Washington State A.G. Partners with ESA on Cyber Safety

September 3, 2009 -

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna (left) has partnered with game publishers' lobbying group ESA and Web Wise kids on an educational program aimed at keeping children safe online.

A press release issued by McKenna's office quotes the A.G. on the initiative:

The devices that kids love, from smartphones to computers, are also being used to subject them to cyberbullying, scams and online stalkers. This program deploys a technology that’s very familiar to kids – video games – to teach   important lessons about staying safe in cyberspace.

ESA boss Michael Gallagher was on hand for the announcement, along with Web Wise Kids president Judi Westburg Warren and Washington's Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Gallagher offered his comment:

The ESA Foundation is proud to provide the resources to launch this cutting-edge initiative. With the industry presence of Microsoft, Nintendo and other leading video game companies, Washington is a natural fit for launching this program. Working together, we believe the Web Wise Kids program will help educators teach Washington’s youth how to stay safe online...

A.G. McKenna, a Republican, has previously endorsed the ESRB rating system.

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Former LucasArts CEO Launches Bid for Seat in Congress

August 15, 2009 -

Jim Ward, who left the CEO job at video game publisher LucasArts in early 2008, is now hoping to win a seat in Congress.

Ward, a Republican who currently works as a venture capitalist, is running to represent Arizona's 5th Congressional District. That seat is currently held by two-term Democrat Harry Mitchell. The district includes Scottsdale, Tempe and parts of Phoenix.

Ward outlines his philosophy on his campaign website:

I’m not a professional politician.  I’m a businessman.  And I don’t disagree that this country needs change.  But, in my experience, there’s the right kind of change and the wrong kind of change.  I believe what’s happening to this country represents the wrong kind of change...

Ward lists his political philosophy as conservative on Facebook. He has protested (see pic at left) against President Obama's healthcare plan.

Partially via: Kotaku

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Democrats Dominate Video Game Industry's 2009 Campaign Giving

August 13, 2009 -

Mid-year documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission indicate that the video game industry is currently leaning to the Democratic side of the aisle when it comes to Congressional campaign donations.

ESA PAC, the political action committee of game publishers group the Entertainment Software Association, has disbursed $12,400 to Congressional candidates so far in 2009. All but $1,000 of those funds went to Democrats or Democratic PACs. Here's the breakdown:

  • Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) - $3,000
  • Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) - $1,000  (Meek is running for a vacant Senate seat)
  • New Democratic Coalition PAC - $2,000
  • Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) - $2,400
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD) - $1,000
  • Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) - $1,000
  • Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) - $1,000
  • Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) - $1,000

The contributions will be used by recipients for the 2010 mid-term elections. South Dakota's Thune is the only Republican among those receiving ESA PAC money so far in 2009.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the ESA PAC mid-year report here...

Misspelling Behind Ebay Removal of Sarah Palin Xbox 360?

August 13, 2009 -

Recently, GamePolitics reported on a million dollar Ebay listing for an Xbox 360 supposedly autographed by former Alasksa Governor Sarah Palin.

Canadian David Morrill told the Anchorage Daily News that he obtained the signature from Palin at a picnic event earlier in the summer. The auction was quickly removed by Ebay, however, with no explanation forthcoming.

Not long after, a second auction which advertised a "replica" of the original Palin 360 appeared. That listing, clearly a parody, also has been removed.

Now, David Sheets, who blogs about games for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has a theory as to why the original listing was taken down. Sheets believes that Palin's first name is misspelled:

Game Guy thinks he knows why the bid was yanked. If you look closely at the signature, former Gov. Palin’s first name appears to lack the final “h.” Last he heard, she spelled her first name “Sarah,” not “Sara.” Even Alaska’s official website spells it with an “h.”

And hey, you can’t ask for a cool $1.1 million for a signed Xbox if the signee can’t spell her name correctly.

GP: I'm no handwriting expert, but I'm not so sure that I buy into Sheets's theory. For one thing, the ex-Guv's purported autograph tails off after the "r" in "Sarah," as if she (or whoever wrote it) was signing hastily. So the missing "h" is not all that farfetched. Beyond that, the authenticity of high-priced autographs is always an issue, which may have prompted the Ebay removal.

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Sarah Palin Autographed Xbox 360 on Ebay for $1.1 Million

August 6, 2009 -

If you've simply got to have an Xbox 360 signed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, there's one on Ebay right now.

It will set you back a few bucks, though. The bid is currently at US$1.1 million. Oh, and 75 bucks for shipping.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that Canadian David Morrill (left, with the ex-Guv) drove for three days to meet Palin at a picnic in Alaska:

[Morrill] said he pushed to the front of the greeting line and asked Palin to sign the Xbox as proof he met her. It was "one of the greatest thrills of my life..."

 

He has received one anonymous bid for his Xbox, for which he's asking at least $1.1 million. The bidder ID has just one "feedback" rating on eBay, and there's no guarantee Morrill will get his money.

Here's the Ebay listing...

UPDATE: The Ebay listing has been removed for reasons unknown at this time...

UPDATE 2: An auction for a "replica" of the Sarah Palin Xbox 360 has been posted on Ebay with an opening price of $1,100. In the listing, the seller pokes a bit of fun at the former Guv:

This replica has been painstakingly recrafted using:

    * Detailed photographs of the original signed Xbox 360
    * Imagery of Palin's signature on the infamous "helicopter-wolf-hunting" bill from 2003
 

...Furthermore, this item (unlike others) is "Guaranteed Not To Quit For Two Years" ...

