Mass. to Hold Hearing for Video-Game Bill

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Legislature will hold a hearing Wednesday for a bill aimed at preventing minors from purchasing violent or sexual video games.


The bill, HB1423, was created in 2007 to apply the legal definition of obscene material to video-game violence.


The bill says "matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene ... or describes or represents nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the prurient interest of minors; depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors ... and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."

According to ARS Technica, a similar law was passed in Louisiana, where video-game crusader Jack Thompson helmed a measure that used analogous language to describe what made some games harmful to minors.

Federal Judge James Brady disagreed, pulling the plug and calling the bill unconstitutional.

"The court is dumbfounded that the attorney general and the state are in the position of having to pay taxpayer money as attorney's fees and costs in this lawsuit," he wrote in his opinion. "Prior to the passage of the act, there were a number of reported cases from a number of jurisdictions which held similar statutes to be unconstitutional (and in which the defendant was ordered to pay substantial attorney's fees). The court wonders why nobody objected to the enactment of this statute. In this court's view, the taxpayers deserve more from their elected officials."

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino backs the legislation proposed in Massachusetts.

"Children aged 17 and under should not be sold this stuff, so they are not getting into the hands of 9- and 10-year-olds," Larry Mayes, Menino's chief of human services, told the Boston Herald. "Is it going to be an uphill battle? Sure. But it's absolutely a battle that the mayor feels he should take on."

The Electronic Consumers Association has alerted its members to contact the Massachusetts government in an effort to stop the bill.

Entertainment-industry members of the California Media Coalition - including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Association for American Booksellers - previously filed an amicus brief to oppose laws seeking to criminalize the sale of video games to minors in California.

An injunction against a law in Minnesota similar to the one proposed in Massachusetts was upheld Monday by a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The judges said the state has a compelling interest in the psychological health of children, but wrote the state didn;t have enough proof that violent video games cause psychological harm.

The judges also agreed with a lower-court judged who ruled Minnesota went too far when the law was passed two years ago.

Under the Minnesota law, children under the age of 17 faced a $25 fine for renting or purchasing a video games rated "M" for mature or "AO" for adults only.