ECA's Hal Halpin to Discuss Gamers' Rights at Triangle Conference

April 21, 2009 -

On Thursday, April 30th Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin will speak at the Triangle Game Conference in Raleigh, NC.

Hal's presentation is billed as a conversation with Russ Pitts of The Escapist. The format sounds similar to Hal's well-received appearance with Spike TV's Geoff Keighley at PAX 08. The conference listing indictates that Hal will discuss:

The future of games as a media and a business, the role of the Electronic Consumers Association and the many key issues facing consumers today, including DRM, Net Neutrality, the economy and the ESRB.

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

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ECA Elevates Jennifer Mercurio to VP / General Counsel

April 7, 2009 -

Jennifer Mercurio, a seasoned advocacy attorney who has substantial video game industry experience, has been promoted to the position of Vice President and General Counsel of the Entertainment Consumers Association.

Mercurio, who in the past worked as a lead attorney for game publishers' group ESA, was originally hired by ECA President Hal Halpin in 2007. Of the promotion, Halpin said:

Jennifer’s track record of success speaks for itself along with her commitment to our advocacy mission for gamers. With the growing recognition of the demographic power of gamers we felt it important to expand her role to take advantage of our momentum on issues such as free speech, broadband access, and the rights of gaming consumers.

An ECA press release notes:

In her new role Mercurio will oversee all legal, policy, research, advocacy, action, lobbying, and government affairs for ECA...

 

The promotion signals the increasing influence of the ECA’s government affairs and policy efforts on behalf of gamers following its recent establishment of the ECA Institute, a charitable non-profit that helps develop and implement ECA public policy positions.

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

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ECA's Hal Halpin Dishes on DRM, EULAs and What Digital Distribution Will Mean for Game Consumers

March 31, 2009 -

Last week was a busy one for Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin.

On Wednesday Hal was in Seattle to serve as a panelist on the Federal Trade Commission's much-anticipated town hall meeting on digital rights management (DRM). From Seattle it was down to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference. At GDC Hal was interviewed by - among others - Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica and spoke at length about the needs of the game consumer in relation to the game industry's desire for DRM and those pesky End User License Agreements (EULA):

We suggested a few things to the FTC, one of which was we'd like to see DRM disclosed. So when people go to the store and buy the packaged good, the PC game, they'll see something on the front of the box saying there is DRM inside, and to what degree it will be invasive.

The second thing that we recommended was that EULAs get standardized, so again, rather than have 30 or 40 types of agreements, there would be one standard one for all different types of computer games. People go into the store, buy the game, open it, and they can no longer return it... by standardizing the EULA, consumers will have the confidence to know what it is they're agreeing to before they buy the product.

That didn't go over so well. There was a room of attorneys that kind of gasped when we suggested standardization. One panelist commented that the EULA really were there as consumer information, and that was the one and only time that the FTC jumped in and said 'wait a second, this has nothing to do with consumer information, this is purely IP protection...'

Hal also spoke about the coming shift to digital distribution and how this will affect the game consumer:

The transition from disc-based media to digital media... it's essentially going to remove the "purchase to own" out of the equation, replacing it with purchasing a license. That's how PC games are now... That paradigm shift, it's very important for us to get out ahead of it, so with DRM and EULAs, so we can say these are what consumer's rights are, and have an easy way to identify that in the purchasing process...

One of the reasons it's important to get EULAs standardized and DRM disclosed is that when you talk about different [delivery] systems like Steam... there are still controls in place. While it's not SecuROM, it's another form of DRM, it's just in a different way. Consumers need to understand that...

 

Some [game] publishers... feel that the vocal minority of consumers who spoke up about Mass Effect and Spore represent the 'pirates' and in doing so fanned the flames for a much larger percentage of consumers who now feel like they're not being listened to. A dismissive attitude from the industry probably came back to haunt them in sales...

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

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Report: ECA Membership Brings Amazon.com Discount

March 28, 2009 -

Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica reports that he caught up with Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin (left) at the Game Developers Conference this week.

While Ben has a full, issue-oriented interview with Hal coming up, he has in the meantime posted some good news for ECA members: You'll now get a 10% off software purchases at Amazon.com.

Of the deal, Hal told Kuchera:

If you buy three games or so a year through Amazon, your [$20] ECA membership is basically free.

 

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

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Hal Halpin, ECA on Hand For Today's FTC Town Hall Meeting on DRM in Seattle

March 25, 2009 -

The Federal Trade Commission's much-anticipated Town Hall Meeting on digital rights management (DRM) will take place today at the University of Washington Law School in Seattle.

The all-day event begins at 8:30 A.M. Pacific and will be webcast live.

Among other participants, Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin will serve on the 1:15 P.M. panel "Informing Consumers." According to the FTC's agenda, "This panel will discuss how companies communicate the existence and effects of DRM protections on products and services to consumers. It will explore ways of providing consumers with better notice."

