New Video Game Legislation in Massachusetts ...Drafted by Jack Thompson

January 9, 2007 -
If you thought the video game industry's uninterrupted string of federal court victories might discourage states from proposing further legislation, think again.

GamePolitics has confirmed that the Massachusetts legislature will soon take up consideration of a video game bill of the "harmful to minors" variety. This is the same legal concept traditionally used to block distribution of pornography to minors.

The proposed legislation, which does not yet have a primary sponsor, would block underage buyers from purchasing any game which:

  • depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors

  • is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors

  • and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.


According to spokesperson Lynne Lyman of Boston's Office of Human Services, about a dozen members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives are prepared to sign on to the bill, as are some state senators. The bill enjoys the backing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino as well as other influential community members.

Lyman told GP the bill is patterned on Utah's, which Massachusetts officials believe has the best chance to succeed. However, the Utah bill, which failed to clear the state legislature in 2006, is very similar to Louisiana's video game law, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. The legislature in Utah is expected to reconsider the video game bill in 2007, albeit with a new sponsor.

Lyman also confirmed that controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson assisted in drafting the bill. Thompson was the author of the Utah and Louisiana bills.

Of his involvement, Thompson told GP:
The Mayor of Boston asked me to draft a bill, on his behalf, for the Massachusetts legislature. Mayors get to do that in Massachusetts. Secondly, it is very much like Louisiana. The difference is that these people intend to win the court fight, unlike the knuckleheads in Louisiana. That bill was constitutional. They took a dive because of (ESA boss Doug) Lowenstein's threats.

Thompson's "knuckleheads" reference pertains to the ugly feud which developed between the activist attorney and Louisiana officials, particularly Attorney General Charles Foti and Deputy A.G. Burton Guidry. The "threats" comment apparently pertains to remarks made by Doug Lowenstein to the effect that, "Signing this bill into law would no doubt hurt the state's economy, essentially hanging up a 'Stay Out of Louisiana' sign on the state's borders for video game companies."

Speaking of Massachusetts, GP readers may recall the recent controversy there involving the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) in which a number of local officials and prominent citizens successfully lobbied for a ban on M-rated game advertisements on buses and trains.

GP: We originally broke this story on Monday evening, but we're bumping into Tuesday's coverage due to its impact on the gaming scene.

Comments

@ Deus
yes, that would be. thank you for the correction in logic.

I hope a majority of the readers here were still able to understand what I was trying to say/suggest.

Thanks, i wasn't able to catch that, i thought that guy was for real...

Yet another "block-minors-from-buying law".

The way to break a bad law is to follow it to the letter. If a game has any form of any "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value", then the law is a carte blanche to sell the game, including Grand Theft Auto.

Taking this law out is easy - write to your congressmen and state that this law does the exact opposite of what it claims to do, and state exactly why. There's more than enough cut-n-paste material available to handle this without problem.

@Namrepus221

I'll have to look into that. If there is a way to get in I deffanitly would go. I might be able to get some of my friends to go to. The more the merrier right. ^_^

@ Gary

GTFO

This has nothing to do with religion. I'm so sick of hearing sh*t like this. Most people are passively religious anyway.

@ Verbinator

That has essentially been his strategem. If you remember, in previous interviews, he has often compared his tactics to those that lawyers had used to eventually take down big tobacco years earlier; claiming that while similar lawsuits against them had failed, eventually one passed. He has stated that he believes that the same thing will happen against the video game industry, that all it takes is for at least one law to pass and then, as he put it, "the floodgates would open."

Now while this may sound good on paper, personally it sounds dubious to me, at least where video games are concerned. If only because of the fact that, despite what JT continually claims, there has been no hard demonstrable evidence that video games cause tangible harm, unlike cigarettes which were conclusively proven to have tangible detrimental effects on one's health. At least the lawyers going up against big tobacco had the backing of the Surgeon General's report, not to mention medical evidence, which was a lot more compelling as opposed to the "evidence" Jack and his like profess, which has been shown to be tenuous at best.

I would be interested to know, however, from any of the legal experts here, about how valid Jack's strategy is and if it is as likely to succeed as he claims.

Does Mass. have a thing where you can go the the hearings on these laws and acctually speak on them as a resident of the state?

