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.

17 comments

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.

6 comments

Reactions to Utah Veto...

March 26, 2009 -

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

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

A very laudable decision. National Coalition Against Censorship

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 comments

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.

4 comments

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.

32 comments

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.

24 comments

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.

4 comments

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.

 

6 comments

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

6 comments

BREAKING - Appeals Court Terminates Gov. Schwarzenegger's CA Video Game Law

February 20, 2009 -

The 9th Circuit Court has affirmed a U.S. District Court decision which struck down California's 2005 violent video game law.

As GamePolitics reported last November, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit heard the state's appeal in Sacramento. In upholding the District Court's 2007 ruling, the 9th Circuit rejected several research studies presented by the states as failing to demonstrate a causal link between violent video game play and negative behavior:

Nearly all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.

The Court also rejected as unconstitutional a section of the law requiring retailers to label violent games with a four-inch square label with "18" printed on it.

Reactions to the ruling are beginning to come in. Jennifer Mercurio, Director of Government Affairs for the Entertainment Consumers Association, said:

We couldn’t be happier. Federal courts have found all nine legislative attempts to curtail the sale of violent video games invalid under the First Amendment, definitively showing that video games are protected speech, just like other content such as books, comic books, movies and music.

Bo Andersen, CEO of game retailers' group the Entertainment Merchants Association, said:

Retailers are committed to assisting parents in assuring that children do not purchase games that are not appropriate for their age. Independent surveys show that retailers are doing a very good job in this area, with an 80% enforcement rate, and retailers will continue to work to increase enforcement rates even further. The court has correctly noted that the state cannot simply dismiss these efforts.

I understand that some government officials will push for the state to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review this decision. The state should not acquiesce in this demand, particularly in light of its budget difficulties. The state has already wasted too many tax dollars, at least $283,000 at last count, on this ill-advised, and ultimately doomed, attempt at state-sponsored nannyism.

ESA CEO Mike Gallagher called the ruling "a win for California's citizens."

With the 9th Circuit's rejection of the California video game law, the question now becomes whether Gov. Schwarzenegger will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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

ESA Mum on Midway Departure

February 20, 2009 -

We've asked three times, but the Entertainment Software Association apparently won't confirm - or even respond to - our inquires as to whether bankrupt Midway has relinquished its membership in the software publishers' lobbying group.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this week, Midway has recently been removed from a listing of member companies on the ESA website. On several past occasions such removal has preceded an ESA acknowledgement of a member's pullout.

The reason for the silence is unclear as we've had normal communications with the ESA on other topics this week. One knowledgeable source speculated that the ESA might be acting at Midway's request.

In any case, it is hard to fathom what the ESA - which has been doing a much better P.R. job in recent months - gains by not making a clean break with the information.


ESA Hires New Govt. Relations Head

February 18, 2009 -

Game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association announced today that it has hired a new head of government relations (i.e., lobbying).

Jennifer Manner comes to the ESA by way of Skyterra Communications and the Federal Communications Commission, where she was senior counsel.

Manner replaces Ed Desmond, who exited the ESA for a post in the toy biz last September.

Interestingly, an ESA press release makes it a point to mention that Manner is a "long-time Democrat." We don't recall seeing a similar industry hiring announcement addressing an appointee's political affiliation.

Of Manner, former FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy offered high praise:

Jennifer is an outstanding choice for this position. With her broad experience communicating effectively with multiple public and private sector stakeholders and tackling complex regulatory matters, the industry and the ESA will benefit from Jennifer’s leadership.

15 comments

ESA Slams Western European Nations for P2P Piracy

February 17, 2009 -

Western Europe is a hotbed of P2P piracy, said the Entertainment Software Association in a press release earlier today.

The trade group, which represents the interests of U.S. video game publishers, included its findings as part of a report to the U.S. Trade Representative by the International Intellectual Property Alliance.

The ESA says that it studied P2P sharing of 13 popular game titles in December, and logged nearly 6.5 million illegal downloads. Italy was the leading offender, followed by Spain, France, Germany and Poland.

The ESA also indicated that it found "high demand" for console and handheld titles, which it says translates to "widespread availability of circumvention devices and game copiers in many leading markets."