In advance of his panel appearance, Halpin issued a statement on the Town Hall Meeting:

Over the past year we have witnessed a growing concern from gamers about the issues of increasingly invasive Digital Rights Management (DRM) and End User Licensing Agreements (EULAs). While we respect the careful balance that must exist between the content community and the customer, and agree that piracy is an ever-present challenge for the trade, it is also becoming evident that consumer rights are being diminished in the process...

The law, in the area of EULAs in particular, is not as clear as it once was. And the software industry’s potential side-stepping of the First Sale Doctrine’s protections – by terming their products as “licensed” rather than “sold” - leaves us concerned about the future of interactive entertainment, generally...

Halpin also noted that the ECA is preparing new position statements on both DRM and EULAs. You can read the full text of his statement here.

Among others known to be appearing at the Town Hall on behalf of consumers is Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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

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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.

Toys R Us, Best Buy, Amazon Entering Used Game Market

March 5, 2009 -

GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo can't be happy with the news that his firm, which has owned the used game space for years, suddenly has not one, but three major competitors.

Indeed, financial website The Motley Fool reports that the entry of Toys R Us into the used market will hurt GameStop and likely force the retailer to give consumers a better deal - and we're all for that.

On the publishing side, used game sales hater Ben Feder, President of Take-Two Interactive, must be absolutely frothy now that four major retailers - not just one - will be pushing pre-owned copies of GTA IV.

While the news that Toys R Us, Best Buy and Amazon are all - rather suddenly - entering the used game market is terrific for consumers, the timing seems a bit... odd. How do all three happen to get into used games in the same week?

GamePolitics put the question to Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin, who, in a past life, founded a trade group for game retailers. In other words, he knows the retail side of the business quite well. Here's what Hal told us:

Toys R Us and Best Buy getting into the used games business makes sense because they really serve very different markets than GameStop, demographically speaking. Amazon getting in is especially bright because of their model - they're positioned really well to cut the market wide open.

 

For Toys R Us and Best Buy, it's likely just coincidence [that news of both came this week]. They're victims of the same economic turmoil as everyone else and looking for growth areas. They have examined the used business before, but [then] it was likely too far astray from their core. Now, it's a matter of exploiting high-margin business extensions, of which Used clearly is one.

 

For Amazon, my guess is that it's much more organic a move. I'm excited to see them invest so heavily in games and with gamers. Overall, it'll be really interesting to see how the landscape is changed by the news. And the bottom line is that it's great news for consumers.

Meanwhile, analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush-Morgan offered his take on the developing situation and agreed that used games are a smart move for Amazon.

It's obviously a great business.
 
Amazon is the only one that matters. The sweet spot of consumers who trade in games are 13 - 18 year-old boys, and they don't typically shop at Toys R Us or Best Buy, but they most definitely frequent Amazon.
 
It seems to me that the Amazon offer is pretty compelling, insofar as there is no cost to ship games to Amazon, and there is an opportunity for gamers to trade in games and purchase other stuff on Amazon.
 
With that said, Amazon's market share of NEW games is only 2 - 3% (around $200 - 300 million annually), and GameStop's USED game business is over $2 billion.  That means it will take a LONG time for Amazon to make a dent in GameStop's business

GP: Going forward, the developer/publisher response will be something to watch. Will a quartet of major retailers selling used games cause the industry to stop rattling their sabers (as they have been doing toward GameStop of late)? Or will it motivate them to fight harder?

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

Follow ECA's Hal Halpin on Twitter

March 4, 2009 -

Last week we mentioned that readers could follow GP on Twitter and many of you jumped on board.

Today I wanted to follow up by letting you know that Hal Halpin, President of the Entertainment Consumers Association is on Twitter as well. Click here to follow Hal's Tweets.

If you're not on Twitter, check it out!

 

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


ECA Mobilizing Protests Against Digital Download Tax Proposals

February 25, 2009 -

As states try to plug their budget gaps, some are preparing to levy taxes on digital downloads.

Such action will have a direct impact on gamers who use digital distribution to purchase games and DLC. Music and other digital content will also be affected.

On behalf of game consumers, the Entertainment Consumers Association has launched action campaigns against such initiatives in Washington, New York and Mississippi. ECA President Hal Halpin explained the move in the letter below to Washington state members yesterday:

The Washington state legislature is currently proposing a bill which would impose a tax on digitally distributed products, known as House Bill 2075.  The timing could not be worse. This bill would harm Washington consumers - including you - by raising prices at exactly the time that so many are feeling the repercussions of the economic fallout.

Speak up now and tell the Washington state legislature "no" to HB 2075.

One result of this legislation will be to suppress consumption, which will cause layoffs at effected businesses, including the video game industry, which employs many Washington residents.

Tell your representative to vote "no" on HB 2075
.

In the midst of a financial crisis, bills such as this are precisely what consumers don't need. Please take the time to write your state representative, and also help spread the word by telling your friends in Washington State.

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

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ECA Launches New Nonprofit Institute

February 19, 2009 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association has announced today that it is launching a new, nonprofit organization.