I remember someone speaking about something like that in Louisana, all you had to do was fill out some sort of card and you could speak at the capitol on an issue.

Maybe get a few dozen gamers down there to speak on why this will end up hurting the state and it's residents in the long run. Of course only intelligent gamers should attempt this (god knows they don't want to hear from some 12 year old gangsta gamer or something like that)

Lets further legislate religious 'morality', as we all know how moral religion can be. As long as you ignore the.. crusades.. inquisition.. burnings.. witch huntings.. book burnings.. beheadings.. vatican sanctioned/hidden child rape.. the list goes on and on. These idiots should read their own bible sometime and comment on the level of violence in that alone. If they did, they'd be forced to ban their very own source of 'morality'. Heck, lets ban anything and everything and we can live in a clean whitewashed, brainless, follow the leader society loved so dearly by the zombified spoonfed theocratical masses.

@jer: Uh... a ban on producing unconstitutional things.... isn't that a little... you know... redundant. Unconstitutional by definition is illegal, you don't need to ban something that's already illegal. That'd be like saying that we need laws to ban felonies.

@Grimm

Yes, we know you're partisan. Give it a rest.

@ cat
"Is he trying to draft these stupid bills in every state?"

I think JT is "gaming" the court system ... and looking at the longer strategy (yes, I just attributed the ability to develop a strategy to this man). States may be irrelevant. The failed court cases he has championed (and/or abandoned) around the country have taken place in different federal court districts. Just my opinion, but I think he is shopping for a sympathetic federal court (not just a judge) ... hoping to find an activist federal judge of any persuasion (con, neo-con, or liberal) who will support his Point of View when a law (if passed) is challenged in court.

I think ultimately, he is looking for the following situation: Pass a Law. Have it survive a federal constitutionality challenge at the federal court level (possibly due to judicial activism). The industry would of course, appeal any verdict that went against the industry, possibly going straight up to the Supremes. He may have some belief that a more-or-less morally conservative Sumpreme Court would either decide in his favor or decline to take the case, in which event, he wins.

Well, I doubt this will pass

Although this IS the same state that continues to re-elect people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to represent them, so its not out of the question

Why don't we attempt to come up with a Interactive Media Legislation bill that would protect the video game industry from these attacks? have on there
a ban on producing legislation that is made to prevent/censor games unconstitutionally, getting retailers to have more enforcement on the handing out of video games (i.e. enforcing the ESRB and having parental consent for individuals attempting to get a game not for their age group), and educating the public on video games and the ESRB.

The question becomes how many ignorant political morons does it take to pass an unconstitutional bill? The real question is how many people believe a bill is constitutional because a knucklehead from Florida says it is depite not having a reliable test method.

Two things...

First off, does anyone actually have a record of Jack Thompson's career? I'd be interested in seeing exactly how many court cases he has actually won and how much legislation he has successfully drafted that was passed. I just would like to see what makes politicos actually think that he can be of service to them.

Second:
"and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."

I actually would LOVE to see that pass. When laws made it illegal for strip clubs to allow full nudity (thus the stickers over the nipples) unless it was art, at least one strip club started doing "naked shakespeare" so that it was okay. Well how about some shakespeare games? That would have literary or artistic value. Titus would be a good example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Andronicus

Or political? Well then, lets create the most offensive war situation ever. Scientific? How about a realistic depictation of what happens to the human body when flayed.

I dare Massachusetts to challenge our industry as such. It will be the goriest revolution EVER.

That "proposal" he made echoes a similar one he made almost a year ago. Anyone remember that "peace can only be had through me" piece he once sent? It has that same kind of tone to it. It's even more bizarre that he makes this gesture while at the same time he drafts this bill. Just which way does he want it exactly? Does he on some level realize this bill might fail as well and offer this so-called "olive branch" as some sort of contingency plan?

While JT may not show any signs of giving up, I'm at least somewhat comforted in the knowledge that he's being increasingly viewed as a crank - albeit a crank with a law degree that seems to use the legal system like a blunt instrument. He can tout his recent Nightline appearance all he likes, but in the end it really didn't do anything for him. If anything, it only showed to most of America how much of a nut he is and how idiotic his "crusade" really is. We keep saying here how he shouldn't be allowed any kind of platform from which to spout his lies, but upon refelction, I say give him all the airtime he wants! If it means that more people will finally see how much of an idiot he really his (and we all know how good Jack is at shooting himself in the foot), the faster his career will self-destruct.