Here's what the ESA had to say about Italy:

For a popular AAA racing title alone, Italy had close to 590,000 downloads... Telecom Italia’s networks were implicated in 11.6% of the completed downloads observed globally, making it the world’s most heavily utilized ISP in the course of the industry’s study... It was also found that with greater incidence of video game piracy through P2P networks, there appeared to be a corresponding and dramatic decrease in legitimate sales of entertainment software. Individual member company online monitoring confirms these trends.

 

The industry is also plagued by the easy availability online of circumvention devices, such as mod chips. This situation was exacerbated by a court decision in Bolzano, Italy, holding that mod chips were not illegal under Italian legislation implementing the EU Copyright Directive. Fortunately, the Supreme Court in 2006 reversed this court decision and found that circumvention devices are illegal under Italian law, but the damage was done and continues.

31 comments

Video Game Biz Still Targeting Canada Over Mod Chips

February 17, 2009 -

Those pesky Canadians!

Copyright lobbying group the International Intellectual Property Association has once again called upon the U.S government to add neighboring Canada to a list of copyright-violating rogue nations, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers, is an IIPA member. Indeed, much of the IIPA's angst with our friends to the north seems to revolve around Canada's more tolerant attitude toward mod chips. From the L.A. Times:

Specifically, [the IIPA is] asking the Obama administration to add Canada to the "Priority Watch List" alongside Mexico (hey, it's a NAFTA reunion!), Russia, China and other countries with a reputation for disregarding copyrights, patents and trademarks...

In particular, the IIPA wants Canada to do more to block the manufacture and sale of video game "mod" chips and other equipment to circumvent electronic locks; raise the statutory penalties for unauthorized copying, even when it's done for personal use; crack down on the manufacture and sale of bootlegged DVDs; and require ISPs to take down infringing material upon request, rather than simply passing a notice of infringement on to the customer responsible for it.

The Bush administration essentially blew off the IIPA's previous entreaties to target Canada. It's doubtful that the group will have any better luck with the Obama team.

Meanwhile, as we were preparing this story, the ESA dropped a press release on the topic with the obligatory doom-and-gloom piracy quote from CEO Mike Gallagher:

Piracy is the single greatest threat to the innovation, artistic commitment and technological advancements enjoyed by millions of consumers worldwide. Piracy is a job killer that the world economy cannot afford in these difficult economic times. Countries that skirt obligations to combat piracy need to understand the unacceptable damage they are facilitating —and those countries that invest  in protecting intellectual property rights and ensure that piracy is not tolerated at any level should be lauded.

The ESA also cited what it termed "alarmingly high volumes of illegal game downloads" on P2P networks BitTorrent and eDonkey.

42 comments

Midway Says Adios to ESA?

February 17, 2009 -

Bankrupt game publisher Midway has apparently left the membership ranks of the Entertainment Software Association. The Washington, D.C.-based ESA represents the interests of U.S. game publishers.

GamePolitics notes that Midway, which filed for bankruptcy last week, has been removed from the list of member companies on the ESA's website. Such removal has preceded the ESA's official acknowledegment of memco departures in several recent cases.

The move probably speaks more to Midway's desperate financial straits than anything else. With Midway's exit, the ranks of the ESA have dropped to 20. At the beginning of 2008, 28 companies belonged to the organization.

We have asked the ESA for confirmation.

8 comments

Are Booth Babes Returning to E3?

February 7, 2009 -

The Entertainment Software Association banned booth babes from E3 in 2006, but they may be returning to the game industry's big dance in 2009 as the ESA seeks to restore the expo's former glory.

In an interview with Danny Pena of GamerTag Radio, ESA exec Rich Taylor alludes to - but doesn't quite confirm - that booth babes will make a comeback.

Play the one-minute clip to hear Taylor's comments.

18 comments

Guv Declares "Entertainment Software Day" in Texas

February 3, 2009 -

Gov. Rick Perry (R, at left) has proclaimed today "Entertainment Software Day" in Texas.

The declaration is apparently the first of its kind in the United States.

In addition, both chambers of the Texas legislature have passed resolutions recognizing the video game industry's contributions to the Lone Star State. Those resolutions were sponsored by State Sen. Bob Duell (R) and Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D), both of whom have worked on financial incentives for Texas game developers in the past.