Own the only Palin related item truly prepared to serve half a gubernatorial or presidential term!

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Newt Gingrich Tweets About Wii Bowling

August 2, 2009 -

Not for the first time, potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (left) has mentioned Nintendo's Wii on Twitter.

Gingrich, who formerly served as Speaker of the House and was the driving force behind the conservative Contract with America in the mid-1990's, Tweeted yesterday about playing Nintendo's system at a family gathering. Twitter user Konabess offered some follow-up advice and Gingrich responded. Here's how the conversation went:

NewtGingrich: Wii bowling in stevens point wisconsin home of point beer and callista's brother and his family; seven year old is proving tough competition

 

konabess: @newtgingrich keep your elbow in and follow through!

 

NewtGingrich: @konabess good advice I will try this Any advice for wii golf

As GamePolitics reported in March, Gingrich gushed about the Wii his wife Callista received as a birthday present. In February Gingrich dangled the chance to win a Wii as a means of enticing supporters to sign up for the launch of a media campaign.

Partially Via: Kotaku

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Alabama Attorney General Backs ESRB Ratings

July 21, 2009 -

Alabama Attorney General Troy King (R) has become the latest high-ranking state official to endorse the video game industry's content rating system.

In a press release issued yesterday, King announced a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the ESRB rating system. The PSAs featuring King will air on radio and TV.

The A.G. commented on the campaign in yesterday's press release:

I know parents face tough decisions these days about the media they allow into their homes. There’s simply no substitute, though, for parental involvement and responsibility, and it’s important that parents play an active role in choosing games for their children. ESRB ratings are an effective and informative resource that allows parents to decide if the video game their child wants is appropriate, and rating summaries provide even more insight into exactly what a parent would want to know about in a game. I’m proud to be educating parents in our state about the tools at their disposal.

As GamePolitics has noted in the past, such campaigns are a sweet deal for the politicians involved. The ESRB picks up the cost of production for the spots and elected officials get a chance to show voters that they are concerned about children.

Readers can see King's PSA (as well as those made by other political figures) at the ESRB website.

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Florida Guv Lauds Game Biz, Appears in NCAA Football 2010

July 14, 2009 -

The long-awaited NCAA Football 2010 launches today and you can count Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) among the game's fans - and its players.

Orlando's WESH-2 reports that the Guv was on hand at EA's Tiburon Studios for an NCAA '10 launch event. Crist praised not only the game but the industry's positive economic impact on Florida's economy:

This is so cool that EA Sports, [that] Tiburon is right here in Florida...

 

The realism of [the game] is what just blows you away... This is the knowledge-based economy we want to continue to build throughout the state.

It's great for Florida. It's great for jobs. You know in this economy especially, looking for new and innovative ways for people to have gainful employment and the pride that goes along with that. It's so important to so many people.

Crist, who quarterbacked the 1976 Wake Forest team, even appeared in the game dressed in full uniform, courtesy of NCAA '10's Team Builder feature. In a demo of the game run by Tiburon developers, Crist scrambled and passed the Demon Deacons to a four-play touchdown drive.

In comments after the demo, Crist was a good sport about his NCAA '10 character's performance:

I love college football. I wasn't ever very good. The guy on the screen was good. You're very generous.

El Mundo Tech has several videos of the event.

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Louisiana Guv Signs Game Biz Tax Breaks Into Law

July 10, 2009 -

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has signed into law a package of tax breaks designed to bolster video game production in the state, according to the Associated Press.

Jindal also approved several other bills providing tax breaks to non-game related sectors. While some critics have questioned the wisdom of giving up state tax revenue in a troubled economy, Jindal referred to the incentives as "critical tools":

By signing these bills, we're ensuring that we not only have the ability to remain economically competitive, but that we can continue to move our state forward by making Louisiana the greatest place in the world to find a great paying job and raise a family.

A press release on Gov. Jindal's website offers a bit of information on the video game bill:

SB 277 by Sen. Ann Duplessis is similar to Governor’s package bill HB 457, which extends and expands the Digital Interactive Media Tax Credit by permanently extending and increasing the credit by 5 percent creating a single rate of 25 percent of expenditures plus an additional 10 percent for Louisiana resident payroll expenditures (35 percent total credit for resident payroll). The bill also expands the definition of digital media to include technology companies.

UPDATE: Game publishers lobbying group ESA issued a press release praising Jindal for signing the tax break into law. ESA boss Mike Gallagher's commented:

We commend Governor Jindal for his strong leadership as well as that of Senator Duplessis for expanding the state’s computer and video game development and production base, and helping lead the way in creating the next generation of entertainment innovation in Louisiana.

 

Developers and publishers live and work for years in states where games are created, providing a higher return on investment than any form of entertainment.

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Faced with White House National Security Claim, Public Interest Groups Drop Information Lawsuit on Secret Copyright Treaty

June 24, 2009 -

For nearly a year GamePolitics has been tracking ATCA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

As we have reported, ACTA deals in large part with copyright issues and is being negotiated in secret by the U.S., Japan, Canada, the EU and other nations. Details of ACTA are largely a mystery to consumers despite the fact that dozens of corporate lobbyists have been clued in to parts of the treaty, including Stevan Mitchell, VP of IP Policy for game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association.

Sadly, consumer interests suffered a major blow last week as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to cast a little sunshine on the ACTA negotiations. The EFF explained that a recent decision by the Obama Administration to claim a national security exemption for the ACTA talks made the lawsuit unwinnable; federal judges have  little leeway to overrule such claims. The move by the Obama White House extends a similar policy put in place by the Bush Administration.

