Michigan Congressman Proposes "Video Game Decency Act"

September 29, 2006 -

 If you think that the political fallout from Hot Coffee is fading, think again.

The GTA San Andreas scandal not only continues to be a public relations thorn in the side of the video game industry - it's also an inviting target for politicians.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is no stranger to the Hot Coffee affair. In July, 2005, just as the publicity over the incident was peaking, Upton proposed a resolution in Congress ordering the Federal Trade Commission to look into Hot Coffee. The motion passed 355-21, leading to the FTC's June, 2006 report on the scandal.

Upton, however, was not pleased with the FTC's findings, saying:

"I guess I thought the FTC would have had some more teeth than they apparently have... I'm not at all happy... In essence there are no consequences. None... I would like to have thought that (Take-Two and Rockstar) would have been able to be fined for millions of dollars for the trash they put out across this country."



Upon finding out that the FTC has no such authority, Upton declared:

"I am going to be looking to write legislation giving the FTC the authority to impose civil penalties. I didn't know that they didn't have the authority."

Now, Upton has kept his promise, submitting H.R.6120, the Video Game Decency Act of 2006. The bill would make it illegal for a game company to fail to disclose content with the intent of gaining a less-restrictive ESRB rating.

Violations would be treated as "unfair or deceptive practices" under the rules that govern the FTC.

Fourteen colleagues have signed on as co-sponsors, including Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Joe Pitts (R-PA)


Comments

I didn’t know that they didn’t have the authority.

Not the first time that an attempt at making videogames a scapegoat has been held back by a lack of research, and probably not the last.

Now, Upton has kept his promise, submitting H.R.6120, the Video Game Decency Act of 2006. The bill would make it illegal for a game company to fail to disclose content with the intent of gaining a less-restrictive ESRB rating.
Forgive me for arguing semantics here, but making something illegal based on intent? I don't think Rockstar failed to disclose Hot Coffee because they wanted a lower rating - that implies that the minigame was supposed to be part of the final retail copy of San Andreas, but Rockstar didn't mention it in the hopes they'd get away with it.

As I understand it, the reason they didn't disclose Hot Coffee was because it wasn't part of the game that a player was supposed to be able to see. Yes, it was a little sloppy of them to leave the code there, but you can hardly argue that they left it there knowing that somebody would be able to unlock it, in order to bypass the ESRB.

Besides, it's going to be next to impossible to prove intent in court.

It wasn't hidden material that could be accessed through gameplay.

It was unused code that, by design, was supposed to be not part of the game.

Access to the code was NOT made by official patches or upgrades by the company.

Access to the code was NOT made by official unlockable codes provided within the official software.

Access was provided by non publisher, non developer, non official means.

Access was provided by non company personnel and therefore was a modification of said product that was NOT official intended.

I can think of a number of products whose use could be modified or interpreted to allow the product to be used in a manner that the creating company did not intend for the product.

If said products can be modified or interpreted to be used by some individuals in a manner which -I- feel is "indecent", can I then demand the company who created the product be fined, at the least, because it's product COULD be used by other individuals for purposes other than what the company claims the product was intended?

If someone can come up with a way to use a product in a way that was not intended to be used by the maker of the product, can we really hold the maker responsible for how the product is used?

nightwng2000
NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

Nightwing, how dare you let the facts get in the way of pandering! I'm glad this Upton idiot isn't my representitive. Isn't he the same guy who talked about how he played a little pong in his day, followed by a series of beeps and boops? >_

Upton is still smarting over the humiliaton he suffered on the Daily show, so he's probably trying to vent that anger at the industry since he saw that Joe pitts didn't have any success against the show itself.

Regardless, this is an AUTO fail.

1. Fcc only has authroity through public means of communication, of which, games are not, they are sold on the market, not broadcast through the air waves.

2. 1st amendment. You'd fiqure they'd get this one by now.

3. 14th amendment, once again, singling out games.


End game MR. upton, your not smart enough to use a toaster, let alone be an authority on games.
"My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

The only trash sent out across the country is this tired rhetoric. That, and pictures of that hairpiece.

OT, I got Julie Benay (Vermont Asst. Principal) pretty riled at me when I punked her idea to tax M and AO rated games. If anyone wants to see the exchange, let me know and I'll forward it to you. It's kind of long and I don't want to post it here.

