Matheson and Lee Propose Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act

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Today, Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT) introduced a bill (HR5990) to the 2nd session of the 110th Congress of the United States on behalf of himself and Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) called the "Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act."
The Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act would make it unlawful for anyone to sell or rent a video game with an Adults Only ("AO") label to a person under the age of 18 or a Mature ("M") rating to anyone under the age of 17. Doing so would be "treated as a violation of a rule defining an unfair or deceptive act or practice prescribed under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B))." The penalty would not exceed a fine of $5,000 per violation." The bill would also make it unlawful for anyone to ship in interstate commerce a video game without a rating label.

According to Matheson, "Too many children are spending too much time playing inappropriate video games that most parents would find shocking and objectionable. As a parent, I know that I'm the first line of defense against my kids playing Mature-rated video games. But parents can't be everywhere monitoring everything and some reasonable, common sense rules ought to be in place to back parents up."

In their prepared statement Terry added, "The images and themes in some video games are shocking and troublesome. In some games high scores are often earned by players who commit 'virtual' murder, assault and rape. Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it."

The bill is clearly motivated by a combination of good intentions and political pandering, but even the prepared statements of the two representatives indicate a lack of knowledge concerning games. There are two colossal problems with this bill. First, it runs into the same First Amendment problems that have caused several similar state bills to be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts. Furthermore, even if the bill somehow failed to waste taxpayer dollars and stood up in courts, it imposes penalties based on a voluntary rating system. How can penalties be imposed for not rating a game according to a voluntary rating system. Should the law stand (which it won't) it would require the government to regulate the ESRB.

Don't worry too much about the "Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act." Worry about the fact that your governmental representatives are wasting resources and a lot of money trying to violate the constitution to score political points.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 7, 2008 11:36 PM.

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