Public Knowledge Deputy Legal Director Sherwin Siy commented on the decision:

Even though we have reluctantly dropped this lawsuit, we will continue to press the U.S. Trade Representative and the Obama Administration on the ACTA issues. The issues are too far-reaching and too important to allow this important agreement to be negotiated behind closed doors.

The worry, of course, is that the United States will emerge from ACTA with a done deal that favors Big IP in the fashion of the consumer-unfriendly DMCA. Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, expressed concerns about ACTA earlier this year:

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...

GP: As GamePolitics mentioned above, video game publishers lobbying group the ESA is privy to at least a portion of the secret ACTA negotiations while its industry's customers - video game consumers - are barred from knowing anything at all.

That makes us wonder - will the Video Game Voters Network, which is owned and operated by the ESA, commence a letter-writing campaign on behalf of its gamer-members demanding that the White House pull the curtain back on ACTA?

Somehow we doubt it.

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

Portions Via: /.

God of War Designer Weighs in on Missing South Carolina Guv

June 23, 2009 -

Gov. Mark Sanford went missing recently, apparently of his own accord. And while his South Carolina political colleagues expressed concern over who was minding the state during Sanford's absence, God of War series designer David Jaffe weighed in with a brief criticism of the Guv's disappearing act on Twitter.

Jaffe, who lives in California, often seasons his tweets with profanity. He commented on Sanford's AWOL status yesterday afternoon:

If UR a governor and U just kind of take off for a few days and no one knows where then u prob. should not be the f***ing governor.

Twitter users can follow the outspoken GoW creator at @djaffe on Twitter. As for Sanford, news reports say that he will be back in the office today.

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Louisiana Bill Targeting Sexually Explicit Games Dies in Committee

June 19, 2009 -

Louisiana Senate Bill 152 began life as a clone of Jack Thompson's failed Utah legislation and died quietly this week in the Commerce Committee of the Louisiana House, according to The Old River Road, a blog which tracks Louisiana politics. Although we haven't yet seen a post about SB 152 at TORR, blogger Charlie Buras dropped us a line via Twitter last night to say the bill expired in committee.

Between birth and death SB 152 was completely reworked by its sponsor, Sen. A.G. Crowe (R). As for Thompson, he was nowhere to be seen in the process. The truth in advertising legal theory advocated by the disbarred Miami attorney quietly morphed into proposed civil sanctions against those who would distribute sexually explicit material to minors. The need for such legislation is not entirely clear, since such conduct is already an offense under Louisiana criminal law.

Although Crowe's Senate colleagues passed the bill overwhelmingly, House members seemed less impressed. At a hearing earlier this week the bill was diverted to the Commerce Committee.

UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has more details, including word that the Commerce Committee voted 12-2 to kill the bill. The estimated $1.6 million cost to administer the bill didn't help any. (GP: thanks to longtime reader BearDogg-X for the link!).

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Passed By Louisiana Senate, SB 152 Targets Sexually-Explicit Content

June 11, 2009 -

By a 35-0 vote yesteday, the Louisiana Senate passed SB 152, a bill which would make a pattern of distributing sexually explicit material to children a deceptive trade practice under state law.

GamePolitics readers may recall that in its original form, SB 152 was drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson as a back-door means of enforcing ESRB content ratings. The original SB 152 mirrored Thompson's Utah bill, which was vetoed by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) in March. However, bill sponsor Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) subsequently gutted Thompson's focus on age ratings from the bill, amending it instead to its new focus on the distribution of sexually explicit material to minors. It should be noted that distributing such material to minors is already an offense under Louisiana's criminal statutes.

Unlike the Utah bill, SB 152 doesn't make reference to video games, advertising, age ratings or any specific product, for that matter. However, Sen. Crowe did mention video games as an example during yesterday's session:

This body has over the years passed numerous laws to protect our children... And with the growth of...  the market of materials that would be considered by most of us here objectionable as it relates to obscenity such as that is found... in video games either rented or purchased, could fall again into the hands of some of our children. So it is a step in the direction of moving, passing legislation that would allow for, again, protecting our children from this type of thing...

Oddly enough, SB 152 specifically excludes the Internet from its provisions. These days the online world would seem the most likely source for a child to stumble upon sexually explicit material. 

The nature of sexually-explicit conduct defined in the bill would seem to exclude any ESRB-rated video game published to date. It seems clear that a game meeting the standard defined in the bill would have already been rated Adults Only (AO) by the ESRB. Curiously, the bill does not relate its provision for sexually-explicit conduct to the legal definition of obscenity. Should the bill eventually be signed into law, this could prove to be a fatal flaw from a constitutional sense.

Now that it has been passed by the Senate, the next stop for SB 152 is the Louisiana House of Representatives.

GamePolitics readers can watch yesterday's debate on SB 152 by clicking here. Scroll down to "Chamber" for June 10th. The SB 152 segment begins at 4:01:39.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable video game industry source criticized SB 152 in comments to GamePolitics:

The bill as passed by the Senate is clearly unconstitutional. It would penalize the sale of sexually oriented material to minors, but does not require that the material be legally obscene for minors, referred to in Louisiana as 'harmful to minors,' or 'obscene,' as U.S. Supreme Court precedents mandate. This was the same flaw that doomed the Illinois 'sexually explicit video games' law.
 