"In essence there are no consequences. None… I would like to have thought that (Take-Two and Rockstar) would have been able to be fined for millions of dollars for the trash they put out across this country.”

Take-Two and Rockstar lost millions in the fallout of the scandal, isn't that enough? How much punishment do they want the company to suffer? Do this guy really think Hot Coffee was some apocolyptic event that nearly destroyed the purity of America's youth? It was just clothed dry humping, for goodness sake!

All I can say is... grr. This has to stop.

All I can say is that American Politicians are funny. they think that they are the most important people in the world and that the children are so fragile that if you even refuse them once they will be scarred for life.

Hey Hayabusa, send me a copy.

Email is Mattsworkname@aol.com.

Gotta see this.
"My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

Hayabusa, I'd like a copy too.

abbreviationdc [at] gmail.com

I wonder: are the politicians of America /trying/ to drive video game production from their borders?

"If someone can come up with a way to use a product in a way that was not intended to be used by the maker of the product, can we really hold the maker responsible for how the product is used?"

Sadly, far too many product liability cases are about misuse of products.

It would appear that the USA likes to stimulate the Canadian economy by driving it's Game Devs up here. Not a problem by me, really. I mean we have made the Mature and Adults Only ESRB ratings enforcable by law... but we also did the same with a movie ratings system. Unlike other places it doesn't hinder release dates at all so it doesn't really matter to us... And we give major tax breaks to developers!

Hayabusa - mark me for a copy of that too, at aniki[at]anime-ni.co.uk.

Terminator44 Says:
Take-Two and Rockstar lost millions in the fallout of the scandal, isn’t that enough? How much punishment do they want the company to suffer?
There's a difference though - they want T2 to be fined, not take a loss. It's not about penalizing T2's profits, it's about T2 having to pay for what they did wrong.

Hayabusa- Send me one too.

TheFricke44@wi.rr.com

Hayabusa, I'd also like to see it.
silver.derstin(at)gmail.com

This has the looks of a personal vendetta, not of an actual serious inquiry into Take-Two's actions.

I'm losing more faith in American politics the more this goes on.

@Hayabus:

blitz6799@yaho.com

@Phrawzty:

Their real goal is to confuse us by creating this sort of legal action one week, and then the next week to have headlines on how they're trying to make their state more attractive to the industry. However, I would say that we seem to benefit by giving you guys the industry,because as far as I know, you guys haven't tried breaking anything like we have.

@article:

This situation with Upton actually proves a point I tried making earlier this week where a politician was backing CAMRA and other studies and was quoted as saying something to the effect of "If the study says things are fine, I'll be fine with it too". My point at the time was that he already made a decision about where he stands with the issue, and that if the study goes his way he will be proud and make some claims, whereas this story itself shows what happens when the study goes the other way.

I'm willing to bet that if we travelled back in time and asked Upton what would he do if the FTC said there was no problem that Upton would say "Then that's what they found, I'll live with it"; or something to that effect.

hayabusa75 I would like a copy as well please. My E-mail address is Ifrift17@aol.com

Now onto the story at hand. Can we please stop with the "OMG! R*and T2 are evil smut peddlers! Think of the children!" This guy is just sore because he has been revealed as the big idiot he is. No matter what you guys try to pass you always jump over the 1st amendment, if you guys would sit down and talk with the video game industry instead of trying to silence it with half assed laws that never pass and the constant attempt at fear mongering to get another soccer mom vote maybe, just maybe you would realize that the video game industry is not a evil monster out to devour the souls of small children.

Hey Hayabusa I would like a copy of that too. My e-mail is 9shess@hayshighindians.com

I really hope the guy who put the little bits and bobs of code into san andreas got his ass kicked and fired. that little stunt may cost gamers priceless ground on the content that will be censored from games from now on. I'm not for porn in video games, but if someone was, why should gamers be targeted when you can walk into movie stores and get porn there? (example: Suncoast, I don't know if you guys see them anymore, they're kind of going bankrupt, but they did sell porn.) Games are not mainly for kids, so how is legislature going to solve anything? And this jerk gave the Jack Thompsons of the world a raging hard on with his stupid childish mod. GAAAHHHH jerk.

Ok, just sent the messages to you guys...man, maybe I should've just posted it after all.