I get my mail in the state of Massachusetts, so I guess I'm a resident, and with that I shed a tear for this poor state.

I hope you didn't have any social benefactors who needed that money guys because this one is going to hurt you.

It's really funny because the city just spent an insane amount of money redoing the ticketing system on the T. They built brand new Charlie Ticket stations at every T stop, as well as new scanners on the trains. On top of that there's an exorbitant amount of reconstruction going on in Boston, and that's outside "The Big Dig" which will never be finished.

So Mr. John Bruce Thompson has learned to "copy and paste" so it seems.
This to will fail, and this to will cost US taxpayers money.

sqlrob Says:
January 9th, 2007 at 10:04 am
Yet the movie industry (DVDs) is doing significantly worse than video games. Why are video games demonized, and movies not?
That's really irrelevant when it comes to defending against these kinds of legislative attacks. Whining that someone else gets away with it is not going to help anybody in this situation, just like pointing out the kind of sexual material books get away with wouldn't help the movie industry get past the wrath of legislators.

It's the responsibility of each industry to watch it's own ass and take the steps to ensure it's as well-defended as possible; pointing out the failings of another entertainment sector is an even bigger waste of time than these laws.

Jotun Says:
January 9th, 2007 at 8:04 am
I had to say, the behavior and attitude of children lies on their parents shoulders. And don’t expect the police force to be full-time babysitters for your children and don’t expect legislators nor the game industries to do that, it will be a shame thing to do.

It's unreasonable to expect the industry to babysit people's children, but I don't think it's too much to suggest that the games industry take every reasonable step to make sure that they can defend against accusations of irresponsibility.

Educating parents isn't going to be a difficult thing to do, and if they'd taken the initiative a few years ago and made more of an effort in POS information about ESRB ratings and game content - as well as a bigger effort from retailer chains to prevent sales to minors - we'd be in a much securer position and be better placed to argue against accusations of peddling violence to children.

Yes, it's ultimately the parent's responsibility to raise their children and monitor their entertainment intake, but that's not to say that there's nothing resting on the industry's shoulders. There's a limit to the games industry's sphere of influence, but it needs to be much more active and effective within that sphere if we're going to see an end to these legislative efforts.

That proposal that Jack gave is rather moronic since it'd hurt publishers more than it would stores. So, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer for videogames screws up (which I'm sure happens on a daily basis) and sells a M rated game to someone under 17, so now the publishers are going to with hold copies of a product they want to sell? What are they going to do with games the store has already ordered? Refund their money? With stores like Gamestop/EB, they'd still probably get plenty of copies from people trading games in, which of course is where they make their money anyway so how's that going to really hurt them?

As for this whole stupid thing in Massachusetts, I can't wait for it to blow up in their faces and if they make to to the point Louisiana did, I hope they lose a lot money on this doomed to die bill. If they're smart, it'll be withdrawn and won't even make it to a actual vote... Can't wait for Jack's ranting and raving when he loses........ Again.

Where the taxpayers of MA really get shafted is that he'll be billing for the time it takes him to Find-Replace Louisiana with Massachusetts in the Word doc he used last time. Being a lawyer must be the best job in the world. Nowhere else can you get paid twice for doing the job once.

Oh goodie. More bad legislation on the way. Should we just call this Loiusiana Part 2? Seriously Jacko, if Louisiana says something isn't constitutional when it comes to games, then they're probably right.

So yeah, I can't wait for this law to be shot down, in flames, again.

Remember, there is a serious generational disconnect with some politicians. Because video games are "new" to them, they will easily be convinced based on emotional arguments, and will ignore facts.

As a federal employee, there are people I work with daily who somehow were able to graduate from high school...

I wonder what Jack's billing rate is for 'drafting legislation'? Essentially the good people of MA are paying Jack by the hour to draft something that will ultimately be rejected.

There is more than enough evidence to show any person that this legislation will never pass.

