Canadians Argue Against DMCA-like Law in Mini-Documentary

May 7, 2009 -

The Obama administration slammed Canada last week, adding our northern neighbor to a list of what the office of the U.S. Trade Representative says are nations which fail badly at copyright protection. U.S. media rights holders, including video game publishers' lobbying group ESA, lauded the USTR's addition of Canada to its Priority Watch List.

Some Canadians reacted with anger, claiming the action was driven by America's corporate IP lobby and arguing that Canada should not bow to such consumer-unfriendly pressure.

Via boingboing, we've gotten a look at C-61, a mini-documentary which addresses the Canadian government's so far unsuccessful attempt to pass DMCA-style copyright law.

boingboing's Cory Doctorow, who provided some narration to the film, comments:

A group of Canadian copyfighters produced this mini-documentary, "C-61," about the proposed new Canadian copyright law, which the US government is pressuring Canada to pass (that's why the USA added Canada to a nonsensical list of pirate nations).

 

Previous attempts to pass this bill have been a disgrace -- famously, former Industry Minister Jim Prentice refused to discuss the bill with Canadian record labels, artists, tech firms, or telcos, but did meet with American and multinational entertainment and software giants to allow them to give their input. In the bill's earlier incarnation as C-60, its sponsor, Sam Bulte, was caught taking campaign contributions from the same US and multinational entertainment companies...

ESA Running Charity Events at E3

May 7, 2009 -

The Entertainment Software Association will incorporate a variety of charitable efforts into next month's E3 Expo in Los Angeles.

According to an ESA press release, in addition to all of its usual gaming goodness, E3 2009 will feature:

  • Pro vs. G.I. Joe gaming competitions in support of U.S. military personnel
  • A t-shirt design contest with some proceeds going to support an L.A.-based homeless mission
  • a Red Cross blood drive

For more info, check out the official E3 site. Those wishing to donate blood should sign up online, entering E3 as the sponsor code.

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ESA Lauds Slammer Time For California Game Bootlegger

May 6, 2009 -

The head of the Entertainment Software Association has praised the 10-month sentence handed down to a San Jose media pirate.

As GamePolitics reported last December, Khuong Van Truong's trouble with the law began when his 2-year-old son wandered into a busy intersection. When police returned the toddler to his home, they discovered the pirating operation as well as a variety of alleged drugs.

Police seized more than 11,000 bootleg video games, 4,000 DVDs and 300 audio CDs. The pirated goods were valued at an estimated $420,000. ESA CEO Michael Gallagher praised the sentence:

Significant jail sentences in cases like Van Truong’s highlight the seriousness of game piracy as a crime and reflect the material harm inflicted on the artists and entrepreneurs who make computer and video games possible.

We applaud the work of both the San Jose Police Department and the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney for their hard work and dedication to bringing this game pirate to justice.  The ESA and its members will continue to support all law enforcement efforts to prosecute any individuals involved in the theft of entertainment software to the maximum extent of the law.

GP: To be honest, the jail time seems rather light from here, given that Van Truong was described by the San Jose Mercury-News as one of the biggest pirates on the West Coast.

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ESA Cheers as Obama Administration Spanks Canada

April 30, 2009 -

Those pesky Canadians have finally pushed the U.S. Government to the brink.

If the Bushies were still in power we might now be glued to CNN, watching the 82nd Airborne para-dropping into Ottawa. But as it is, the Obama administration has settled for delivering a nasty slap via the office of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk (left).

The issue is copyright protection and the USTR, a cabinet-level post, has been making unpleasant noises in Canada's direction for several years. Today Kirk dropped the hammer, placing Canada on the "Priority Watch List" along with China, Russia, Algeria, Argentina, Chile, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela. From the USTR report:

Canada is being elevated to the Priority Watch List for the first time, reflecting increasing concern about the continuing need for copyright reform, as well as continuing concern about weak border enforcement.

The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers, was quick to applaud the action in a press release. No surprise there, as the ESA has been pushing hard in recent years for Canada to outlaw mod chips and adopt its own version of the consumer-unfriendly Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

In fact, with DMCA-like legislation an issue that Canada's Parliament will soon be considering, a cynic might be forgiven for thinking that the USTR's action was timed for its persuasive value as much as anything else.

Of today's announcement, ESA CEO Michael Gallagher commented:

Putting Canada on the ‘Priority Watch List’ is a signal of the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening global intellectual property protection, and its intent to address this issue firmly with the Canadian government. Canada’s weak laws and enforcement practices foster game piracy in the Canadian market and pave the way for unlawful imports into the U.S.

