EMA President Issues Statement on SCOTUS Fight

November 2, 2010 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association president issued a brief statement on today’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court related to Schwarzenegger v. EMA. Overall EMA's top executive seemed upbeat about the whole ordeal:

"Today’s U.S. Supreme Court argument in Schwarzenegger v. EMA was both spirited and stimulating. I’m pleased that the justices recognized that the standard in the California law for restricting 'violent video games' to minors is unworkable in practice. I am confident that the justices will see beyond the facial appeal of restricting “violent video games” for minors and hold the law unconstitutional." - EMA President Bo Andersen.

 

Thanks Hal Halpin. More information about the EMA can be found at www.entertainmentmerchantsassociation.org/.

[GamePolitics is an ECA publication.]

1 comment

AirTalk Program Tackles Schwarzenegger v. EMA

October 29, 2010 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association passed us a quick note to let us know that the AirTalk program on KPCC ((National Public Radio in Pasadena, CA) will run a segment on (Monday, November 1 at 11:00 am PT) about the Schwarzenegger v. EMA case. Arguments for and against the California video game law will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 2. The ECA will be holding a rally on the steps of the court in support of the game industry and gamers.

The AirTalk Segment will feature Dr. Chris Ferguson of Texas A&M and Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann of the University of Michigan discussing the pros and cons of both sides of the issue. AirTalk is streamed live at www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk.

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Guest Column: ECA General Counsel Outlines Road Ahead for Schwarzenegger Case

October 25, 2010 -

With all of the interest around the violent video game case, Schwarzenegger v EMA, we get questions daily on the process, the case, the legal principals, our amicus brief, others’ briefs, and what is going to happen on the day of oral arguments and beyond. While we hope that the following information will shed some light on the oral argument process, we also routinely refer folks to the Supreme Court website, as well as to relevant articles on GamePolitics.

Yee “Hopeful” for SCOTUS Win

October 25, 2010 -

As the case surrounding a law he originally authored makes its way to the Supreme Court next week, California State Senator Leland Yee issued a handful of comments related to what will eventually be a landmark decision for gamers.

The Court will, of course, hear oral arguments for Schwarzenegger v EMA on Tuesday, November 2 at 10:00 AM.

Yee said he was “hopeful” that the Court would give “parents a valuable tool to protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent, interactive video games.”

Yee additionally claimed that SCOTUS has "often ruled" in favor of protecting kids and limiting their access, citing topics such as "pornography, gambling, marriage, firearms, jury duty, tobacco, alcohol, voting, abortion, licenses, and the death penalty" as examples.

Yee continued:

Games, DVDs, may be Subject to New CPSC Rule

October 11, 2010 -

According to a report on the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance, a new rule from Consumer Product Safety Commission may make it so that packaged media like DVDs, videogames, and other products aimed at children will have tracking labels attached to them (PDF).

Part of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), the rule was meant to satisfy a congressional mandate for safety recalls on children’s products related to things like lead levels from toys and other products from China.

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You’ll Be Able to Hear Schwarzenegger SCOTUS Oral Arguments

October 7, 2010 -

While we’ll be trying to gain entrance into the Supreme Court to hear Schwarzenegger vs EMA oral arguments on November 2, even if questionable credentials or a nefarious past preclude us from gaining access, a recording of the arguments will be made available on the SCOTUS website.

The new recording release initiative, as detailed on the SCOTUS website, begins with the current October term and will see audio files posted to the SCOTUS website on Fridays, under the Oral Arguements section of the site's menu.

EMA Hands out Honors at GamePlan Summit

October 1, 2010 -

Recently the Entertainment Merchants Association (who you may know best for their upcoming Supreme Court battle against the state of California) handed out honors to publishers and retailers for their contributions to the game industry as part of its GamePlan Summit (thanks to Gamasutra). Honorees include Best, GameStop, and Gamefly, among others.

Activision and GameStop took away the most honors: Activision was honored for Best Use of Social Networks (for Modern Warfare 2), Best Packaging (Modern Warfare 2), and Best Publisher’s Marketing Campaign (Modern Warfare 2). GameStop was honored for Best Game Department, and Best Retail Promotion and Marketing.

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ESA and EMA File SCOTUS Brief

September 10, 2010 -

Billing the California law at the heart of the Schwarzenegger vs EMA Supreme Court case as the “latest in a long history of overreactions to new expressive media,” the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) have filed their argument against the restriction of videogame sales in California.

The brief contends that videogames are a form of expression “as rich in content as books and movies,” and that they “are fully protected by the First Amendment.”

It was written that “California’s argument is not saved by the fact that the State is purportedly acting to assist parents,” adding:

Lawsuit Seeks Halt of Alaska Online “Censorship” Law

September 1, 2010 -

An Alaskan law that goes into effect on July 1, and deals with the electronic distribution of indecent material to minors, has come under fire by free speech advocates.

Section 11.61.128 of the Alaska Statutes, signed into law by Governor Sean Parnell (pictured hugging his predecessor) in May, calls for parties to be criminally liable for media transmissions (or hosting) of material that is considered “harmful to minors.” Additionally, violators can face up to two years in prison, could be forced to forfeit their business and would have to register as sex offenders.

Those in opposition label the law as “broad censorship,” and claim that “it bans from the Internet anything that may be ‘harmful to minors,’ including material adults have a First Amendment right to view.”

NYRA Preparing Amicus Brief for Schwarzenegger Case

August 16, 2010 -

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

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

Here is what the organization is looking for:

EMA Reelects Chairman, Adds Heathers to Hall of Fame

August 4, 2010 -

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

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

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

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EMA Report: Disc-Based Media Sales Up in 2009

August 2, 2010 -

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

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

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ESA Responds to Schwarzenegger v. EMA California Brief

July 14, 2010 -

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

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

ESA Chief on SCOTUS Case: Confident, Yet Humble

June 16, 2010 -

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

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

June is Rating Awareness Month

June 3, 2010 -

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

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

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

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Jury Still Out on Kagan’s First Amendment Stance

May 19, 2010 -

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

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

SCOTUS Decision Focus of Public Radio Discussion

April 28, 2010 -

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

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

Bersell framed the current drama as he sees it:

Yee on SCOTUS Decision

April 27, 2010 -

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

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

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

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

28 comments | Read more

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

April 26, 2010 -

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

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

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EMA v. Schwarzenegger Back on SCOTUS Radar

April 21, 2010 -

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

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

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

April 20, 2010 -

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

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

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

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ECA Prez Discuses Gamers’ Rights

October 22, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: GamePolitics is a publication of the ECA

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EMA v. Schwarzenegger: Half-way Home?

September 30, 2009 -

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

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

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Supreme EMA v. Schwarzenegger Decision Within a Week

September 28, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 comments

If Necessary, EMA Preparing for Media Testing

September 18, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

14 comments

Media Coalition Gets Behind Game Biz Lawsuit Against Chicago Transit Authority

July 23, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retail Activation Codes Target Shoplifting, Not Piracy

June 26, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2009 -

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

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

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

56 comments

Sustainability on the Menu at Greener Gaming Gathering

May 27, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

Media Coalition Slams California Appeal of Violent Video Game Law

May 21, 2009 -

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

Media Coalition Executive Director David Horowitz said in a statement:

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

 

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

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

The Entertainment Consumers Association is also a Media Coalition member.

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

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

 
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