The ECA Institute will address research, programming and policy development needs related to video games. The ECAi will also feature a charitable component. From the press release:

At its core, the ECA Institute’s work will inform the development of Entertainment Consumers Association’s public policy positions and encourage and influence public debate on the issues most pertinent to gamers today.

ECA President Hal Halpin commented on the new initiative:

We’re very excited about the launch of the Institute, as it provides a whole host of new services and support toward very important issue areas to us. The Institute enables us to work with existing and new supporters in different ways than the Entertainment Consumers Association can and, as a result, will make advancing the wants and needs of gamers more effective. It is an interesting collaborative environment that will yield some truly impressive results and affect change in wholly new and compelling ways.

Here are some specific as to the ECAi's activities:

Research and Polling: Research on issues reflecting ECA Institute’s strategic priorities, including: First Amendment rights, universal broadband, Network Neutrality, and consumer protection.

Publications: All ECA Institute research reports will be peer reviewed by internal and external subject experts.

Technical Assistance/Expert Consultation:
Support the ECA’s advocacy efforts with expert consultation, rapid response analysis and technical assistance.

Scholarships and Other Educational Programs:
Develop and foster game education programs and assistance to students through scholarships and financial aid in accredited schools. The Institute will also support the efforts of new and existing games-related charities.

Public Representation: The ECA Institute will contributes to and help shape both public discussion of its priority issues and decision makers’ understanding of gamers’ needs and concerns.

For more info, check out the ECA Institute website.

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

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ECA's Hal Halpin Expects ESA to Lose More Members in 2009

December 30, 2008 -

In a recent feature, Crispy Gamer named its Top 21 News Stories of 2008. Coming in at #16 was the  series of member defections which plagued game publishers' trade group the ESA.

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, commented:

I’m not sure that there’s a lot more I can add to what has already been said about the defecting companies or their impact on the [ESA] apart from that I do believe it will continue. Things have fundamentally changed in the past few years and the recession’s impact on the industry is far from over…

 

That fact alone could drive one or two more publishers to leave, given the rising dues costs. Having a strong association representing the industry is important for us all, so I hope that things will change for them in ’09… perhaps with the newly restructured E3.

The ESA began 2008 with 28 member companies, but will end the year with just 21. Exiting were: Activision, Vivendi, LucasArts, id, Codemasters, Crave, and NCsoft.

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

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Happy Holidays from the ECA!

December 23, 2008 -

Hal Halpin and the rest of the crew at the Entertainment Consumers Association want to wish GamePolitics readers a happy holiday season.

It has been a great 2008 for the ECA and its gamer-members. 2009 will be even better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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ECA's Hal Halpin Dissects the Political Side of Gaming

November 23, 2008 -

In a no-holds-barred interview with Crispy Gamer, Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin dishes on the uneasy relationship between Washington, D.C. and the video game community.

As part of his leadership role with the ECA, Hal does quite a few interviews, but this one with CG's James Fudge is probably the most in-depth yet. Here are some of Hal's thoughts:

On game publisher group the ESA's new (in 2008) practice of making campaign donations:

The [ESA] represents the rights of game publishing companies and as such has a duty to do what it can to influence legislators by lobbying. I know that starting up a PAC (Political Action Committee) was a decision that they grappled with for over a decade... PACs can be effective tools, but yes, you do run the risk – nowadays – that the ends may not justify the means...

On game ratings and whether the industry does enough to keep mature-themed games away from minors:

I’ve been a fan of ESRB for quite some time. Of all of the ratings systems... it really is the most comprehensive and valuable... That said, there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps ESRB having more independence from the ESA would be one great step. Another might be to work more closely with us... which we’re working on...

 

I do [think the industry is well at keeping M-rated games away from minors]...

On supposed tensions between the ESA (publishers group) and the ECA (consumers group):

We should be clear that the ESA represents the rights of game publishing companies, not gamers... It’s a trade association that looks after the interests of their member corporations... That said, much of the legislative work that the ESA has done over the years, with regard to First Amendment in particular, has benefitted the sector as a whole – gamers included.

 

As Mike Gallagher (ESA president) and I have discussed several times, the vast majority of the time ESA and ECA are on the same page... but there are clearly other times where our interests are necessarily divergent. Inherently, Mike’s issues will sometimes be in opposition to the best interests of consumers solely because they’re in the best interests of publishing companies...

On frequent game violence critic Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT):

Joe Lieberman has been largely misunderstood and painted with a very broad brush in my opinion. While I haven’t agreed with much of what he has said in the past, he alone among legislators was responsible for effecting non-legislative change in our business and did it with a lot of class, I might add.

 

Again, back when I was running [game retailers group] IEMA, I received a call from one of his staff inviting me to his office in Hartford. We had a frank meeting in which he requested that game retailers begin carding for the sale of mature-rated games in much the same way that movie theatre owners were doing, via self-regulatory efforts, with R-rated movies. The IEMA retailers... met the challenge head-on and reacted quickly and efficiently – changing the way in which games were sold, forever.