While it might seem that mainstream retailers have little to fear from the amended bill, as they don't carry pornography, the fact that a single depiction in an otherwise unobjectionable video game, DVD, or other material could open a retailer to liability is of grave concern.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch Calls Pirate Bay Case a Win, Slams Canada Over Copyright Issues

June 11, 2009 -

Influential Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) referred to a Swedish court's recent conviction of the operators of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay as "important" and a "victory." He also reiterated Congressional claims that Canada is a leading copyright violator and pointed with pride to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which he helped pass more than a decade ago.

Hatch, who has served in the Senate for 32 years, made the remarks while addressing the World Copyright Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Utah Senator co-chairs the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC):

For years, countries like China and Russia have been viewed as providing the least hospitable environments for the protection of intellectual property. But this year, it was particularly disappointing to see that Canada, one of America’s closest trading partners, was listed on the Watch List. This is another sobering reminder of how pervasive and how close to our borders copyright piracy has become in the global IP community...

 

Appallingly, many believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free. I have heard some estimates cite no less than 80 percent of all Internet traffic comprises copyright-infringing files on peer-to-peer networks.

That is why the Pirate Bay case is so important. While the decision does not solve the problem of piracy and unauthorized file sharing, it certainly is a legal victory and one that sends a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. We can and must do more...

 

When we passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, one of my goals was to address the problems caused when copyrighted works are disseminated through the Internet and other electronic transmissions without the authority of the copyright owner.

By establishing clear rules of the road, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act served as the catalyst that has allowed electronic commerce to flourish. I believe the DMCA, while not perfect, has nonetheless played a key role in moving our nation’s copyright law into the digital age...

The Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group for IP rights holders (the ESA is a member), applauded Hatch's remarks:

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) once again was charming, informed, thoughtful and inspiring in his speech. Once again he was a passionate supporter of creators and copyright owners, and told the 500 or so international delegates here that he has been, and always would be, their champion...

Hatch, who last won re-election to the Senate in 2006, has been a regular recipient of campaign donations from the IP industry. A quick check of donations by political action committees shows that Hatch received $7,000 from the RIAA (music industry) between 2004-2006 and $12,640 from the MPAA (movie business) between 1998-2006.

IP Watchdog has the full transcript of Hatch's remarks.

Texas Attorney General Warns Parents About Video Game Risks

June 10, 2009 -

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) warns parents about a variety of potential threats which he says video games pose to children in an editorial for the Hill Country Times.

Abbott, GamePolitics readers may recall, sued GamesRadar in 2007 for allegedly failing to adequately protect the privacy and safety of children who frequent the website. Abbott later withdrew the suit after GameRadar's parent company, Future, Inc., agreed to make appropriate changes.

While online game predators are the primary focus of his editorial, Abbott also reminds parents about parental control features built into console systems as well as the use of ESRB ratings. The A.G. previously partnered with the ESRB on a 2007 campaign to raise awareness of the video game industry's content rating system. In today's editorial Abbott writes:

When we were young, our parents warned us not to talk to strangers... Today, children are more likely to frequent a digital playground that can be even more dangerous. For example, many game systems have evolved dramatically and now have many of the same capabilities as home computers. In particular, these games’ online interfaces allow users to interact with each other using text, voice or even video chat. Parents should beware of the potential for child predators to use these systems to prey upon and contact their children...

 

Parents should also consider participating in their children’s game-playing activities. Hand-held gaming devices also pose potential risks to children. Many of these devices have wireless-communication capabilities and are popular among kids who use them to communicate with others who are within range, usually about 30 feet. Child predators may be able to exploit this feature in certain public settings...

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City Sued Over Shutdown of Controversial Video Game Exhibit

June 9, 2009 -

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city of Troy, New York and its Public Works Commissioner suppressed free speech by shutting down a controversial video game exhibit in March, 2008.

GamePolitics readers may recall our extensive coverage of the politically-charged situation surrounding Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal. His Virtual Jihadi exhibit employed a modded PC game which included a mission to blow up then-President George W. Bush. Bilal said that the exhibit was intended to express his view that U.S. policy in Iraq helped create terrorists.

Bilal, a U.S. citizen and a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to display his work at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy but was abruptly ordered off campus after the school's College Republican Club raised objections to the game. Bilal was then offered space to display Virtual Jihadi at a nearby gallery, the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The gallery, however, was suddenly shut down for building code violations by Troy's Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch (left). Mirch, who is named as a defendant in the suit, had earlier led a demonstration protesting the exhibit. He called the suit politically motivated.

The Albany Times-Union offers comment on the suit from Melanie Trimble of the NYCLU's Capital Region Chapter:

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful. Mr. Mirch abused his authority to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagree with, an unconstitutional act that must be challenged.

According to the Times-Union report, the NYCLU seeks a court order to block the city from using its building code to infringe on civil rights. The suit also seeks damages on behalf of the non-profit which owns the Sanctuary for Independent Media as well as for the gallery's executive director. The NYCLU has posted a press release on the suit.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the complaint from the NYCLU website...

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Colorado Attorney General Partners with ESRB on Ratings Awareness

May 28, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics broke the news that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is partnering with the ESRB for a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the industry's video game rating system.

Colorado Springs TV station KRDO-13 is now reporting that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) has also jumped on board the ESRB bus. A press release on Suther's website quotes the A.G.:

I know parents face tough decisions these days about the media they allow into their homes. There’s simply no substitute for parental involvement and responsibility, and it is important that parents play an active role in choosing games for their children. ESRB ratings are an effective and informative resource that allows parents to decide if the video game their child wants is appropriate.

