance. One would also have to accept the premise that the Guv could be bought. We asked Thompson about this, but again did not receive a response. 

UPDATE: Some GP readers have requested the Thompson letter to Gov. Huntsman. It follows after the jump.

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MaskedPixelantehttp://www.destructoid.com/dark-souls-ii-scholar-of-the-first-sin-upgrade-and-pricing-systems-detailed-289743.phtml Dark Souls 2 pricing revealed, is only mildly confusing.03/30/2015 - 6:02pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/yugiohtas/status/582642955489431552 Roger Slifer sent to the graveyard.03/30/2015 - 3:49pm
james_fudgeEZK: it sounds like a carry-over bug from Demon's Souls.03/30/2015 - 1:29pm
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E. Zachary KnightSleep and sanity? No need for that here. Check out our experience at Super! BitCon as we made a game while visitors got to play games. Game Jamming During A Game Convention: A Convention Jam Tale. http://tinyurl.com/ogx46t703/30/2015 - 10:43am
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ZippyDSMleecrap around. It’s quite annoying but kinda fun like galaxy...even if has the power ups I hate the planets... oh and here comes a C&D in 3...2.....03/29/2015 - 11:45pm
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