So what does the ESA want from Canada? They have a laundry list:

  • Enact legislation outlawing game circumvention devices, such as “mod chips” and “game copiers,” in line with Canada’s international treaty obligations
  • Create adequate legal incentives for internet service providers (ISPs) to work with copyright owners in combating online piracy
  • Provide Customs officials with adequate authority to make ex officio seizures of counterfeit and pirate product at the border; and,
  • Provide adequate resources to anti-piracy enforcement efforts and make prosecution of intellectual property crimes a high priority.

NIMF's David Walsh Defends Game Addiction Study

April 29, 2009 -

As GamePolitics readers know, a study released last week by Dr. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University and the National Institute on Media and the family suggested that "nearly one in ten" 8-18 year-olds showed signs of video game addiction.

The research has been under fire, however, from the video game industry as well as from less biased critics such as Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson and ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer.

Yesterday game publishers lobbying group the ESA released a letter in which CEO Michael Gallagher criticized the study for a sampling error that has been acknowledged by Gentile. Gallagher also bemoaned the wide coverage which the flawed study has received from mainstream media outlets.

GamePolitics asked the National Institute on Media and the Family to respond to the ESA's criticism; we've just received this statement from NIMF President Dr. David Walsh:

Everyone knows at least one child who has struggled with balancing healthy game playing with academics and family life. Unfortunately, as Dr. Gentile’s study suggests, some children have more significant problems with gaming.  Regardless of whether you agree with the exact statistics in Dr. Gentile’s study, it provides the gaming industry, medical experts, and public policymakers with a new opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation regarding the effects of video games on kids.

One study will not determine if gaming is addictive for some kids. Again, additional research is required to determine if video games are as ‘addictive’ as gambling and alcohol. With this additional research, the medical community can make an educated decision on video games and addiction.

We look forward to leading the conversation with the industry, policymakers and parents on this important public health issue.

GP: Walsh discusses the research in the video at left. To be clear, the video does not address the sampling issue raised by the ESA.

ESA Targets NIMF Addiction Study

April 28, 2009 -

Last week the National Institute on Media and the Family along with Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile released a study which claimed that 8.5% of 8-18 year-olds displayed signs of video game addiction.

The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, was quickly challenged, most notably by Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson (co-author of Grand Theft Childhood) and ABC News polling director Gary Langer.

Citing Langer's report on the study's flawed research methodology, game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association yesterday sent a letter to the editor of Psychological Science, Purdue University Prof. Robert Kail. ESA CEO Mike Gallagher questioned the validity of the NIMF/Gentile findings and complained that their alarming assertions regarding video game addiction received wide coverage in the mainstream media.

It is safe to say that the sole reason the [Gentile] study generated the kind of media attention it did was due to the inclusion of specific numbers that would appear to have been based on scientific research. In fact, the numbers reflected no such thing. Because of the composition of the group studied, neither the overall figure, nor the cited sampling error is supported by the data Dr. Gentile presented. 

 

We accept Dr. Gentile’s [subsequent] admission of [sampling interpretation] error at face value, although it is hard to understand how a researcher would base a scientific study upon an assumption about the nature of the group he was studying. It is not that Dr. Gentile did not have time to make sure that the group was a truly national representative sample: the data was collected in January, 2007...

Gallagher concluded by asking Kail to advise Psychological Science readers of the discrepancy between the sampling reported by Gentile and that upon which the study was actually based. For a detailed explanation of the sampling issue, see Gary Langer's ABC News post.

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Koei, Playlogic Join ESA... Crave Rejoins

April 27, 2009 -

Game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association issued a press release this morning announcing two new members as well as a return to the fold by one firm that bailed in 2008.

Crave, which departed last June, returns along with ESA noobs Koei and Playlogic. ESA CEO Mike Gallagher commented on the new additions:

Our growing membership is a reflection of the ESA’s valued and successful work on the key public policy issues facing the entertainment software industry. Crave Entertainment, KOEI and Playlogic are key partners in leading that effort, and I am pleased to welcome them to the ESA.

GP: The recent influx of small firms to the ESA is likely driven by a change in membership pricing structure and may be linked to E3 exhibitor fees. As usual, the ESA has released its good news on Monday morning.

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ESA Canada Schmoozes Lawmakers with Games, Anti-Piracy Pitch

April 24, 2009 -

When the video game industry makes a lobbying push, it brings along the fun.

Canada.com reports that lawmakers played video games while ESA Canada execs pushed anti-piracy legislation this week at a lobbying event for members of Parliament in Ottowa.:

Conservative MP Mike Lake... took a break from playing the popular video game NHL 09 at the event, to talk about the ESAC's requests [for increased piracy protection].