The news comes by way of a press release from the Entertainment Software Association. The trade group which represents U.S. video game publishers enjoys a strong connection to Gov. Perry. GamePolitics readers will recall that the Guv delivered the keynote speech at E3 2008.

ESA CEO Mike Gallagher commented on the Texas-sized salute to the game biz:

The support of Governor Perry, Senator Duell and Representative Dukes for the entertainment software industry in Texas is an endorsement of the artistic and economic contributions our industry has made to the state.

These lawmakers are helping grow our industry as we work to create new jobs for Texans; boost the state’s economy; and help discover new ways computer and video games can improve the ways Americans live, work and play.

According to the ESA, Texas's game industry adds $395 million to the state's economy.

Activision Returns to E3

February 2, 2009 -

Activision's back!

The Entertainment Software Association has issued a press release which offers new details on E3 2009. But the biggest news is that Activision, which was not an official exhibitor at E3 2008, will be on the show floor when E3 opens in June.

While Activision will be exhibiting at E3, it has not, apparently rejoined the ESA's membership ranks.

As for ESA, the game publishers' trade group seems to be improving its P.R. efforts.  E3 2009, for instance, has a great-looking new website and the ESA has also established an official E3 presence on both Facebook and Twitter,
 

17 comments

Game Biz Sales Topped $22 Billion in 2008

January 28, 2009 -

While recent studio closures and layoffs have shown that the video game industry is far from recession-proof, game publishers still managed to post record-breaking sales numbers for 2008.

According to a press release issued by the Entertainment Software Association this morning, video game hardware and software sales exceeded $22 billion last year. That figure represents a 23% increase over 2007.

Nearly $12 billion of total industry revenues came from game software sales. The industry finished the year strong, with December sales topping the $5 billion mark.

ESA boss Mike Gallagher commented on the impressive revenue figures:

Even in difficult economic times, the video game industry continues to support our country’s local, state and national economies with record-breaking sales figures and rapid technological innovation.

 

Our industry’s exceptional creators, artists, and storytellers, coupled with a commitment to providing unparalleled entertainment, have fueled high-octane growth, turning video games into the most sought-after medium on the market today.

The ESA also broke down sales by ESRB rating:

  • E rating - 45.3%
  • E10+ rating - 12.1%
  • T rating - 26.7%
  • M rating - 15.9%

The sales data included in the ESA press release was compiled by the NPD Group.

17 comments

ESA Lobbying Adds Up to $4 Million in 2008

January 27, 2009 -

The Entertainment Software Association spent a record amount on lobbying in 2008, according to a report by Gamasutra.

The trade organization, which represents the interests of U.S. video game publishers, spent $4,244,364 for the year, including $1,135,500 in the fourth quarter. That's roughly a 25% increase over 2007. So what issues was the ESA focused on? Gamasutra reports:

The ESA's filing cites activity in both chambers of Congress on broadband deployment, online gaming governance and immigration issues, and throughout Washington at the U.S. Trade Representative, Department of State, National Security Council Patent & Trademark Office and other agencies on trade regulation, anti-piracy and patent modernization.

Filings for the three firms retained by the ESA—Smith-Free Group, Jenner & Block, and Telemedia Policy Group—reveal that their efforts were focused almost exclusively on Congress towards matters concerning the regulation of games themselves and perception towards ESRB ratings.

Another filing reveals that the ESA added the services of the Monumental Policy Group -- whose existing clientele includes Microsoft, IBM and Sybase. Monumental's quarterly disclosure filing shows the firm lobbied Congress and U.S. Customs and Border Protection on trade and copyright matters.

The immigration issues mentioned by Gamasutra refer to the topic of H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. A document obtained by GamePolitics doesn't specify which side of the issue the ESA was lobbying, but it's safe to assume they are in favor of H-1Bs.

Media Coalition Gets First Amendment Scholar as New Chair

January 8, 2009 -

The Media Coalition, a free speech defense trade group which numbers the Entertainment Software Association (game publishers) and Entertainment Merchants Association (game retailers) among its members, has a new chair.