Suthers' message to parents will be broadcast on Colorado TV and radio.

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Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus Singles Out Five Nations

May 22, 2009 -

On Wednesday game publishers' lobbying group ESA issued a press release praising members of the bipartisan Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus for singling out Spain, Canada, Mexico, Russia and China as anti-piracy priorities for 2009.

ESA CEO Michael Gallagher praised the IAPC in a press release:

We thank the Caucus for this year issuing a challenge to Canada and Mexico to pass additional legislative protections – such as prohibitions on ‘mod chips’ and other circumvention devices that are used to play pirated games – and to follow through with greater enforcement and border controls.

We also thank the Caucus for highlighting the severe problems that exist for our industry and other copyright industries in Spain. Online and peer-to-peer piracy are rampant and virtually unchecked in Spain and in other major European markets...

But Nick Farrell of the U.K.-based Inquirer, doesn't think much of the caucus, implying that the senators and representatives on the IAPC have been lobbied by the RIAA and other IP rights holders. Farrell writes:

The RIAA has got its tame politicians in the US congress to rail at other nations that don't hold such a jack-booted attitude toward copyright infringement as the Land of the Free...

[IAPC] singled out Baidu, China's largest Internet search engine, as being "responsible for the vast majority of illegal music downloading in China." That's interesting, because Baidu does the same thing as Google which, as a powerful US company, the music industry has not dared to denounce...

It seems almost as though the entertainment mafiaa would like the US to mount a cross-border raid into Canada over its perceived lack of draconian copyright enforcement and wants the US to treat its NATO ally Spain as a pariah for having the temerity to say that peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet isn't a crime.

Online Video Game Predators Among Those Targeted by Alabama Bill

May 18, 2009 -

In a time when pedophile cases in which suspects contact their victims through online video game networks are on the rise, Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) will consider legislation that seeks to protect children from high-tech predators.

WAFF-48 reports that SB 120 is headed to the Guv for his signature after the Alabama House passed the bill on Friday. The measure, proposed by Sen. Myron Penn (D, at left) had previously gained the approval of the State Senate.

SB 120 makes illegal any use of an electronic device to solicit a child and includes cases in which law enforcement personnel are posing as children. From the WAFF report:

The bill outlaws many new ways that predators try to solicit minors... predators can be prosecuted for luring text messages from cell phones, PDA's and even video game systems...

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Dubya Immortalized on the Famicom

May 7, 2009 -

In a bit of political commentary, George W. Bush - looking very much like a chimp - has turned up on a fanciful cartridge for Nintendo's Famicon

Kotaku notes that the former President's cartridge is one of 58 contained in retro game shop Meteor's 2009 Famicase exhibit.

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Utah Congressman Says He's Way Better at Halo Than Rock Band

May 7, 2009 -

Perhaps more than any freshman congressman in recent memory, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has a knack for getting his name mentioned by the media.

Here at GamePolitics, we've covered Chaffetz for his Rock Band duet with Stephen Colbert. The Republican Congressman is also an active Twitter user (jasoninthehouse) and just a tad to the right of Attila the Hun. After all, he is from Utah.

But his conservative rants got the best of GP yesterday and we couldn't resist sending him a jab via Twitter:

Will you be doing anything with Rock Band again any time soon? Otherwise I may have to stop following your updates.

Chaffetz is nothing if not a good sport. He quickly followed up with a private tweet and we couldn't help but laugh:

I suck at Rock Band. Best if I stick to Halo.

By the way, Chaffetz isn't kidding about his Rock Band suckitude. Check out that 24% score from the Colbert show appearance. In any case, it's reassuring to know that at least one member of Congress enjoys a round of Halo now and again.

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Louisiana Senate to Consider Jack Thompson Video Game Bill Today

May 6, 2009 -

The Louisiana Senate will apparently discuss a Jack Thompson-authored video game bill in a hearing scheduled for later this morning.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs has SB 152 on its agenda for today.

The measure was proposed by Sen. A.G. Crowe (R) and is similar to the Thompson bill which recently passed the Utah legislature before being vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. Like the Utah bill, SB 152 would hold companies that advertise age restrictions on products guilty of a deceptive trade practice if the product is then sold to someone underage.

While video games are not specified in the measure, they were clearly Thompson's intended target in crafting the legislation.

A review of SB 152 indicates that it goes a step beyond the Utah bill by also holding retailers guilty of a deceptive trade practice for selling a product labeled with an age restriction (for instance, an M-rated game) to someone underage. This section seems to be very close to the type of content-based sales restriction which federal courts have consistently found unconstitutional.

In addition, the bill requires retailers to check the I.D. of buyers and to post signage indicating that I.D. will be checked.

GamePolitics has left messages for Sen. Crowe to inquire about the bill. So far, he has not returned our calls. We asked Thompson last night whether he would be testifying on behalf of SB 152 today. He told us it was uncertain whether the hearing would go forward today. However, we reached a staffer in Crowe's office this morning who told us the hearing would take place.

UPDATE: The committe is webcasting its hearing now. Click here for the committee list. Click on the TV icon to the right of the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs to watch the hearing. The committe is now discussing SB 29. As I write this the Thompson bill is fifth in line for consideration.

UPDATE 2: We had to wait until the very end of the committee hearing to learn that Sen. Crowe has deferred the SB 152 hearing until next week. Join us then...

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Texas Guv Puts Secession Plans on Hold, Signs Game Biz Tax Break

April 23, 2009 -

When not making bizarre references to seceding from the United States, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is  good friend to the video game industry.