Lake said the government plans to introduce a copyright bill, but wouldn't say exactly when. "It should happen in this Parliament," he offered.

The MP, whose Edmonton riding includes major game developer BioWare, said the bill is a "priority" for the government, adding the bill, if turned into law, wouldn't just benefit the gaming industry, but the music, movie and television industries also.

ESA Canada has been pushing hard in recent times for a north-of-the-border version of the USA's controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Danielle Parr, executive director of ESA Canada, said:

At the federal level, the primary issue for us... is the protection of intellectual property... We really urge [Parliament] to [pass the legislation] as soon as possible... In Canada, [mod chips] are not illegal. They're illegal in virtually every other country.

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Quick Exit: ESA's Head Lobbyist Out After a Month

April 24, 2009 -

Earlier this year GamePolitics reported that the Entertainment Software Association hired Jennifer Manner (left) as its new head of government relations (i.e., lobbying).

Apparently, the ESA and Manner were not a good fit. The National Journal reports that the ESA's new head lobbyist is gone after just a month in her new position:

Manner, a long-time Democrat, didn't appear to have extensive Capitol Hill or administration experience. Her background included stints as a vice president of regulatory affairs at Skyterra Communications, chair of the Satellite Industry Association, and senior counsel to former FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy. She has also... taught as an adjunct professor of law. ESA is not advertising any new job openings on its Web site.

An association spokesman confirmed that Manner had departed but gave no further information.

By our count, Manner is the third ESA VP to leave in the last 12 months. Others include former senior VP and general counsel Gail Markels and Ed Desmond, whose position was filled by Manner.

As we mentioned when Manner's hiring was announced, an ESA press release made it a point to refer to her as a "long-time Democrat." ESA CEO Mike Gallagher is a former Bush administration official.

Culture clash?

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ESA Reacts to NIMF Game Addiction Study

April 21, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics reported on research data released by Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile and the National Institute on Media and the Family which suggests that one in twelve people between 8 and 18 show signs of video game dependency.

We also noted that Grand Theft Childhood author Dr. Cheryl Olson of Harvard questioned the survey methodology used in the study.

Not unexpectedly, game publishers' trade group ESA has now weighed in to dispute the NIMF research. Senior VP Rich Taylor (left) commented:

This is a report more in search of media headlines than scientific truth and facts. In an interview, though not in the report itself, Dr. Gentile said, ‘It’s not that games are bad. It’s not that games are addictive.’ Medical experts, including the American Medical Association, have already rejected the fallacy of video game ‘addiction,’ and we completely agree.

Like all forms of entertainment, computer and video games should be a part of a well-rounded lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise. It is up to parents to determine when and how often their children should play any game. For our part, the industry already provides a wide range of tools and information, including timers and parental controls, to help caregivers ensure that entertainment software is used appropriately.

Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, who has been known to drop by GamePolitics from time to time, offered some additional criticism of Gentile's research, reports USA Today:

Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health Science University, called the study "valuable" to the American Psychiatric Association's [upcoming] decision on whether compulsive computer and Internet use should be considered a mental disorder.

Block, an APA adviser, warns that the [NIMF] study has weaknesses. The research should be replicated because it is supported by the National Institute for Media and the Family, which he likens to a lobbying group. And the survey could have found higher game use because it was collected in January as opposed to summer. It also classifies 8.5% as addicted without a physician interview: "The people they are claiming have a problem, it's not entirely clear that they do have a problem."

UPDATE: GU Comics pokes a bit of fun at the NIMF study.

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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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ESA Gains Two New Members

April 20, 2009 -

Game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association announced today that it has added a pair of companies to its ranks.

Trion World Network and XSEED Games are the new members.

According to Trion World's website, the company is developing a fantasy MMORPG for the North American and European markets.

XSEED was formed in 2004 by veterans of Square-Enix to produce games for the American market.

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Pirate Bay Founders Guilty, Will Appeal

April 17, 2009 -

The operators of the wildly popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay have been found guilty of copyright law violations by a Swedish court.

As reported by the BBC, Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde have been sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay 30m kronor (US$3.5m).

Prior to verdict the four defendants indicated that they would appeal if convicted. From the BB:

Millions of files are exchanged using the service every day.

No copyright content is hosted on The Pirate Bay's web servers; instead the site hosts "torrent" links to TV, film and music files held on its users' computers.

