Whoever said being a Bar-licensed, practicing lawyer had anything to do with amending existing laws has clearly never met Jack Thompson. Thompson's most recent game bill, authored by Representative Mike Morley and Mr. Thompson, was resoundingly passed (at 10-3) by the Business and Labor Committee of the Utah House of Representatives yesterday. What does this mean for Utah residents? Well, nothing yet, as the bill is now headed off to the full Utah House of Representatives for consideration.
If the bill goes into law, however, retailers of all varieties in the state (from big-box outlets like Best Buy and Wal-Mart to independent theater owners) will be facing a $2000 fine for every documented sale of mature-rated content to a minor. We wanted some clarification on the law and it's possible ramifications, so we went straight to the source. After the jump you can see for yourself everything Mr. Thompson told us about his recently penned bill.
Could you explain the bill that you and Mike Morley drafted for the state of Utah please?
The concept is this: If you, the retailer, say that you don't sell mature rated games to someone under 17 then you're in effect engaging in communications with the public and assurances to the public which is definitely advertising, then you have to adhere to that policy.
The issue becomes the truthfulness of the corporate representations. We're addressing the fraud of deceptive trade practices issue rather than the nature of the product itself. It's an across the board attempt to hold to their word the retailers of music, movies and video games [in any format].
There's a recommendation on a T-rated game but no one says they're not gonna sell it to an underage youth. That's not a rating, that's an advising.
"Am I equating playing Grand Theft Auto 4 with drinking a six pack? Some would say it's worse. Some might say it's not."
First of all, you can't regulate the Child Protection Act, so as far as non-tangible stuff you download there are problems with age restrictions.
Online tobacco and firearm sales, you're asked to input a government-verified ID and you're asked to verify. So, under this bill, we believe in Utah, applying the bill to both brick-and-mortar and online sales they're simply going to have to put in age verification software.
You can't use a credit card for age verification. You literally can't use it as an age verifier. You and I both know kids have credit cards. It's not a reliable age verifier because it's not. Asking someone how old they, assuming that the use of a credit card is age verification is simply a wash. So what they're going to have to do is use "real" age verification software.
The problem is that, after Columbine, they assured these sales would stop. After Columbine when we learned that Klebold and Harris were in part motivated by the violent entertainment they consumed, these guys [the National Association of Theater Owners) had a rose garden event with President Clinton and they guaranteed the American people that there would no longer be any underage sales of R-rated tickets to people under 17.
Are you equating the sale of alcohol with the sale of mature content to underage youths?
I didn't equate it but I said it was analogous. Am I equating playing Grand Theft Auto 4 with drinking a six pack? Some would say it's worse. Some might say it's not.
The point is they say they don't sell this stuff to kids and they do. All they have to do is opt out of the system and say, "We're going to sell whatever we want to anybody and no one's going to tell us we're not." But don't tell us you're going to do something and then do something else.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us today?
I think it's great that we're living in a country where a lawyer who's been targeted by the [video game] industry can come back around and get these suckers. As Mark Twain said, "Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."