On game rentals and used game trade-ins by consumers, which some publishers and developers would like to see ended:

I understand the concerns that developer friends of mine have about not getting a second bite of the apple... In the movie business, they produce a theatrical version and then DVD, Blu-ray, Video on Demand (VoD), PSP and pay-per-view versions...

 

[Game biz types] see rental and used as businesses in which they don’t get to participate. And while I understand and appreciate their perspective... I’m still not convinced that rental and used are bad for the sector. We’ve witnessed how rental has provided a low-cost venue for people to try before you buy; same for used...

On the U.S. Supreme Court and its potential impact on video games:

Well, [a change in the balance of the court] will most definitely present a problem for the industry, but not necessarily consumers. The more conservative judges are also the ones that tend to side with intellectual property owners over consumers, for instance. Tech policy is in for a major shift from the right to the left in my opinion, and that would be very good for consumers, but quite disconcerting for the IP-concerned trade associations (MPAA, RIAA and ESA).

 

We’ve also heard that the conservative judges would be more likely to be open to anti-games/gamer bills, so a shift to the more liberal side would be good for both the trade and consumers in that regard.


Hal also points interested gamers to a detailed listing of ECA's position statements.

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

Effects of New Federal Anti-Piracy Law Worry ECA's Hal Halpin

November 14, 2008 -

In an interview with The Escapist, Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin discusses his worries over the PRO-IP Act, a new piece of anti-piracy legislation signed into law in October:

The PRO IP Act was concerning for us primarily because the wording of the law was so broad and open to interpretation. It also provides intellectual property holders with unusually over-reaching rights and at a time when the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) too empowers that same community.

 

I fear that PRO IP and DMCA will drive a wedge between the producer/consumer relationship, one that has served the games business well. I would also hate to see us collectively follow the path [of aggressively suing consumers] that the music industry has followed. In addition to it being a patently bad model, proven unsuccessful by every measure, it's also clearly ineffective. Worrying still is how handily [PRO IP] passed - with broad support from both parties. The fact that the Vice-President Elect continues to be a proud sponsor makes me think that it'll be a bumpy ride... one played out in America's courts, for a long time to come.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, among the provisions of the PRO-IP Act are these consumer-unfriendly gems:

  • increases the penalties for infringement by expanding what is considered a 'work'
  • broadens the ability of the government to permanently seize goods
  • creates an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, a new cabinet position whose sole job is to increase intellectual property enforcement.

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

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Happy Birthday, ECA

November 5, 2008 -

The baby is growing up so quickly!

The Entertainment Consumers Association has reached the ripe old age of two. Of the milestone, ECA president Hal Halpin commented:

In just over two years, the ECA has brought together a politically-charged video game community [and] united to rally against efforts singling out videogames from the First Amendment protections enjoyed by other forms of entertainment.

 

We are humbled by the strength of what a unified consumer voice can accomplish, and challenge gamers everywhere to empower themselves and their communities by becoming more educated, active and involved, and leveraging the ECA's services as a platform to rise against unjust legislation and ignorance.

An ECA press release names some of the organization's accomplishments on behalf of gamers, including:

  • The ECA has made great strides in legislation, building productive relationships and joining coalition partnerships with other established non-profit and public interest organizations, such as the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Rock the Vote, Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), Verizon, Connected Nation, Free Press, International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and many others, who have embraced its mission.
  • Under the ECA, independent topical groups are established for members to stand behind their most pertinent issues and actively outreach to form partnerships with other non-profit and corporate entities in support of their topics. These groups rally around such issues as video game violence legislation, Fair use -- as it relates to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), e-waste, net neutrality, video game tax, universal broadband, parental empowerment, the regulation of video games, and more.
  • The ECA has made it a priority to partner with the major enthusiast media outlets in order to address the single greatest ongoing challenge: the education of members, the industry and the general public.
  • The ECA is rapidly broadening its reach through an expansive national network of regional chapters powered by local gaming communities and college campuses across the country. They adopt the collective goal of educating on political issues directly affecting the interactive entertainment industry, connecting consumers with like-minded gamers in their area, and offering access to a larger professional network for career and educational opportunities within the gaming industry.

Full press release here.

GP: Quick, someone, Photoshop an ECA birthday cake and send it to me!

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

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ECA Issues Statement on New Video Game Study

November 3, 2008 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has issued a statement regarding a new video game violence study which appeared today:

For the better part of the past decade we – game consumers, makers, sellers and creators – have been waiting for the results of an unbiased, longitudinal and comprehensive study to be done which will inform us about the potential harmful effects of entertainment products on our children. Unfortunately, with the report published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, we remain waiting,” said Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), the non-profit organization which represents the rights of video and computer gamers.

