August 21, 2007

A Look At Video Games Legislation/Litigation [8:05 am]

And the notion of protected speech: Video games

“Video games are a new medium, and while people are used to scary stuff in the movies, they aren’t as used to having scary stuff in interactive media, so there is political value in passing these laws even if they are ultimately rejected by the courts,” said Paul M. Smith, a partner in the Jenner & Block law firm, which represents the game industry. “I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people who passed these laws knew they were unconstitutional, and they did it anyway.”

Put simply, the United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution as allowing states broad leeway in regulating minors’ access to sexually explicit material. That is why it is illegal around the country to sell pornography to children. Courts have not, however, said that states have a similar right to regulate media based on violence. Most of the city and state video game laws that have been struck down in recent years have tried to ban the sale or rental of certain violent games to minors. In many of those cases, states and cities have tried to translate the legal rules for pornography into a new system for regulating violent media.

“One of our major arguments was that when it comes to minors, violence should be treated similarly to sexually explicit material,” said Zackery P. Morazzini, the California deputy attorney general who argued the recent case for the state. “We allow states to protect children from sexually explicit material, so to us it is a logical extension to take that lesser obscenity standard and apply that in the context of violent media.”

The United States Supreme Court has not taken up the matter, but judges appear to have taken a dim view of that approach.

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Fear and Identity [7:58 am]

Land of the Less-Freepdf

What kind of America-hating ghoul would be against Strengthening Our Borders or going after Deadbeat Dads? After all, the terrorists are busy plotting another 9/11, and the children continue to suffer.

But when Democrats and Republicans agree on bumper-sticker policy, it’s the rest of us law-abiding citizens who are at risk, whether we know it or not. And right now the federal government is determined to use such once-sacrosanct documents as passports, Social Security numbers and drivers licenses to try to restrict all manner of bad or unpopular behavior — behavior that in most cases is completely unrelated to the limited areas of work and travel these documents are supposed to regulate.

[...] No doubt, kids are getting more money for child support. And terrorists, theoretically, might have a more difficult time entering the country. But at what cost to the rest of us? One American who’s long since left the country put it recently like this:

[T]he Magna Carta principle that citizens have the right to travel internationally unless they stand accused or convicted of a crime has been abrogated. What’s next? Passport refusals on the grounds that one’s student loan payments are delinquent? Denials of passports because of mortgage defaults? It’s a bit ironic that a nation which historically has been a refuge for the destitute seeking a new start could become one big debtors’ prison with the combination of provisions like the Passport Denial Program, oppressive bankruptcy laws and a failing economy.

Hyperbole? Maybe. But as long as both parties are coming together to Secure Our Borders and punish marginalized citizens, your freedom and mine will continue to erode.

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Bit-by-Bit [7:38 am]

Wal-Mart selling digital music free of copy curbspdf

Wal-Mart said it would sell the “DRM-free” MP3 downloads of music by artists like the Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse and Maroon 5 for 94 cents per track or $9.22 per album. It said the new format let customers play music on almost any device, including iPods, iPhones and Microsoft Corps Zune portable media player.

The announcement comes as major record labels debate whether dropping DRM will hurt digital music sales or encourage piracy. Copy protection software prevents unauthorized copying of a digital song bought from an online store, but it also limits where an owner can listen to it.

Also, Viacom’s MTV and RealNetworks join forces: reportpdf

The newspaper’s online edition, citing people familiar with the matter, said MTV and RealNetworks, which runs subscription digital-music service Rhapsody, are joining forces in a bid to create stiffer competition for Apple Inc’s iTunes online music store.

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