If it didn't go through, let me know and I'll resend it.

Are idiots like this determined to make me ashamed of my own state, nay, make us ashamed of our country? Election season is close and odds are this guy will be out on his ass.

@Hayabusa:

Oh, it went through all right (at least for me). ANd I must say, you cooked her goose good, buddy.

Oh for crying out loud.

Logic check!: Why would the gaming industry go through the effort to create the ESRB *just* so that can try to subvert it? That makes no sence, none!

Now, I admit leaving that data on disc was a mistake. But honestly, it only because accessable because some third party which R* has NO CONTROL over, went poking around where he didn't belong, found the data, then got a crazy idea to put it to use for the hot coffee mod. It just as likely that data could of sat there unused for all eternity for what it's worth.

Face it, there's no corruption conspiracy going on here, this is just the resulto f bad luck and curious mod makers.

Yeah, I don't think this law will have any real use. I mean, even in the situation with GTA: SA, they didn't try to get a lower rating by failing to submit info on the content, they just didn't want to admit their programmers forgot to delete a rather detailed part of the game. Weren't only San Andreas and Oblivion the only games to ever get rerated anyhow? And both times it was because of mods.

hayabusa75: Sorry to bother you this late in the game, but would you mind sending that exchange to me as well? marshall@creative-differences.net

Thanks.

@ sleepchamber: I hope not, actually. Even if it was stupid and juvenile, so was much of the other stuff in San Andreas. I mean we had a blind chinese triad running face first into walls, a complete stoner pothead, and an abundance of other immaturity in the game. It was just another piece of the puzzle which got axed for whatever reason, though I'm willing to bet it had more to do with the fact that the minigame just wasn't all that fun and Rockstar decided that it would probably result in an AO rating (which is something NO game developer wants, not even Rockstar). The way it was disabled could have been more complete, but it wasn't actually part of the game at the time of shipping.

Hayabusa can you give me a copy Too? zider1123@yahoo.com

The FTC *would* have authority to handle this, because the FCC only handles things like Broadcast Television and Radio.

The only silly thing, is that that the FTC already has a mechanism to handle this. It's called the false advertising regulations.

The problem was that the FTC couldn't prove that R* & Take Two did it intentionally.

Same with Upton's proposed law:

The bill would make it illegal for a game company to fail to disclose content with the intent of gaining a less-restrictive ESRB rating.

If they can't prove intent, they can't fine. Congrats Upton, you made a do-nothing law that accomplishes the same thing as already existing laws...

@Blitz_Fitness:

Thanks, it was fun. I do want to give credit where it's due, though; Dennis and the rest of you were also in those e-mails. I drew a lot of my points from you guys.

OT:
Oh look, it's back

http://www.joystiq.com/2006/09/28/dissecting-rockstars-formula-joystiq-p...
Comments 22 and 23.

Pathetic.

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Hayabusa: Hook me up too. hockeyhairman[at]hotmail.com.

And seriously, when are American politicians going to realize that they can't wipe their asses with the constitution and make laws like this? They're 0-for-8 now at least.

And another thing, when are American politicians going to realize that children are WAY smarter than they give them credit for? Any kid with a decent rearing and a straight head on his shoulders is going to know that what you do in the games, you shouldn't do in reality.

At least I always did, anyway.

@sleepchamber

As a game programmer for cell phones, I can tell you removal of assets is not always an easy task, it often involves hundreds of very small changes that can easily set back even small cellphone games back weeks, multiply that by several hundred times and you get some idea of why things that are unused get left in games. It saves a significant ammount of time and money to just hack a little patch that prevents the game from being accessable. Is it the best solution from a coding standpoint, no, but chances are you don't want to see a game delayed for 3-6 months (and possibly cancelled) just because they had to re-write significant ammounts of code.

Sorry to go off topic, but the gamepolitics' wikipedia page needs updating, and I'm not that good with words.

@Hank the Tank

Sorry, can't help you there. My workplace filters don't like a web page address that ends in ".com" (unless it's the server name), so it denies me access to GP's wiki entry. :(

Oh s**t, another shooting.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15060698/

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Interestingly enough, it's so-called conservative Republicans trying to instate a federal mandate like this - a very unconservative thing to do. But then again, these modern wanna-be conservatives have twisted the meaning of conservatism into the opposite of small government with limited control over state sovereignty and individual rights. The timing resonates perfectly with the November elections though - Republicans are just trying to win their share of value voters to try and stack the deck in their favor. Unfortunately most of these voters don't even realize they're being manipulated for the upcoming elections.