UPDATE: Michael Gallagher, head of game publishers' lobby ESA has applauded the TPB verdict:

Piracy is the single greatest threat to the development and release of innovative and creative entertainment software that consumers demand and enjoy. It’s a job killer in an economy that needs millions more jobs, not less. This decision confirms that the harm being inflicted on creators of digital works by BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay will not be tolerated, and that such actions are subject to criminal sanctions.

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Former ESA VP to Chair National Coalition Against Censorship

April 13, 2009 -

Gail Markels (left), a New York attorney who formerly served as VP and General Counsel with game publishers' trade group ESA, has been elected to chair the board of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Most recently, NCAC was active in the successful fight against Utah's Jack Thompson-authored video game bill, HB 353.

Markels (left), who worked for the Motion Picture Association of America before her stint with the ESA, commented on her new duties:

Unfortunately my experience in both the video game and film industries has taught me that censorship is alive and that we cannot take the freedom to read, watch and play the books, movies or video games we choose for granted.

 

The NCAC plays a vital role in protecting the freedom to decide for ourselves what we want to read, see, say, hear, and think.

Before leaving the ESA in early 2008, Markels compiled an umblemished string of court victories against states which attempted to enact video game legislation.

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Reactions to Utah Veto...

March 26, 2009 -

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

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

A very laudable decision. National Coalition Against Censorship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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505 Games Joins ESA Member Ranks

March 26, 2009 -

Continuing a recent trend, another small video game publisher has joined the membership ranks of the Entertainment Software Association.

Los Angeles-based 505 Games is the North American HQ for company, which has plans to publish on a cross-section of platforms.Titles in 505's pipeline include Championship Foosball and IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey.

The addition of 505 Games brings the ESA membership head count up to 23.

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Utah Bill Sponsor Blames Guv's Veto on Gamer E-mails

March 26, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman vetoed HB 353, the Jack Thompson video game/movie bill that would have targeted retailers who sold M-rated games or R-rated movies to minors.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mike Morley (R-UT), told the Salt Lake Tribune:

I think it's simply a result of an e-mail campaign from a lot of gamers that misrepresent the bill and [the governor's staff] has not studied it closely enough to recognize that is not the case. I think it was crafted very carefully to avoid those issues and I think they're mistaken.

However, a source close to Utah state politics told GamePolitics yesterday that Gov. Huntsman was the subject of intense lobbying from retailers. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Entertainment Software Association mounted a major lobbying campaign as well.

Morley complained to the Deseret News that the Guv didn't give him a courtesy call before vetoing the bill:

I would have thought that just common courtesy would have been to call me.

Legislators are now deciding whether to pursue an override of the veto.

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

March 20, 2009 -

UPDATED

Having been passed overwhelmingly by the Utah House and Senate, HB 353, the Jack Thompson-conceived video game/movie bill, is now with Gov. Jon Huntsman (R).

The Guv can decide to sign the measure into law or veto it. He may also do nothing, in which case the bill will automatically become law. Given that Utah conservatives have portrayed the bill as protective of children and Huntsman is rumored to have 2012 presidential aspirations, it's highly unlikely that he will exercise his veto power.

With HB 353 landing on Huntsman's desk, game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association has upped the pressure ante a bit. The ESA-owned Video Game Voters Network is running an e-mail campaign which urges Huntsman to veto HB 353.

ESA VP of Communications and Industry Affairs Rich Taylor also criticized the bill in an interview with Salt Lake City public radio station KCPW:

Essentially, what it does it has the unintended consequence of creating liability exposure which could force many retailers to either abandon their voluntary policies to enforce video game rating systems, or maybe perhaps choose not to sell video games at all.

Here you have broadly drawn legislative language that seeks to address a fairly small instance of retailers failing to enforce their policies as promoted. The vast, overwhelming majority of retailers are complying, but now they fall within this swinging sight of harm that this legislation introduces.

For his part, Jack Thompson has challenged ESA CEO Mike Gallagher to a debate on the bill, but that's an unlikely occurrence.

Assuming that Huntsman signs the bill into law, it will take effect on January 1, 2010. If and when Huntsman signs, the video game industry will decide whether to challenge the measure in federal court.

Also unclear at this point is where the motion picture industry stands on HB 353. If the ESA and EMA (game retailers) sue, will the MPAA join in?

UPDATE: An industry executive who has been actively involved in the fight against HB 353 assures GamePolitics that the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners are fully engaged in opposition to the bill.
 

Protectionism at Work in China's WoW Lich King Refusal?