 

One of the ways in which our stance is likely very different from others in the discussion on the subject is that the ECA would encourage more and better research on the matter. The problem has been, and apparently continues to be, that the agenda of the researchers supersedes our want and need for inclusiveness of all media… not just games – for the overtly sensationalistic spin that will inevitably be employed – to the exclusion of music and movies. We remain optimistic that longitudinal research that is truly comprehensive, objective and inclusive will be performed and shared, but sadly that day has not yet come.

The ECA statement references GP's report on the study by Iowa State University's Dr. Craig Anderson and two Japanese research teams as well as a letter from Texas A&M's Dr. Christopher Ferguson which disputes Anderson's finding.

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

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Jack Thompson Whines About GamePolitics, ECA, Kotaku & Kitchen Sink in Court Filing

October 21, 2008 -

It must be awfully difficult to be a disbarred attorney. I mean, what do you do with all of that free time?

If you're Jack Thompson you file court motions. And Thompson filed one of his more bizarre ones today. It's another of those picture books filings that the disgraced attorney has taken to submitting in recent months. Apparently capitalizing upon his free time, Thompson has taken the trouble to paste in snaps of:

  • GP volunteer comment mod E. Zachary Knight
  • GP editor (me)
  • Hal Halpin, head of consumer group the ECA
  • Brian Crecente, editor of Kotaku
  • Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take-Two
  • Doug Lowenstein, former ESA boss

His purpose seems to be an attempt to make the case - yet again - that the video game industry is responsible for his disbarment. That's an odd approach as most of the people he names in today's filing aren't part of the video game industry.

Thompson seems particularly upset over the amusing Disbarment Countdown Timer created by EZK. On that score Thompson writes:

If there were any doubt as to the core purpose of this disbarment, instigated by the video game industry, note... The Jack Thompson Disbarment Countdown Clock is at the center of a commerce-driven lynch mob... This court should grant the emergency stay to at least freeze the Countdown Clock pending an evidentiary hearing on this nonsense.

It's so clear now! The multi-billion dollar video game industry reached down from its perch on Wall Street and demanded the creation of a free Disbarment Timer add-on for Firefox. Makes perfect sense...

As to my involvement, he writes:

GamePolitics.com’s operator is Dennis McCauley, who filed his own Florida Bar complaint against Thompson for being mean to videogamers. GamePolitcs ran a multi-part series about Thompson’s Bar trial, court transcripts and all. Mr. McCauley, pictured below, worked with Referee Dava Tunis to place court documents at his site before Thompson got them...

It's true that I filed a Bar complaint about him in 2006. I've written about that in the past. The Bar complaint certainly wasn't about "being mean to videogamers."

GP did indeed run a multi-part series on Thompson's Bar trial, complete with transcripts. I'm very proud of that series. The assertion about working with Judge Dava Tunis is simply a lie.

UPDATE: Thompson also mentioned that GamesLaw.net has been tracking his court filings. All part of the conspiracy, eh, Miami Jack?

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

Read the court filing here.

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ECA's Hal Halpin: Disbarred Jack Thompson Still a Threat

October 2, 2008 -

Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) president Hal Halpin told The Escapist that, despite his recent disbarment, anti-game activist Jack Thompson will still be on the attack.

I did take some selfish joy in receiving Jack's email announcing his formal disbarment, but you need to understand that Jack and I have a long and quite personal history, and in addition, I must receive a half dozen emails from him a day, so this was one that I appreciated receiving. Let's put it that way.

 

It's important that gamers, while having every right to rejoice in their karmic victory, should understand that this really doesn't diminish his ability to be a force against us. Jack's not going anywhere... believe me.

Halpin also touched upon the controversy triggered by former ESA boss Doug Lowenstein's criticism of the gaming press over its coverage of Thompson:

I read Doug's reaction statement with a lot of interest, actually. As many who have been around the industry for some time know, Doug was my mentor when he ran the ESA and I the IEMA (Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association).

 

I believe I've gone on record before saying that one of the single largest mistakes we, collectively, made was ignoring Jack. I was certainly culpable in following Doug's lead, but in doing so we left Jack as the only voice at the microphone; we empowered him, and it was strategically unsound and, in hindsight, altogether wrong.

 

I know that Doug stands by his decision and instead hoists the blame on the enthusiast press, but I respectfully disagree. It was the endemic media which cast the light on Jack, his misstatements and factual inaccuracies and point-by-point, systematically addressed his assertions… all the while educating their readers, and the mainstream media and public who cared to listen, on the realities of the situation.

 

I've always felt that the gaming press was the most underutilized weapon in the arsenal when it comes to battling our detractors and it was one of the first things we went about rectifying when we launched the ECA, just under two years ago.

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

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Digital Rights Groups Go to Court Over Secret Anti-Piracy Treaty

September 23, 2008 -

The governments of the United States, Canada, European Union, Japan and other countries are negotiating an anti-piracy agreement that could have a massive impact on digital media consumers.

And they're doing it in secret.

At issue is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). As Ars Technica reports, public interest advocacy groups Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge have filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Trade Representative, a part of the executive branch. The suit is essentially a demand for information about ACTA and is based upon the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge told Ars:

We believe they should conduct these negotiations with some transparency for what goes on, particularly when the talks are transparent to one side and not to the other (us). At a minimum, we should know how the US delegation is formulating its positions and have access to what they are doing.

