Congress Introduces Videogame Legislation
The 113th United States Congress has been sworn in and one of the first things to be brought up for legislation is H.R.287, the “Video Games Rating Enforcement Act”.
Yesterday saw the news that President Obama had asked that the sum of $10 million be dedicated to a study to examine the link between violent crimes and video games. The general consensus was that the Obama administration was not holding video games as the cause of the violence. However, this is not the view of Utah Democrat Jim Matheson. Matheson has introduced the bill H.R.287 to Congress that sets out to ban the sales, distribution and rent of violent video games to minors when bearing an ESRB logo.
The ESRB itself is funded by the games industry and is completely voluntary and requires no regulation from an outside organisation. The legislation, if passed through Congress would effectively make the ESRB’s word the final in the matter.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to ship or otherwise distribute in interstate commerce, or to sell or rent, a video game that does not contain a rating label, in a clear and conspicuous location on the outside packaging of the video game, containing an age-based content rating determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.” says the proposed bill.
The bill spefically refers to content with a rating of “Adults only” being sold or rented to a person under the age of 18 who are considered to be minors in the eyes of the law. Any individuals under the age of 17 are not to be sold any games with the content rating of “Mature”. Breaching this act doesn’t result in criminal charges but instead fines of up to $5,000 per breach.
However, as many have stated, video games are protected under the United States First Amendment to the Constitution. The protection of video games came about in 2011 over a Californian law where Justice Antonin Scalia said ““Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas – and even social messages… No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm… but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”
What this means is that the law could pass through Congress but when it would reach the Supreme Court, the law would not go past them if they still hold their 2011 decision as relevant.
George Sinclair is an editor for Analog Addiction, the home of the latest news, reviews and previews. You can follow George on Twitter and his blog on IGN. Don’t forget to follow the OFFICIAL Analog Addiction Twitter!