The Guv, who delivered last year's E3 keynote in Los Angeles, today signed into law HB 873. The bill increases the amount of state grants available to video game, film and other digital media production companies.

As reported by the San Marcos Daily Record, Perry was enthusiatic about the legislation at the bill signing ceremony:

With this legislation, we are strengthening our state’s investment in a vital industry that not only shows off our state to the rest of the world, but also draws investment and creates jobs for Texans.

ESA CEO Mike Gallagher praised Perry via press release:

I commend Governor Rick Perry and the Texas state legislature for recognizing the contributions that the video game industry already has made in the state, and for acting quickly and decisively to ensure that the industry has the opportunity to reach its full potential. Today, Texas showed its strong willingness to stay competitive with other states that are seeking to attract video game developers and publishers.

KVUE has a video report on the bill signing.

14 comments

Utah Bill Sponsor Apologizes to Colleagues for Jack Thompson

April 22, 2009 -

Although anti-game activist Jack Thompson's latest campaign to pass video game legislation in Utah got off to a fast start, it is ending both unsuccessfully and with rancor.

In the latest development, GamePolitics has learned that Rep. Mike Morley (R), the Utah House sponsor of the Thompson-authored HB 353, circulated an e-mail to his legislative colleagues last week in which he apologized for Thompson's behavior.

Morley's apology came in response to the flap caused by an Easter Sunday e-mail sent by Thompson to numerous Utah legislators. The e-mail, which ultimately prompted State Sen. President Michael Waddoups (R) to threaten Thompson with prosecution, depicted GTA IV 's Nico Bellic receiving a lap dance from a pair of strippers. Thompson also included links to videos of graphic GTA IV content.

Here is Morley's e-mail:

Subject: My apologies for Jack Thompson
Dear Fellow House Members:

Over the past few days, I have received three emails from Jack Thompson regarding his concerns about mature video games being sold to minors.  Certainly, I am concerned about the graphic violence and sexuality of some of the mature video games, I am apalled by his use of what I view as pornographic images.  I want to make it clear that I had no previous knowledge of his intention to send the images and I apologize to each of you who received his email and were offended as I was.

Mr. Thompson is a nation [sic] advocate for this cause, but he doesn't speak for me nor do I condone or appreciate his actions nor some his tactics.

Mike Morley

When asked for comment by GamePolitics, Thompson said that he hadn't seen Morley's e-mail and "couldn't care less." Within minutes, however, he fired off an e-mail of his own to Utah largely conservative legislators:

I understand that Mike Morley apologized to you all for the shocking image I sent you of two women in bikinis in a strip club.  Sorry, Utahns, but you can see that on a beach.  To see more explicit material as to what is in the GTA IV game, you had to click on the two links I provided, and that was your choice. I warned you what you would see if  you chose to do so.
 
Mike Morley's apology is ridiculous.  I didn't scandalous [sic] anyone with an image of two clad women.  What is really going on here is that I upset the Republican club that runs Utah, and those in that club are seizing upon this harmless image as a ruse to scold the outsider who unfortunately showed that some in Utah aren't serious about protecting children.  Your Governor isn't serious, and we sure as heck know your AG is not.  Heck, he takes money from the video game industry to say how well the ratings are working... Incredible.
 
The only apology that is owed is by each of you for not insisting upon an override session [of Gov. Huntsman's HB 353 veto]...  Your family values stance is a sham.  

GP: Pictured: Gov. Huntsman, Rep. Morley, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Thompson.

136 comments

What Impact Will Texas Secession Have on Video Game Biz?

April 21, 2009 -

Late last week Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) indicated that seceding from the United States was an option for his state, albeit an unlikely one.

The Guv, rumored to have presidential aspirations of his own, is upset about the economic policies of the Obama administration.

It would appear that Perry, who delivered the keynote at last year's E3 (that's him along with ESA boss Mike Gallagher at left), has forgotten what happened the last time secession was attempted in 1861: There was a bit of a disgreement that is commonly known as the Civil War.

But wouldn't a Texas secession make a great real-time strategy game? Call it Six Days in Austin. Konami could publish it.

From a video game industry perspective, establishing a new, independent nation of Texas would certainly impact publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association, which is chartered to represent the interests of video game publishers in the United States.

Canada has its own ESA and there are plenty of game industry firms based in Texas. If the Lone Star state gains independence, perhaps there will be a need for an ESA Texas as well.

Or perhaps Gov. Perry is just going off the deep end.

145 comments

Tax Day Tea Party Staged in Second Life

April 17, 2009 -

With federal income tax returns due yesterday, conservative "tea party" protests were staged at a variety of locations around the United States.

For those who prefer their political activism to be of the virtual type, the Second Life metaverse featured a Tax Day tea party of its own.

The Second Life Newspaper reports:

A diverse crowd of dozens of men and women gathered... They picked up various protest signs: “Born Free, but taxed to death,” “Give Me Liberty ... not debt!”  ...A video screen on display played a short movie with a man portraying Thomas Paine speaking out against the expansion of today’s government...

 

The Tea Party in SL was sponsored by the GOP Cafe... The big topic was what the participants saw as runaway government spending gone out of control...

A few times, the sim was griefed with floods of particles. Twice, a strange loud voice pierced the air for about half a minute. Some joked this was the work of liberals, “they can’t stand the criticism...”

80 comments

Twittering Michigan Congressman Cops to Owning a Wii

April 16, 2009 -

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) has, it would seem, something of an up-and-down relationship with digital technology.

