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California Game Bills Meet Different Fates

27 Apr, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

In a second hearing before a California State Assembly committee on Tuesday, two bills looking to regulate the sale and rental of ‘M'-rated and ‘AO' (Adults Only)-rated video games received different fates, according to the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA).

AB 1792, which would have made it illegal to rent or sell to persons under 18 games that depict extreme violence against human characters in the game failed to gain enough votes to move out of committee and toward a vote in the state legislature.

However, AB 1793, a bill seeking to segregate in the store certain video games based on rating, as well as require the posting of information regarding the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) game ratings system, was amended and passed by the Committee of Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media.

The bill has been amended to require only ‘AO'-rated games be segregated away from other video games that might be perused by minors, and legislators on the committee agreed to certain signage requirements that advise parents that ESRB information is available from the retailer. Language in the bill that would have exposed retailers to potential lawsuits and fines of up to $2,500 for even inadvertent failure to comply with regulations in the bill was removed, as was the inclusion of ‘M'-rated games as part of the segregation. The bill has potentially several other committees through which to pass before it can be heard for a vote on the state legislature floor.

“We're pleased that the committee recognized the operational and Constitutional problems with AB 1792,” said Sean Bersell, VP of public affairs for the VSDA. “While we would have liked the committee not to have approved AB 1793, at least there were some positive changes to the bill in response to concerns that the VSDA and others voiced during the last hearings.”

Bersell said the VSDA will continue to oppose AB 1793 as it moves through the process. The association is concerned that the measure sets a dangerous precedent for the possible merchandising restrictions of other formally rated content such as ‘NC-17' films, he said.

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