So we get more family-value grandstanding from people like Brownback to gain moral ground among the bloc.

"I stand against video games harming our children - vote for me, while my party and I mindlessly promote the continuing endangering of America by making more and more Muslims hate us instead of eliminating the small sectarian factions that actually matter. But at least your kids will be safe from Grand Theft Auto."

Technically, Rockstar didn't do anything wrong. At the time, there was no restrictions in the ESRB agreement stating that the company had to show content that had been completely locked out of the game.

Oh, and Hayabusa, can I get a copy of that, too?
rurouni_kenouki[at]hotmail.com

@ Hayabusa

I just e-mailed you back, but wow, thanks for letting me read that... The more and more I see from these ignoramouses the more I wish we could give our government a much needed enema.

Ironically, I'm pretty sure this bill wouldn't have applied to Hot Coffee as they didn't hide any game content. It would have required a bunch of court wrangling at any rate.

Hey Hayabusa, I'd love to see a copy of that exchange.

egreif [at] gmail [dot] com

@nightwing

My guess is it was a copycat incident. Some yahoo with a grudge (considering he was apparently a former student), wanting to go out in a blaze of glory. I mean, school shootings & plots have been all over the news three times now in less than a month. (Montreal, that hostage taking, and the Colubine-type plotters that were arrested).

What sickens me is that his picture will be all over the news, they'll report on every detail of his life. And while most perps of this type don't really care about fame, it shows other suicidal loners that if you're going to go, you might as well take the people you hate with you, because dying alone makes you a loser.

It's the new suicide by cop. Suicide by school shootout.

Jabrwock: At this rate, a shirt with that will be appearing in a Hot Topic any day now...

Thanks for the exanchange. You Really ripped her a new one.

Aside from the questionable constitutionality of this bill, it's entirely unnecessary. The ESRB already has frightening fines and punishments -- aside from the threat of a $1 million fine, they can revoke a publisher's ability to receive ratings for one year. No ratings means no sales in any major retailer means the company DIES -- it's the equivalent of a nuclear deterrent. I can testify that publishers (at least in my experience) are deathly afraid of this and take extreme pains to keep the ESRB happy.

Actually, four in just about a month:
http://edition.cnn.com/2006/US/08/30/school.shooting/

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

@Samson:

I wholeheartedly agree about the kids comments. I don't know if it's only this nation or not, but it seems as if we age and become "kids say the darndest things" kind of people rather than noticing that when they say or ask things that at first seem simple, tend to actually point out larger issues.

I wish more school shootings were like that. Two injuries, no deaths? (Well, the father, but that didn't happen at school). It sounds like this was another abuse case. Haven't at least half of these been connected to abuse? I'm pretty sure there's been an acutal proven causal link between being abused and becoming violent. I know I read a report that said victims of child abuse were more likely as adults to either enter into a another relationship where they were abused, or else become abusive themselves.

hayabusa75,
Wonderful job on handing her ass to her. She is just another one of those idiotic bandwaggon riders who do things like this to make it look like she gives a shit. I loved how she accused you of working for the industry because you challenged her idea. Ten to One none of those kids are working with local politicians under their own accord. They are probably all in some sort of AP government class and this is a required assignment they have to do. Though I must laugh because soon her plan like all the other tax payer money wasters will go down in flames. You can't tax video games because little timmy might play GTA and kill hookers. Mom and Dad need to get a little strict on what he plays. And there will not be a surgeon generals warning on games about violence because it has to be proven wihout a shadown of a doubt that playing the game is harmful to their lives or development.

@Beacon

No, most school shootings don't seem to be linked to anything in particular. Some are from abusing or broken households, some are heavily doped up on prescription drugs for depression or hyperactivity, some are loners, some are glory hounds, some are bitter at the school, some at the staff, or specific "cliques". Some just at the world in general.

That's why the Secret Service came to the conclusion that there were no common factors. They were trying to create a "school shooter profile" so they could identify possible incidents before they happened. But they found that there were no common factors.
 
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