If I were a resident of the city of Boston and MY money went to pay some failed lawyer to draft some legislation that has failed time and time again.... well, I might just have to call the mayor's office and the local press.......

aniki21:

Spelling never was my strong suit, unlike history and technology, but I digress.

You make some good points, and some not so good points.

You do have a good point, the industry could do more in regards to enforcing it's self policing policy, as while the big box stores are doing great jobs, the smaller retaliers are not. However, and forgive me for paraphrasing as I'm away from my notebook and don't have the Ruilings infront of me, but each judge in each case has made the following or similars statments.

" Given the industries efforts as self policing, when compared to similiar efforts by other media industries, it is a violation of the 14 amendment to single them out for further restrictions without including music or movies in that demand."

Again, not an exact quote, but one like it has appeared in every ruling thus far. SO, again, until the anti gamers start targeting other industries, there argument is flawed and doomed to death from the get go. The industry has done it's part, until the other industries are in line, then I say leave the games alone.

Now, on your second point we can agree somewhat. Games are being unfairly targeted. But as far as I'm concerned, part of the problem is that the industry has never made an effort to point out the hypocracy of the attacks on them. As an example. Leeland Yee attacked games until his bill got put in injunction, yet failed to mention that he gets millions in campaign dollars from the Movie industry. Hypocracy.

As to the effect of violent media, while there may be an effect, theres no evidance as to there being any direct link to violence. If there were, these laws wouldn't be shot down all the time.

As for my argument about JT, ask the PTC what a slander suit can do to you. They had to pay the WWF millions for slander. The industries image is already tarnished ,and wont get fixed by PR and Education at this point, the industry has to stop the lies and critics first, then pr and education can fix there image.

The whole point of the lawsuits is not money, it's to stop the lies and BS, the industry has 10 billion dollars a year in revenue, more this year from what i hear. It's not like they have to worry about the money. They should use that financial and legal muscule the got to put the hurt on JT and MSM to get the lies and BS to stop. Then they can use pr and other methods to fix there image.

Overall, it's not that your ideas about Pr and such are bad, but the time for that passed years ago. Right now theres to much lies and bs in the MSM and from JT for such ideas to work. We need to shut the liars up first.

I"m not trying to be mean man, but the fact is, playing nice nice is what go the industry into this spot in the first place. They sat around for so long doing nothing to counter there critics that now the critics have a massive edge .

But hey, everyone has there own opinion. Agree or not, we dont' have to fight about it.

Problem is, the bill doesn't have to pass for Jack to be "successful." He's not paid on a contingency basis. He could shit on a page of vellum, retroactively charge hundreds of dollars an hour for the time he spent digesting a burrito, and walk away laughing. He's a cynical prick. If he really gave a damn about the various causes he pretends to champion, he would not be a lawyer. When was the last time a lawyer made things better?

@aniki21: "Since so many retailers slip up in the odd Secret Shopper survey, it’s being painted as the industry failing to take proper steps to “protect” kids."

Yet the movie industry (DVDs) is doing significantly worse than video games. Why are video games demonized, and movies not?

As a student who's interested in pursuing a career in game design, I find that it's absolutely disgusting that our representatives will allow such a stupid doctrine to exist.

As for Jack Thompson; I said all that needs to be said here: http://www.kobrasrealm.net/kobra/jackthompson.php

Wow, so Jack's a bigger dullard than I first thought. If he thinks he can pass the same bill in a different state he's pretty dumb. ESPECIALLY when he calls an entire state "Knucklheads".

His crusade is nothing more than a means to keep his name in the papers.

The sad thing is, Hillary Clinton will probably help him if he comes to New York.

I doubt that Mass would be dumb enough to alienate some of its better paying job markets.

"and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors. "

Is it just me, or does that really cover pretty much every game?

And so it begins.....

As with all of these bills that mention the "prevailing standards in the adult community", how does one determine what those standards are?

Does the bill layout a method that does not include the ESRB for determining these standards?

If not, and the bill is then meant to rely on the ESRB ratings, it automatically becomes unconstitutional (IIRC, laws cannot be used to enforce private standards [like the voluntary rating system of the ESRB] with regard to public consumption).

Wasn't that one of the general arguments that struck down the LA and Utah bills (other than the fact that the laws could not realistically be enforced)?

