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VSDA Girds for Another Capitol Hill Battle Over Adult-Rated Movies and Teens Under 17

7 May, 2001 By: Seth Goldstein

The Video Software Dealers Association is girding for another Capitol Hill battle over adult-rated movies and teens under 17.

In the wake of last week’s Federal Trade Commission snapshot of the entertainment media, Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman introduced legislation that would allow the FTC to bring actions against studios, music labels and game makers for false and deceptive advertising to underage kids. Dubbed the Media Marketing Accountability Act, the bill asks civil penalties of up to $11,000 per day per violation.

The industries named are adamantly opposed, and VSDA government affairs v.p. Sean Bersell says the organization will “coordinate efforts” with trade groups including the Motion Picture Association of America to lobby the act to a stand-still. Most observers give the Lieberman bill, co-sponsored by senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Hillary Clinton of New York, little chance of passage.

The VSDA will be on the lookout for copycat state legislation. The association is already party to a California court case based on the FTC’s October 2000 report, which raised issues Lieberman includes in his legislation. The California action uses the first FTC report and state law to accuse the studios of unfair and deceptive advertising. The issue is now before the California Supreme Court.

The VSDA and the Motion Picture Association of America already have a weapon: movie ratings. Because the Lieberman bill uses them as the standard against which to measure studio and retail compliance, “the easiest way to avoid being penalized is to not have ratings,” Bersell says.

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