Meanwhile, p2pnet reports criticism of ACTA by Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) counsel David Fewer:

If Hollywood could order intellectual property laws for Christmas, what would they look like? This is pretty close.

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has also expressed concern 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 by the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Commerce. 

 

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.

307 comments

ECA's Hal Halpin Reflects on PAX 2008

September 10, 2008 -

In a guest column for Edge Online, Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, offers his impressions of the recent PAX 2008:

This year [PAX] reminded me of the first few E3s. It was something to behold. Where else can you see a room full of 15,000 people in line… with ear-to-ear grins on their faces?!

 

The importance of this all... is an emergence; one that can and will effect change... As I explained to the reporters who we did interviews with, Generations X and Y have been negatively stereotyped as apathetic, lazy and uninvolved. And yet, by doing things such as attending these types of conferences, engaging in weighty panel discussions and becoming advocates for their passion, they disprove that label...

 

More important than the success of PAX as a business, or the comparisons with parallel events, is the underlying cultural significance of the attendees, individually and collectively, and how they choose to harness that power. Perhaps we’re not that far away from the mass media beginning to take gaming seriously. Maybe this is only the beginning.
 

GP: The Entertainment Consumers Association had a large presence at PAX this year. The ECA booth, for one thing, was more than double the size of that at PAX 2007 and included a members-only lounge where ECA members could take a break from the crowded show floor.

The ECA also ran two panel discussions as well as Hal's one-on-one conversation with Geoff Keighley of Spike TV. In the pic at left, Hal is being interviewed by Sean Curran of GamerVision who, I found out at the show, lives a block and a half from GP HQ. Small world... Anyway, here's a link to the GamerVision interview, one of a couple of dozen that Hal did at the show.

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

20 comments

PAX Video: Hal Halpin of ECA & Geoff Keighley of Spike TV Share a Casual Chat

September 3, 2008 -

On Saturday at PAX, Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin and Spike TV's Geoff Keighley veered from the typical panel format by offering a "casual conversation."

For the better part of an hour Hal and Geoff discussed a variety of topics of importance to gamers. Hal also took a number of questions from attendees.

We've got the video, and it's worth checking out...

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

12 comments

ECA Invades Canada - Will Now Accept Canadian Gamers

August 28, 2008 -

Until now, the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) could only accept U.S. residents as members.

All that has changed with today's announcement that Canadian gamers can now join the ranks of the ECA, the only organization devoted to the issues which are important to video game consumers.

Organization president Hal Halpin commented on the news:

With a thriving gaming community already present and growing in Canada, we are proud to extend the opportunities and benefits that our U.S. ECA members have been enjoying over the years. Canada is an important area of growth for us and we are excited to welcome Canadian gamers who are interested in community and any issues that affect gamers.

An ECA press release indicates that Canadian members will have specific goodies directed their way:
 
The ECA will soon be unveiling a host of unique benefits and programs that will be specifically targeted towards Canadian consumers. Canadian chapter organizations are already underway in local gaming communities and these newly-formed networks will continue to grow and offer a great way for videogame players to stay informed and connect with like-minded ECA members in their area.

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

23 comments

ECA's Hal Halpin: ESA "Viable and Really Needed"

August 8, 2008 -

Hal Halpin (left), president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), gives a wide-ranging interview to gamesindustry.biz today.

The leadoff question from interviewer Phil Elliott concerns the May incident in which Dan Hewitt, public relations head for game publishers' lobbying group ESA, said some nasty  things about GamePolitics (e.g., "Calling GamePolitics a news site is as laughable as saying there's a Cuban free press.").

gi.biz has previously spanked Hewitt and the ESA over the incident. In today's interview Hal Halpin pointed out that some level of conflict between the consumer focus of the ECA and GamePolitics and the publisher-centric ESA, is inevitable:

The vast majority of time our expectations and our goals and our challenges are going to be the exact same as those of the IGDA [International Game Developers Association], the EMA [Entertainment Merchants Assocation] and the ESA - because they represent the industry and we represent the consumers.

And 80 per cent of the time we'll get along great, but that other 20 per cent of the time we're going to be divergent in terms of our interests on behalf of our members - and with respect to the comment that the ESA issued, I chalk it up to a month or two of frustration on behalf of the individual who made the statement. It was a difficult couple of months and they were under a lot of pressure, getting a lot of bad press, and it was easy to take a swipe. It was unfortunate and I think he regrets it.

Asked whether the ESA's future was cloudy, Halpin said:

The ESA is still very viable and the association is really needed. Because of that couple of weeks of discontent between the associations I think people are under the false impression that we want to see anything bad happen to the ESA - and that is not at all the case.

You know, I think a strong and vibrant ESA is really important to the sector as a whole as far as their membership going forward...

Hal also dishes on used game sales and other issues.