GameCulture reports that Hoekstra visited a second-grade class in Holland, Michigan yesterday. While there, Hoekstra revealed that he owns a Wii:

After lofting Hoekstra a string of softballs, such as "Do you like your job?" "Have you, um, ever, like, gone to Hong Kong?" and "How old are you?" the shorties laid in with the bomb — "Do you own a Wii?"

After confessing that he was 55, "really old," Hoekstra broke down and conceded that, yes, he owns a Wii. He also let slip that he has a dog and a cat and that the two are friends.

Nice.

Also to his credit, Hoekstra is heavy Twitter user, although GamePolitics readers may recall that in February, Hoeksta spilled the beans about a top-secret congressional trip to Iraq by tweeting about it

During the Bush years, Hoekstra presided over a 2006 congressional hearing during which House Intelligence Committee members were told that a YouTube video featuring stock Battlefield 2 gameplay footage and a voice-over from Team America: World Police were products of an Al Qaeda propaganda campaign.

11 comments

Following Tumultuous Utah Stint, Jack Thompson Heads to Louisiana

April 16, 2009 -

Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best: It's like deja vu all over again.

On the heels of ugly, public dust-ups with both the Utah Attorney General and the President of the Utah State Senate, Jack Thompson is taking his pursuit of video game legislation to Louisiana.

Again.

On Friday Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) will introduce SB 152. The bill, with the addition of a few bells and whistles, is essentially the same truth in advertising measure that passed the Utah legislature in March, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Last week Thompson circulated a press release indicating that a bill "nearly identical" to his failed Utah legislation would be proposed in Louisiana. While he did not name the sponsor, GamePolitics has learned that it is Sen. Crowe. In the press release, Thompson said that he expects to testify before the Louisiana legislature along with "four experts."

Sen. Crowe is apparently untroubled by the acrimony that marked Thompson's 2006 attempt to legislate video games in Louisiana. At that time a Thompson-authored bill unanimously passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature and was signed into law by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The measure was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, but not before Thompson got into an ugly, public dispute with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office (see: Suddenly Thompson is Feuding With Former Louisiana Allies).

Since Thompson's last chaotic go-round in Louisiana, he was permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for more than two dozen professional misconduct violations. Thompson has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the failed 2006 legislation ultimately cost Louisiana $91,000 in video game industry legal fees, it also provided some typically bombastic Thompson quotes, including: Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer.

For more background on Thompson's earlier Louisiana experience, check out The Circus Comes to Louisiana, a piece I wrote for Joystiq in 2006.

133 comments

Jack Thompson Criticized by Utah Senate Website over E-mail Flap

April 15, 2009 -

In our previous story GamePolitics broke the news that Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) threatened to have anti-game activist Jack Thompson prosecuted if Thompson did not stop sending him e-mail.

In a remarkable development, a website run by Utah Senate Republicans has publicly taken Thompson to task over the issue:

Jack Thompson sends a lot of Email.

At 6:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday he sent another Email message to a group of contacts and highlighted a picture that, if not legally pornographic, was certainly offensive.

President Waddoups was on the recipient list. He sent a polite but direct request back to Mr. Thompson:

    OK, I've had enough. Please remove me from your Email list.

Jack Thompson wrote back:

    Sir, did you look at the material being sold to minors in Utah that I sent you?

President Waddoups responded with a second request to be removed:

    Yes, I read them all and I got the picture. No more please.

Well . . . a few days went by with no relief. This morning Michael Waddoups – probably a little bugged - sent a third request to be removed from Thompson's Email list...

    I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list. I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again. If I am not removed I will turn you over to the AG for legal action.

So Jack Thompson issued a press release... Jack Thompson might be right. He might be totally, completely, dead-on right on his video game issue. He might not (smart people can disagree). Either way, this behavior doesn't help his cause.

GP: It's not clear who edits the Utah Senate blog, but there is an offer to post the original e-mails if readers request them.

UPDATE: In order to provide some context to this story, in the comments section I've posted the (NSFW) GTA IV screenshot that apparently pushed Sen. Waddoups over the edge. It's clearly not pornographic although it is racy.

UPDATE 2: The Utah Senate Site has posted the series of e-mails between Sen. Waddoups and Thompson.

128 comments

Utah Senate President Wants to Prosecute Jack Thompson Under CAN-SPAM Act

April 14, 2009 -

It seems as though Jack Thompson may have burned his final bridge in Utah - and turned a former political ally into an adversary in the process.

In an e-mail sent out earlier today, Thompson claimed that Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups (R, at left) has threatened to have him prosecuted if the disbarred attorney doesn't stop sending him e-mails.

Waddoups, who presided over the Utah Senate as it overwhelmingly passed Thompson's video game bill last month, apparently became upset by an Easter Sunday e-mail in which Thompson attacked Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

As GamePolitics has reported, the disbarred Florida attorney and the popular Utah A.G. have been trading insults ever since the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. On Sunday Thompson slammed Shurtleff in yet another e-mail which claimed that the A.G. is ignoring the sale of pornography to minors. That's a highly questionable assertion, since in this case Thompson is defining Grand Theft Auto IV as pornography.

To back up his point, Thompson included a screenshot depicting of a pair of strippers giving GTA IV protagonist Nico Bellic a lap dance. Why Waddoups reacted so strongly is not entirely clear, although it is possible that he was offended by the pic. Or perhaps he has grown weary of Thompson's persistent attacks on Gov. Huntsman and A.G. Shurtleff, both fellow Republicans. GamePolitics contacted Waddoups for comment, but the Senate President did not return our call.

