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Legal Panel Discusses Games, Digital Piracy

1 Aug, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Digital piracy and video game regulation were top of mind at the show's panel discussion of legal issues facing the home entertainment industry.

Digital piracy is the greatest threat to video rental and the packaged media industry, said VSDA president Bo Andersen, echoing his comments from the opening session. “We've got to get ahead of the growth of the Internet or face the same fate as the music industry,” he said.

The panel spent much of its time discussing efforts to make dealers responsible for voluntarily enforcing game ratings. Part of the problem with games is that objectionable content may only be accessible at higher levels of play — levels many parents don't see until it's too late. “Legislators and parents are concerned about where a child can go in a video game,” Andersen said.

Being careful to help parents understand and use the video game rating system and limit sales of inappropriate product to children would go a long way toward quelling political support for laws that would put the onus of enforcement on video dealers, said Jennifer Byron, general counsel for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA, which recently changed its name from IDSA).

“Failure to enforce is a huge problem. No one is saying it should be 100 percent, but 5 percent is not enough,” she said. Some dealers feel little responsibility to limit what they sell to minors, but checking IDs before selling games “is the best publicity for the industry,” she said.

Battles over issues like First Sale and business zoning laws are still common, said VSDA VP of legal affairs Sean Bersell. VSDA representatives are monitoring 94 bills in 26 states, he added.

Retailer sensitivity to the surrounding community can have an impact on the level of community pressure. “Community standards are your friend,” Bersell said. “These days, most juries are not going to call something obscene unless it involves children or animals.”

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