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

15 comments

ECA's Hal Halpin Offers Historical Perspective on E3

July 24, 2008 -

The ranks of those who have weighed in on last week's disappointing E3 is both long and distinguished.

Add Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin to the list, but with a unique twist.

In his analysis of the show for GameDaily, Hal reveals much of the backstory as to the origins of E3:

[E3] was conceived as a standalone show... as [the game biz] matured back in the early nineties. Game publishers were members of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and showed their wares at...  (CES) - a gargantuan event, which is still held in the Las Vegas Convention Center.... As the sector grew and the confines of the LVCC did not... Game publishers complained to each other about their second-class treatment and talked of their own show.

 

...the publishers approached the CES staff and CEA about a CEA-owned and run dedicated gaming event. The CEA board passed, likely thinking that the up-and-coming business was a fad [and] led the disenfranchised games folks to launch the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), the predecessor of the ESA... the brand new trade association... created a joint venture with IDG, the publishers of GamePro magazine and a formidable event marketing and publishing business... E3 was born.

There's more history in the GD article. If that kind of thing interests you, check it out. Going forward, Hal believes E3 will surive and suggests a less cavernous venue than the LACC as well as offering public admission during the show's final days, as per the Tokyo Games Show:

...the fate of E3 is far from set in stone... I'd have to respectfully disagree that the show is either the raving success that one outlet described or that it is dead, as many have stated. E3 is standing upon the precipice. There are no easy decisions here...

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics

4 comments

ECA's Hal Halpin Dishes on Politicians & More in The Escapist

July 8, 2008 -

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), pens a guest column for The Escapist today.

While Hal touches on a broad range of subjects from digital distribution to online trolls to the slow death of gaming magazines, we took special notice of his comments on the politics of gaming:

"Games will be respected soon because gamers will grow up and become politicians."

 

I get this one all the time. And sure, it makes perfect sense in theory, but the reality is that politicians - young and old - make political hay out of what they can. Just because the average age of gamers is in the early 30s and there are plenty of brilliant 40-somethings that are eager to get into public life doesn't mean that they won't exploit games when the opportunity arises. To believe that they would not is nothing short of wishful thinking.

 

Again, I'm willing to concede that 20 years from now we likely won't be dealing with First Amendment arguments about interactive entertainment, but that fact has little to do with the age of politicians... In the meantime, we're stuck in the trenches fighting misperceptions, negative stereotypes and ill-conceived legislation. To my mind, you can do one of two things: Get involved (IGDA and ECA come to mind) or shut up. Both organizations are quite easy to join. To put it another way, "You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result."

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

29 comments

GameSpot Examines ESA's Attack on GamePolitics

July 2, 2008 -

In his PressSpotting column which ran on GameSpot yesterday, scribe Kyle Orland looked back at last month's ugly dust-up between the ESA and GamePolitics.

Kyle writes, in part:

Claiming that GamePolitics has a history of "anti-ESA vitriol" just isn't supported by the facts. Yes, GamePolitics covered the ESA's recent troubles retaining members, but so have countless other sites that have nothing to do with the ECA. What's more, GamePolitics' coverage has been relatively moderate compared to the blistering portrayals of the organization in some corners of the gaming blogosphere.

While I appreciate the support, I'd be remiss if I did not point out that Kyle is off the mark when he refers to the ECA which owns GamePolitics as a "rival" of the ESA. They're completely different animals.

Hal Halpin created the ECA to represent video game consumers, while the ESA has been around since 1994, representing video game publishers. What this means is that any individual could become an ECA member, if they choose to. Only game publishers can join the ESA.

Perhaps an easier way to think of it is: ECA is game buyers; ESA is game sellers. While there is some common ground (e.g. - censorship), the interests of gamers and publishers often diverge widely.

Back to the point, there's really so much I could say here. For today  I'll simply point out that for the ESA to charge me with "anti-ESA vitriol" is ludicrous. Here's an organization that sat on its hands for years while Jack Thompson said the most vile things about its president, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Joseph Goebbels.

That former ESA boss, by the way, was a guy I very much respected. Didn't always agree with, mind you, but respected. The organization has the same P.R. guy now as then, by the way, so what's different? Why am I suddenly the one with the "vitriol"?

Different management, for one thing, so maybe that's part of it. Beyond that, I've broken a few ESA stories this year, ones they probably didn't like (closure of the New York office, member company departures), but reporting the news is my job. It's a competitive business and in this arena, being first with a solid story is what it's all about.

I've also dinged them on a few issues (2007's mod chip raids, failing to speak up on the Mass Effect-Fox News debacle, signing Gov. Rick Perry to keynote E3) and, again, as a commentator, that's part of my job description.

That said, I'm certainly not against the ESA as an entity. The video game industry surely needs a voice in Washington and in state legislatures. It needs an organization to represent its interests. I may not always agree with what the ESA does, but that comes with the territory.