OSHYT!!!!

Theory? and my dad are going to be in Boston!!!!! (Well, theory? lives there)

GAHH, EXELLENT TIME TO FILE A BILL, FREAK! MY DAD WILL BE FILIMNG THERE FOR MONTHS!!!

JT still never told us how his LA bill was so bullet-proof in the first place. For all his talk of being sufficiently "narrowly tailored" is was incredibly vague.

What’s the definition of insanity again? Isn’t it:

“Trying the same thing over again and expecting different results.”

Or is that abject stupidity? I can never remember which.


Andrew Eisen

Oops, shouldn't have put that one "and" in there. Now *I* need an edit button too...

Our tax dollars? Increased in Massachusetts? Perish the thought.
/sarcasm

Unless the bill goes into more details about what the standards are then it will fail even before going into 1st amendment grounds by being far too vague. Will be interesting to read the bill in full so as to judge it on it's merits. If Jack is just repeating the same old rubbish in the hope that a different state will defend it with more vigor, then I wouldn't worry. Just sit back and wait for the Unconstitutional stamp from the next judge, who will no doubt be accused of bias from Mr. JT.

One thought related to the subject: Jack is up for 2 charges of contempt of court I believe? When do those come into play and does anyone know what impact that will have on his ability to promote or defend the bill if found guilty?

Didn't JT pen the Louisiana bill? in other words. he just admitted all his bills are unconstitutional.

I'm going to find the email address of the mayor to verify that the mayor actually asked him

by who's definition do games lack "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value" Alex?

The Political Machine could lack political value to Republicans since, heaven forbid, you can win the election fairly with a democrat. http://totalgaming.stardock.com/games/?id=PM

In regards to literary value, if you can't realize that many games have a plot very similar to books and movies, you head down a very slippery slope. This also covers the artistic aspect. If books and movies get protection as art, so do video games.

The only question now really is how much will the industry be awarded in legal fees to be repaid when this bill goes down in flames.

As for scientific value... what form of entertainment do the majority of people engage in that could be considered 'scientific'? that one is BS.

Newsflash: City of Boston to Flush Half Million Dollars down city Sewers. When asked about other recent cases in which similar laws were found to be unconstitutional, city officials were quoted as saying "Louisiana? Is that state?"

Sigh. He just doesn't give up, does he? The industry really does need to fight back eventually, but in the meantime I guess we just have to put up with these constant challenges. I'm a little worried that JT will have spent enough time trying to find loopholes and weasel/threaten/bribe his way into passing one of these bills one day and it could start a chain reaction.

Fingers crossed that never happens, because unfortunately whatever America does, Australia is soon to follow. :(

The difference is that these people intend to win the court fight, unlike the knuckleheads in Louisiana. That bill was consititutional. They took a dive because of (ESA boss Doug) Lowenstein’s threats.

Funny, if it was constitutional, why did it lose miserably in court?

Oh right, activist judges, silly me. ;)

Is this man capable of EVER accepting the fact that he can't just override the highest law in the land willy nilly? Where does he think he lives, Canada? :P
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Above-That's what i fear. To face an enemy for too long is to teach them the art of war.

@Andrew Eisen

Is there a difference? ;)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

and this is the perfect example of why the video game industry doesn't need to fight back against JT, he pushes the exact same bill in another state, which will be found unconstitutional as before, Jack defends the bill, loses, the industry sues for legal fee's, tax payers end up paying for it

eventually the politicians will realise that tax payers hate to see half a million dollars flushed down the drain to defend an unneccessary, and unconstitutional bill, and stop contacting JT

Yeah, this kind of thing will really make the industry want to consider his "proposal".

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6163854.html

Nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Well, nothing to worry about now, with Jack on the case this case will fail without the industry having to do anything.

eventually the politicians will realise that tax payers hate to see half a million dollars flushed down the drain

Bwahahahahahaahahahahaahah! :D

*wipes tears away*

Oh, I needed that.. thanks. :)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"...unlike the knuckleheads in Louisiana."

I have a feeling that somewhere in the not-so-distant future, JT will write another letter that reads "...the knuckleheads in Massachusetts."

No offense to the people in Massachusetts mind you.
 
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