As reported by Video Business, First Amendment scholar and author Chris Finan (left) will succeed the EMA's Sean Bersell at the reigns. Of the transition, Bersell commented:

I am extremely pleased that Chris Finan, who is incredibly knowledgeable about free speech issues and well respected, is assuming the chair of Media Coalition. The leadership and credibility he brings to our efforts will enhance our ability to counter government censorship of publications and entertainment.

Speaking about his new assignment, Finan said:

Media Coalition plays a critical role in protecting what the American people can see, read and hear.

3 comments

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
prh99Just replace cinematic with the appropriate synonym for poo and you'll have gist of any press release.03/02/2015 - 5:34pm
PHX Corphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZQDFO2KEPo Jim Sterling Makes Fun of "Cinematic" Gaming03/02/2015 - 3:39pm
Matthew WilsonWOW is copping EVE. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/18141101/introducing-the-wow-token-3-2-2015 I think its a smart move to deal with gold farmers in this way.03/02/2015 - 1:16pm
Matthew WilsonI guess epic is tired of having their lunch eaten by unity. https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/ue4-is-free03/02/2015 - 12:50pm
Andrew EisenNot much to follow. Kern is being silly and... nothing much else is happening.03/02/2015 - 11:40am
Papa MidnightI ask because, having only just heard of it, I have not, and I was hoping for some insight.03/02/2015 - 11:39am
Papa MidnightHas anyone been following this petition by Mark Kern regarding Kotaku, Polygon, and VG247? https://www.change.org/p/kotaku-lead-the-way-in-healing-the-rift-in-video-games03/02/2015 - 11:38am
ZippyDSMleePaypal shuts down Mega's payment system. https://torrentfreak.com/under-u-s-pressure-paypal-nukes-mega-for-encrypting-files-150227/03/01/2015 - 3:25pm
Matthew Wilsonvalvle planning to release a vr headset this year wtf http://www.pcgamer.com/valves-vr-headset-is-named-vive-and-htc-are-making-it/03/01/2015 - 1:05pm
ZippyDSMleeuuuhhhggg in other news been sick since last night.....uuhggg.....I iwsh it did not hurt so much when my tummy wants to leave my body..02/28/2015 - 11:39pm
ZippyDSMleeBrings me to the Q why alt costumes would be needed in competition anyway... http://www.eventhubs.com/news/2015/feb/28/dead-or-alive-community-aims-ban-over-120-overly-sexualized-costumes-dead-or-alive-5-last-round/02/28/2015 - 11:36pm
MonteThough from a business side, i would agree with the article. While it would be smarter for developers to slow down, you can't expect EA, Activision or ubisoft to do something like that. Nintnedo's gotta get the third party back.02/28/2015 - 4:36pm
MonteThough it does also help that nintendo's more colorful style is a lot less reliant on graphics than more realistic games. Wind Waker is over 10 years old and still looks good for its age.02/28/2015 - 4:33pm
MonteWith the Wii, nintnedo had the right idea. Hold back on shiny graphics and focus on the gameplay experience. Unfortunatly everyone else keeps pushing for newer graphics and it matters less and less each generation. I can barely notice the difference02/28/2015 - 4:29pm
MonteON third party developers; i kinda think they should slow down to nintendo's pace. They bemoan the rising costs of AAA gaming, but then constantly push for the best graphics which is makes up a lot of those costs. Be easier to afford if they held back02/28/2015 - 4:27pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2015/02/28/the-world-is-nintendos-if-only-theyd-take-it/ I think this is a interesting op-ed, but yeah it kind of is stating the obvious.02/28/2015 - 2:52pm
prh99The government probably doesn't need an app, but I was think more along the lines of a company that was going to sell the collected info. “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product” sometimes even if you pay.02/28/2015 - 1:50pm
E. Zachary KnightWhat better way for the government to keep track of you than to get you to install an app that lets you insult the government.02/28/2015 - 11:03am
prh99No, but I looked it up and it's basically spyware. Their privacy policy says their apps tracks among other things your location and browsing habits via cookies.02/28/2015 - 8:20am
Ryan RardinHas anyone here heard of an app called iCitizen? It's basically Yelp for politicians.02/28/2015 - 5:16am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician