Bill Proposes Jail Time For Selling M-Rated Games To Kids

Well, here we go again. Rhode Island has a bill in its legislature that provides for up to $US1000 in fines and a year in jail for selling M- or AO-rated games to underage buyers.

The bill may sound familiar to failed efforts in California and Utah, although I'm not sure any sought to put people in jail for selling M-rated games to kids under 17.

But it seems a key point is that it doesn't ban outright the sale of "ultra-violent video games" or attempt to make some classification of their content, as a 2005 California law did. And while the Utah law is more similar in structure (ramping up fines for the underage sales), it was vetoed by the state's governor before it became law; no court took a crack at it.

The bill is sponsored by four Democrats, so let's all remember that this kind of schoolmarm prudery is hardly exclusive to conservatives. The Parents' Television Council, of course, cheers the legislation, saying it "empowers parents by enforcing the industry's voluntary guidelines which, far-too-frequently, are not followed". Citation needed? The PTC backs up the position by claiming its Rhode Island chapter found that "half of the retailers our chapter visited responded with contempt when it was pointed out that they weren't following the ratings when selling adult games to children."

Obviously, the sale of tobacco, porn, firearms, liquor, etc, are regulated and violating those regulations result in fines, and these laws exist without any constitutional problem. I think the difference there is such things are regulated by the state, which has the statutory authority to regulate them, whereas the ESRB ratings are privately organised and voluntarily followed. The state doesn't enforce them. Again, I'm no legal scholar or lawmaker.

Rhode Island can press ahead with this bill, but the Entertainment Software Association has a robust state legislature lobbying operation and it's been very successful in getting these kinds of measures spiked.

RI Adult Videogame Bill Draws Kudos from PTC [Game Politics, thanks SenseLocke]


Comments

    so what not selling higher rated games to people who arent old enought to play them ohhhhh controversial

    For the Australian system, i'd support this kind of thing.

    We have laws saying Secondary Supply of Liquor to a minor is illegal and punishable by big fines and lose of Liquor License etc...

    There's big fines for Tobacco as well, so if people are so worried that games are making kids violent and responsible for all the worlds ills....why not make it illegal to sell MA15+ and (if we get it) R18+ games to people under those ages...

    You know, they should change the MA15+ to MA16+, since thats when kids can get their Learners Permits...and you can card them way more easily that way.

    But yeah, we sell Liquor to adults....and we have Teen Binge Drinking problems and "Alcohol Fuelled Violence" on or streets at night....yet people like Atkinson arent calling for Liquor to be banned to "protect the children and vunerable adults"

      I happen to disagree on some of your points.

      While I believe that a retailer should be punished for selling MA15+ games to those who are not 15 or older (and not the individual, as it is up to the retailer to screen and teach their staff). I certainly don't agree that jail time is needed. While I agree that these games shouldn't end up in the hands of minors (despite the fact that 9 out of 10 parents will ignorantly buy them for their kids anyway, even after being warned about the content), jail time is just a ridiculous punishment in relation to the crime, especially up to a year of it.

      I think the last thing we need to do is move our video games classifications further away from parity with other forms of media. Changing MA15+ to MA16+ won't change anything, at least not for the better. The people who aren't checking IDs still won't do so, and those who check them lazily won't bother to check the owner's age and will just check that they own the card, which becomes an issue as you can obtain your learner's permit at 15 years and 9 months. Plus, every MA15+ game currently out in the market would have to be reclassified before they could be sold again, which would put every single retailer out while they were waiting for this process to occur. It's just not a feasible option, especially when there really isn't any positives to doing so.

      What really needs to occur is parity within the ratings systems (aka an R18 rating for video games), and a push for more market awareness of the ratings guidelines and what they entail. Then games that should be rated R18 won't be shoehorned into the MA15+ rating, parents will understand that MA15+ titles aren't suitable for those under 15 and R18 titles aren't suitable for minors (just how there is a reasonably global awareness of this for movies and dvds). You'll still have some retails selling games to minors (although it'd be much more unlikely to be R18 games), and you'll still have neglectful parents buying their 7 year olds GTA, but the system won't be broken, and can fairly punish retailers for breaking the law which has now been clarified and fixed to not be so archaic.

      It already is illegal to sell age restricted content (MA15+, R18+ and X18+) to people under the relevant age. The penalties differ by state, but you're looking at a fine at minimum.

      nah id say 15 is good cus your old enough to have a job then which incedently i think that if you are under 18 but pay income tax you should be allowed to vote

      There are legal restrictions and penalties in place presently within Australia for the sale and hire of MA15+ and RC computer games. The enforcement and subsequent penalties are legislated and controlled by the states - therefore may vary.
      You could start here: http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Classificationpolicy_Classificationlegislation
      and then move onto the respective states sentencing legislation.

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