In any case, Thompson supplied the text of an e-mail that he says he received from Waddoups earlier today:

I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list.  I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again.  If I am not removed I will turn you over to the AG for legal action.

In response, Thomson re-sent the lapdance pic to the entire Utah legislature:

If you are offended by seeing this, as was Senate President Waddoups, then know that you should be more offended by the fact that Utah kids can buy the game in which there are repeated sexual encounters like this... 

You will apparently read in the Salt Lake Tribune tomorrow morning that Senator Waddoups has now threatened me with criminal prosecution by Mark Shurtleff for sending him “porn.”...  Mr. Waddoups now threatens me for alerting him to this... I look forward to my criminal prosecution in Utah...

GamePolitics readers may recall that Thompson has a bit of a track record for attaching actual porn - not the GTA virtual variety - to his e-mails. In 2007 a federal court judge and the Florida Supreme Court took him to task for doing so (see Judge Spanks Jack Thompson For Including Gay Porn in Court Filing).

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Waddoups wants to pursue Thompson under federal anti-spam legislation:

Waddoups, on Tuesday, confirmed he would attempt to pursue legal action under the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

While that law carries a punishment of up to $11,000 in fines, it covers "e-mail whose primary advertisement purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service," according to the Federal Trade Commission.

UPDATE 2: Predictably, Thompson has written to the U.S. Attorney in Salt Lake City, urging that Waddoups be prosecuted for violating his civil rights. The letter, which we have also received via e-mail, can be viewed in the comments to the Salt Lake Tribune story.

79 comments

 
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MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/30/europe-gets-long-detained-shin-megami-tensei-4-at-cut-price/ "Sorry you had to wait a year for SMT4, would a price cut make it sting less?"07/30/2014 - 10:29am
NeenekoI would hope not. Though it is not unheard of for store specific cards to be pretty good.07/30/2014 - 8:17am
E. Zachary KnightDoes anyone, or at least any intelligent person, expect a retail branded credit card to be anything close to resembling a "good deal" on interest rates?07/30/2014 - 7:13am
SleakerGamestop articles popping up everywhere about their ludicrous new Credit card offerings at a whopping pre-approval for 26.9% APR07/29/2014 - 10:19pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/07/podcasting-patent-troll-we-tried-to-drop-lawsuit-against-adam-carolla/ the podcasting patent troll scum is trying to turn tail and run.07/29/2014 - 9:50pm
MaskedPixelanteOf course it's improved. At launch, Origin was scanning your entire hard drive, but now it's just scanning your browsing history. If that's not an improvement, I dunno what is!07/29/2014 - 8:59pm
Papa Midnighthttp://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/columns/experienced-points/12029-Has-EAs-Origin-Service-Improved-Any-Over-the-Last-Two-Years07/29/2014 - 8:25pm
Sora-ChanSo it's just a matter of having better emulation software. If it can be done with a 3DS game, with all the memory and what not it takes up, it can be done with a GBA title through emulation.07/29/2014 - 7:30pm
Sora-ChanOther VC titles for the NES and Gameboy had the same setup where you couldn't access the homescreen without quitting out of the game til a later update when those games were released for the public outside of the founder program.07/29/2014 - 7:28pm
Sora-Chanthe 3DS can, and does, run GBA games, as seen by the founder gifts, which included a number of GBA titles. As for running GBA games and still having access to the home screen, I beleive it's more of the game emulation software needs to be updated.07/29/2014 - 7:27pm
Matthew Wilsonthe 3ds already swaps os's with the original ds. plus I dont think people expect miverse interaction when playing a gba game.07/29/2014 - 6:06pm
MaskedPixelanteBut that's not the issue, the 3DS is perfectly capable of emulating GBA games. The problem is that it doesn't have enough available system resources to run it alongside the 3DS OS, and thus it doesn't have access to stuff like Miiverse and save states.07/29/2014 - 5:45pm
Matthew WilsonI am well aware that it requires more power, but if a GBA emulator could run well on a original psp, than it should work on a 3ds.07/29/2014 - 5:36pm
ZenThe reason the SNES could run Gameboy, or the Gamecube could run GBA was because their adapters included all of the necessary hardware to do it in the respective add-ons. The systems were just conduits for control inputs and video/sound/power.07/29/2014 - 4:51pm
ZenMatthew: Emulation takes more power than people realize to run a game properly. You can make something run on less, but Nintendo...as slow as they are at releasing them..makes them run as close to 100% as possible. Each game has its own emulator for it.07/29/2014 - 4:47pm
Matthew Wilsonkind of hard to believe since the 3ds is atleast as powerful as the gamecube hardware wise.07/29/2014 - 4:27pm
MaskedPixelanteYes, the 3DS has enough power to run 16-bit emulators, but not at the same time it's running the 3DS systems themselves. You could run the games, but you wouldn't get save states or Miiverse.07/29/2014 - 4:04pm
InfophileRunning GBA on 3DS shouldn't be hard. The DS had flashcarts sold for it that added just enough power to emulate GBA and SNES games, so the 3DS should have more than enough natively.07/29/2014 - 3:37pm
MaskedPixelanteIt's a bunch of people whining about boycotting/pirating Trails in the Sky FC because XSEED didn't license the Japanese dub track, which consists of about 10 lines per character.07/29/2014 - 11:27am
Sleaker@MP - devolver Digital issued a twitter statement saying they would replace the NISA pledge.07/29/2014 - 10:57am
 

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