March 19, 2009 -

Recent reports that China is throwing up obstacles to the introduction of World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King may be economic protectionism at work, says techno-financial site Silicon Alley Insider:

Wrath of the Lich King still isn't on sale in China, waiting on approval from Chinese censors who are nitpicking over "skeletons" in the game. And now it's looking less and likely Activision Blizzard's (ATVI) latest will get approval anytime soon -- China is vowing to make it harder and harder for games like WoW to get the thumbs up.

Blame good old-fashioned protectionism: The Chinese Government hopes to make homegrown, Chinese games more attractive by keeping foreign games off the market.

By way of evidence, SAI points to a report published earlier this week by JLM Pacific Epoch, which tracks business happenings in China:

The [Chinese government] intends to tighten approval criteria for online game imports in an effort to protect the development of domestic online game enterprises and avoid the excessive penetration of foreign culture among Chinese youth...

The central government supports the export of domestic online games as a way to promote Chinese culture, and... plans to organize an overseas roadshow for domestic companies to cultivate efforts abroad...

GP: So, if the JLM report is correct, the Chinese don't want Western games sold there, but would like to send Chinese games here. Sounds like something the ESA - which represents the interests of U.S. game publishers - might want to take up the U.S. government.

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Harvest Moon Publisher Natsume Joins ESA

March 16, 2009 -

Following the recent lead of SouthPeak Interactive, game publisher Natsume has joined the ranks of the Entertainment Software Association.

Natsume, which publishes for the PSP, PS2, Wii and DS, is best known for the Harvest Moon RPG series.

Natsume CEO Hiro Maekawa commented on the decision:

It’s important to partner with an organization which not only acts as the voice for the video game industry, but also reflects the mission and goals we have established for our company. We are pleased to join the ESA and are excited to collaborate on upcoming programs and activities such as the 2009 E3 Expo.

The addition of Natsume brings the tally of ESA member companies to 22.

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Report: Video Game Biz Lobbyist Cleared for Secret IP Treaty Info

March 16, 2009 -

As GamePolitics has reported previously (see: Digital Rights Groups Go To Court Over Secret Anti-Piracy Treaty), secret negotiations are taking place between the United States, Japan, Canada, the European Union and others governments. Representatives of the various nations are attempting to broker a mysterious treaty known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

Under discussion are intellectual property and copyright protection, important issues, to be sure. But while the Bush - and now, Obama - administrations have claimed that national security interests prevent consumer access to information about ACTA, Knowledge Ecology Notes reports that dozens of corporate lobbyists have been cleared for ACTA documents.

Included among these, according to the site, are Stevan Mitchell, VP of IP Policy for the Entertainment Software Association. The ESA is a trade association which represents U.S. video game publishers.

Also represented are the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the International Intellectual Property Alliance, of which the ESA is a member.

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has previously expressed concerns about ACTA:

Because ECA supports the balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the right of copyrighted material consumers, we do not think it wise to include any portions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) currently being discussed...    

We are concerned that any DMCA language in ACTA may cause enormous, unforeseen negative implications in US law.  That is why ECA, together with the Consumer Electronics Association, the US Internet Industry Association, Intel, Yahoo, Verizon and others, sent a memo asking the USTR to carefully consider that any discussions of “Internet issues” in ACTA be carefully circumscribed, consistent with U.S. law, and not include any portions of the DMCA.

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

ESA Lobbies for Bigger Tax Breaks in Texas

March 13, 2009 -

As legislators in Texas consider expanding financial incentives for game developers and other producers of entertainment media, ESA boss Michael Gallagher weighs in with an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman:

With over 90 development companies in Texas, the video game industry accounted for more than one-third of the moving media industry's $345 million investment in the state in 2007. In addition to the more than 7,500 jobs that the industry currently supports in Texas, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts found in a recent report that video games "have a ripple-effect and spread technological innovations to other industries..."

The opportunity now falls on the Texas state legislature, however, to pass the bills that will keep the industry's momentum in the Lone Star State going. Texas currently risks falling behind several states in economic incentive programs for the entertainment industry. This year alone, thirteen states are actively considering legislation that will either create or significantly expand their existing incentive program for digital interactive media development and production...

While economic incentives for the video game industry are a sound investment for Texas' cultural legacy, they are an even better investment for the people of Texas.

Reversing Trend, ESA Adds a Member

March 9, 2009 -

The ESA has a new member.

Although the video game publishers' trade group suffered a more than 25% loss in membership during the past 12 months, that trend may be reversing with the addition of SouthPeak Interactive to the ESA's member ranks.

The publisher's titles include the My Baby series, Two Worlds, Big Bang Mini, Velvet Assassin, Ninjatown and Section 8.

