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Game Bills Fail to Pass Muster in California

13 Apr, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

“We won the skirmish here but the war isn't over,” said Sean Bersell, VSDA's VP of public affairs, after a California State Assembly committee voted down two bills restricting the sale and merchandising of violent and ‘M'-rated video games in retail stores Tuesday.

AB 1792, considered a “garden variety” violent video game bill restricting the sale or rental of games that depict particularly gruesome violence to persons 18 years or older, garnered only five of the seven votes needed to move it out of the Committee of Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media and onto the next step before a vote in the state legislature.

AB 1793, which elicited strong concern from the VSDA and retailers, received only three votes. That bill would require retailers to segregate ‘M' –rated games from other video games, and require placement of posters explaining the Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings for games. Failure to do so, even if done inadvertently by a store clerk, would open up retailers to possible lawsuits and a $2,500 fine for each violation.

While the two bills failed to get the necessary votes, their author, Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) indicated he would request the committee consider the bills again at a later date, according to Bersell.

John Merchant, owner of 49er Video, Davis, Calif., testified before the committee opposing 1793, as did a representative of the California Retailers Association.

While the VSDA opposes both bills on First Amendment issues, AB 1793 was a dangerous bill for retailers, Bersell said. “Today's outcome is encouraging because so many legislators understood it was unfair to expose retailers to civil liability for having an ‘M' rated game on the wrong shelf or a poster in the wrong position,” he said.

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