While I'm at it, let me describe the relationship between GamePolitics and the ECA: ECA owns GamePolitics. They pay me to edit the site, and I operate it just as I have since I founded GP in early 2005. Hal Halpin's office is in Connecticut. Mine is in Pennsylvania. I see Hal a couple of times a year at trade shows. The last time we were face-to-face was November, 2007 at VGXPO here in Philly. I'll see him at E3 later this month.

Hal and I trade a few IM's and e-mails on most days, have the very occasional phone call. But from Day One, Hal has insisted on maintaining GP's editorial freedom; I wouldn't have it any other way.

Obviously, Hal is running a business with the ECA and hopes to sign up as many members as he can. I wish him all the best with those efforts, but I don't get involved in that aspect. I mention this by way of demonstrating that while we get along quite well, the ECA does not dictate, approve or edit GP's content in any way. I was very pleased to see that Kyle Orland understands this:

There's a difference between being owned by a company and being a paid shill for that company. GamePolitics is clearly the former but not the latter.
 

UPDATE: GamePolitics stories tagged with "ESA" as far back as August, 2007 are listed here. If you want, you can decide for yourself on how fairly I've covered the ESA.

33 comments

ECA's Hal Halpin on Shift Radio at Noon Eastern Time - Listen & Call In !!

June 27, 2008 -

Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin will be today's guest on Shift Radio - Your Digital Life in Overdrive.

Host Chris Melissinos will interview Hal and  listeners can call in with questions. Hal will discuss what the ECA does for the gaming community and how gamers can get involved.

Chris also promised to discuss "a cool gadget..."

UPDATE: This is the premiere episode of Shift Radio.

UPDATE 2: If you missed the program live, use the widget at left to listen to a recording.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

 

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ZippyDSMleeIf publishers didn't play the region lock game then it would not be an issue.Tho I have seen more russian/chec games than asia ones on ebay.If they do not like it then mabye lower thier region prices to make alitte vrs none.09/22/2014 - 9:54am
MaskedPixelantehttp://hexus.net/gaming/news/industry/74981-pc-game-code-stripping-widespread-says-report/ Thievery, or perhaps the very idea of capitalism? You decide!09/22/2014 - 9:47am
MaskedPixelantehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDPCmmZifE8 John Oliver exposes Miss America.09/22/2014 - 9:00am
james_fudgeI reiterate now - not one email to-date.09/22/2014 - 8:37am
james_fudgeAnd this: https://archive.today/uIjwE09/22/2014 - 8:37am
james_fudgeLet me put this here: https://archive.today/hbtQJ09/22/2014 - 8:35am
InfophileRelevant to this site: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/015984.html#015984 - Apparently allowing comments to be downvoted leads to worse behaviour09/22/2014 - 6:18am
Andrew EisenMP - I love that game but damn my squadmates are bozos.09/21/2014 - 10:05pm
MaskedPixelanteSWAT teams should be banned until they; 1. Learn not to walk into enemy fire, 2. Learn to throw the flashbang INTO the doorway, not the frame and 3. Stop complaining that I'm in their way.09/21/2014 - 9:53pm
Craig R.I'm getting of the opinion that SWAT teams nationwide should be banned. This probably isn't even the most absurd situation in which they've been used.09/21/2014 - 9:26pm
Andrew EisenAnd, predictably, it encouraged more parody accounts, having the exact opposite effect than what was intended.09/21/2014 - 7:07pm
E. Zachary KnightThis is called a police state people. When public officials can send SWAT raids after anyone for any offense, we are no longer free.09/21/2014 - 6:41pm
E. Zachary KnightJudge rules SWAT raid tageting parody Twitter account was justified. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/19/illinois-judge-swat-raid-parody-twitter-peoria-mayor09/21/2014 - 6:41pm
MechaTama31quik: But even if it did break, at worst it is only as bad as the powder. Even that is assuming that it is dangerous through skin contact, which is not a given if its delivery vehicle is a syringe.09/21/2014 - 4:30pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2014/09/20/isis-uses-gta-5-in-new-teen-recruitment-video/09/21/2014 - 4:25pm
quiknkoldSyringes can break. And in a transcontinental delivery, the glass could've broken when crushed. I work in a mail center. Shit like this is super serious09/21/2014 - 3:25pm
E. Zachary KnightIt doesn't matter what is inside the needle. As long as it requires him to take the step of purposefully injecting himself, the threat of the substance is as close to zero as you can get.09/21/2014 - 1:27pm
quiknkoldEzach: I'm not talking about the needle. I'm talking about what's inside. Geeze. Depending on what it is, the sender could be guilty of bioterrorism.09/21/2014 - 12:51pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, No. That syringe is not worse than white powder or a bomb. The syringe requires the recipient to actually inject themselves. Not true for other mail threats.09/21/2014 - 12:49pm
Andrew EisenThe closest to a threat I ever received was a handwritten note slipped under my door that read "I KNOW it was you." Still no idea what that was about. I think the author must have got the wrong apartment.09/21/2014 - 12:28pm
 

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