SouthPeak exec Richard Iggo commented on his firm's decision to join the ranks:

Our industry needs a strong and active trade organization and we are pleased to support that effort. We look forward to participating in the many programs and opportunities provided by the ESA.

 

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GP's Live Coverage of Philly Game Violence Hearing

March 6, 2009 -

The Children and Youth Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives held a hearing on video game violence today at City Hall in Philadelphia.

Rep. Ronald Waters (D, left) appeared to be the point person for the hearing, although Rep. Louise Bishop, who chairs the committee, was also on hand. As GamePolitics has previously reported, Rep. Waters has been questioning the role of violent video games in real-world violence for some time. Since Philly is his home turf, so it's not surprising that he took the lead.

GamePolitics was on hand for most of the hearing and supplied a live feed via Twitter. We also secured some video of the proceedings which we will get uploaded to YouTube over the weekend.

Four witnesses testified:

  • a project manager from the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police
  • Prof. Patrick Markey of nearby Villanova University
  • Two members of the Legislature's research organization
     

Here are the actual GP posts to Twitter. They are original, except that we've added endings that Twitter truncated in a few cases:

  1. I am heading out to cover video game violence hearings in Philly today. A state legislator is chairing. I will be tweeting from the hearing... 
  2. Just arrived at philly city council... Witness not well informed. Said that law on books in PA to prevent minors from buying m-rated games. But that's incorrect...
  3. Dr. Patrick Markey now testifying as to difference between correlation and causation. Markey has done research, generally favorable to games in past...
  4. Markey says violent games have a small, but consistent effect, but only on certain kids with pre-dispositions...
  5. Rep. Waters spends about 7 mins criticizing violent games with police shooting. This is a big issue in Philly lately as we have lost a lot of cops...
  6. Rep. Waters said that the industry pulled 25 to Life off shelves. That is not correct...
  7. Poor Prof. Markey seems to be serving as a proxy for the game biz. The reps. Are directing their anger about games at him...
  8. ESA apparently mailed in their testimony. The reps mentioned written testimony from ESA VP Sally Jefferson.
  9. Prof. Markey still getting follow-ups. Rep now wants to clarify Markey's suggested correlation numbers...
  10. Rep. is bringing up that military uses games to train personnel, so it must be an effective way to train people to do things.
  11. 2 guys up now from PA Joint State Govt Commission, research wing of PA legislature. They were asked to look into violent games. GP reported on this in late 2008.
  12. These guys are not telling the reps what they want to hear... Letting them know that game laws invariably unconstitutional...
  13. Wow, one of the reps just raised the idea of a five per cent tax on violent games to fund public education on game ratings...
  14. Rep. Samuelson suggests no public funds should be allocated to violent game developers - the Texas model (although he is unaware of that, clearly)...
  15. Rep. Murphy suggests that the state should mandate parental controls.... Guess he doesn't realize that they are already built in...
  16. Reps are upset over line in state report that players can get some benefits from violent games. 3 [Reps.] have now have objected.
  17. I've taken some shaky cam video here, but just found a nice, steady place to put my camera... Will post vids on YouTube tonite or tomorrow
  18. Rep. Waters again said that the game biz pulled 25 to Life off market, which is not true. Plus, he keeps calling it 21 to Life
  19. Rep. Waters asking what are penalties for selling violent games to minors.
  20. Rep. Cox (?) asking why games are so bad compared to violent movies, music, etc. High praise for ESRB, talks about parental responsibility...
  21. Chairwoman is asking about parental control features. Rep. Samuelson back again complaining about that phrase "violent games can have beneficial effects"
  22. Rep. Youngblood asks if violent games desensitize kids to death.
  23. Hearing now over.

GP: Although the representatives seemed quite frustrated with violent games during the earlier part of the hearing, by its end they had calmed down a good bit. In particular, the testimony of Dr. Markey and the two gentlemen from the PA Joint State Government Commission seemed to allay many of their concerns with information about research, parental controls and the ESRB ratings, as well as past failures of video game legislation. Of course, that's not to say that the issue was decided today.

Both Markey and the Joint Commission employees who testified were part of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Violent Interactive Video Games, which, as GamePolitics reported in December, recommended against legislating games.

Noted Developer David Perry Adds Voice to Chorus of Used Game Whining

March 6, 2009 -

This week's news that Amazon, Toys R Us and Best Buy are all jumping into the used game business apparently got well-known developer David Perry (Earthworm Jim) fired up enough to post a bit of a rant on his blog.

Like many others on the developer/publisher side of the business, Perry seems to feel that used game trades are drinking his milkshake. We don't see it that way. Indeed, quite the opposite. Low cost game buying options help build the pastime.

In addition, Perry has specific trust issues with trade-happy retailer GameStop:

"Sure, [GameStop,] let me go make you exclusive content, let me advertise to send buyers into your store, let me pay to put standees and posters everywhere, so you can sell them used games and stab our industry in the back." Now you've shown that the industry won't stand up to you, everyone else can copy this practice.

Trust me, I know these guys I've been in ALL their offices. I just don't hide, and kiss their behinds...

Where the heck is the ESA when we need them? They should be all over this like a rash. Based on the emails I get, you already have the support of the industry!

At least Perry doesn't seem to want to deny gamers the right to dispose of their used games in some fashion:

The gamers however have the right to sell their games to anyone they like, or trade them. I have no issue with that aspect. I've bought plenty of rare games on Ebay, and I have no problem with Ebay, because we're not doing co-promotion with them. Ebay are not our retail partners.

65 comments

Game Biz Opposes Utah Bill

March 4, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 comments

ESA Lobbies for Broadband Deployment

March 3, 2009 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has been lobbying for Universal Broadband for some time. Now, game publishers' trade group the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) appears to be moving in that direction as well.

Congress Daily reports that ESA CEO Michael Gallagher sees affordable high-speed Internet access as "connective tissue" that member companies need to weather the widening recession.

It's not hard to see why. Modern gaming staples such as DLC and online multiplayer require fat pipes. Gallagher elaborated on the issue:

We're the only form of entertainment online that's interactive -- movies and music are linear. We're very pleased with the president's strong embracing of broadband deployment as a high value goal for our country.

 

The administration and Congress have a huge amount to contribute to make sure that resources are available and make sure that rules of the road encourage investment and give companies and customers access to it at reasonable prices and terms.

Gallagher also dished on piracy and legislative issues.

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

9 comments

Nice Work If You Can Get It: ESA, ESRB Heads Make the Big Bucks

February 27, 2009 -

Despite a bumpy two-year run which has seen a 25% membership drop and a disastrous 2008 E3, Michael Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, is doing okay for himself.

IRS records filed by the ESA indicate that Gallagher was paid $789,929 for the reporting period of April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008. Since Gallagher didn't take over at the ESA until late May of 2007, or almost two months into the reporting period, we can probably assume that his annual salary was actually a bit higher. Additionally, Gallagher collected $19,015 in benefits.

By way of comparison, Gallagher's predecessor, Doug Lowenstein, earned $744,344 for the prior year, plus a benefits package valued at $96,616.

It's only fair to point out in Gallagher's defense that many of the conditions which led to a downsized E3 and drastically elevated membership fees were in place before he was hired.

On the same document the ESA reports the salary of ESRB President Patricia Vance as $535,397. It's apparent that the head of the video game industry's rating body has bounced back nicely from the 2005 Hot Coffee fiasco. Highlighted by a successful outreach program to parents and public service messages delivered in concert with various state-level political officials, the ESRB seems to be performing at peak efficiency.

8 comments

Cory Doctorow Has a Brilliant Idea to Fix EULA Mess

February 26, 2009 -

Writing for UK newspaper The Guardian, author Cory Doctorow offers an eminently sensible fix for those confusing, consumer-unfriendly End User License Agreements:

Here's the world's shortest, fairest, and simplest licence agreement: "Don't violate copyright law." If I had my way, every digital download from the music in the iTunes and Amazon MP3 store, to the ebooks for the Kindle and Sony Reader, to the games for your Xbox, would bear this – and only this – as its licence agreement.

"Don't violate copyright law" has a lot going for it, but the best thing about it is what it signals to the purchaser, namely: "You are not about to get screwed."

Cory also finds irony in the approach which content rights-holder take on the copyright issue:

The copyright wars have produced some odd and funny outcomes, but I think the oddest was when the record industry began to campaign for more copyright education on the grounds that young people were growing up without the moral sensibility that they need to become functional members of society.

The same companies that spent decades telling lawmakers that they were explicitly not the guardians of the morality of the young – that they couldn't be held accountable for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, for gangsta rap, for drug-fuelled dance-parties – did a complete reversal and began to beat their chests about the corrupting influence of downloading on the poor kiddies.

Ditto for the video game industry. As GamePolitics has reported in the past, game publishing lobby group ESA hopes to takes its anti-piracy "education" program into elementary schools.

23 comments

ESA Hopes Bigger E3 Will Permit "Restructuring" of Inflated Membership Fees

February 26, 2009 -

Over the last year, video game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association has lost a quarter of its members.  New financial data reported by Gamespot may shed some light on just why the defections have occurred.

Back in 2007 - at the demand of its member companies - the ESA scaled back its annual E3 show, reducing the number of attendees from more than 60,000 to around 5,000. Despite the downsized event pulling in nearly $15 million less than in 2006, the ESAʼs 2007 revenue dropped less then $1 million, thanks to hefty membership fee increases - 1700% hefty.
 
Dues collected for the year of the Santa Monica E3 (April 1, 2007 - March 31, 2008) rang up at $17.41 million; the prior year's total was $4.47 million.  The year before that, the ESAʼs total income from member fees was just over $1 million. 
 
Although NCsoft has gone on record that its decision not to renew its 2009 membership with the ESA was not financially motivated, itʼs a good bet that for some of the memcos (including financially-battered Midway), money was indeed a big factor.
 
For its part, the ESA told Gamasutra that it's revisiting its membership dues structure in addition to aiming for a bigger, better, and more profitable E3 2009.  Said ESA CEO Mike Gallagher (left):

The positive restructuring of the E3 Expo allowed us to revisit the ESAʼs dues structure.  It is our hope that this new model will make the ESA an attractive and accessible option for small and mid-sized publishers so we can more fully represent our industryʼs diversity.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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PHX Corphttp://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=176931667&postcount=12 although it's a little late, a comic strip on neogaf about the "release it now, patch it later" culture08/30/2015 - 7:37am
Papa MidnightBack to when, RedMade? A week ago? (seriously, though...)08/30/2015 - 1:55am
RedMageOh hey, a news station is trying to scapegoat gaming. That takes me back. https://twitter.com/GamingAnarchist/status/63754361236507443208/29/2015 - 1:40pm
Big PermA link to TB twitter with Matt Lees in the replies - https://twitter.com/Totalbiscuit/status/52528604482949939208/29/2015 - 12:16pm
Brad GlasgowWhy would he say the company lies about getting abuse? Oh, because people don't abuse GG?08/29/2015 - 10:38am
Big PermBrad - Matt Lees was also quick to say the company "Gamers Gate" lies about getting abusive messages thinking they were an official GG channel08/29/2015 - 9:11am
Goth_SkunkMGSV: The Phantom Integrity - A Rant by RazörFist. (NSFW on account of language). RazörFist discusses the latest batch of unethical journalist conduct, with a caveat. - http://ow.ly/RwXYT08/29/2015 - 7:10am
Goth_Skunk@Brad: I can.08/29/2015 - 6:13am
Goth_SkunkI assume "Stacy" is a pseudonym. After reading what she went through, I would not be one bit surprised if it is.08/29/2015 - 6:13am
Goth_SkunkA Year of #GamerGate: From Neutral To Anti To Neutral To Pro by "Stacy" - http://ow.ly/RwVeT08/29/2015 - 6:12am
Brad GlasgowI can't believe Matt Lees deleted his positive review of Ethan Carter because Chmielarz is sympathetic to GG.08/29/2015 - 5:30am
Goth_SkunkA GameDev's Year With #GG: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Adrian Chmielarz - http://ow.ly/RwSCd08/29/2015 - 5:18am
Goth_SkunkDespite not being a fan of fighting games I had to check out that R Mika trailer. Loved it. Still won't buy the game though, on account of Isuckatstreetfighteritis.08/29/2015 - 2:42am
MechaCrashI use a Dynex DX-840 headset, but it's discontinued. :( I wanted a mono headset so I could keep the other ear free for my speakers, but it has the bonus of being very light and comfortable, so you don't notice it.08/29/2015 - 12:41am
Big PermSora - I was just having a slow day at work earlier. Now I'm home with vidya!08/28/2015 - 7:54pm
ZippyDSMleeSora-Chan: Blender is easy compared to 3Dmax :P08/28/2015 - 6:51pm
Sora-Chantime to take up a hobby? maybe messing around in GIMP to make wallpapers? use qCAD to design somethin? open Blender and stare at it for a couple hours trying to figure what does what?08/28/2015 - 6:41pm
Big PermAlso, yes. I've been spamming the shoutbox. I don't have much going on today, don't judge me08/28/2015 - 3:25pm
Big PermThanks, but yeah. Not sure I wanna drop that kind of cash :P I don't even mind the sound quality of my krakens, it just hurts to wear em after a couple hours.08/28/2015 - 3:25pm
Sora-Chan@Big Perm: I'm a bit of a fan of the Omega Recon3D headset from SoundBlaster. Though it is a bit expensive.08/28/2015 - 2:36pm

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