Video game industry regulations proposed for the third time in four years

Published: Sunday, Feb. 8 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Supporters of a state law to prevent children from getting their hands on violent and sexually explicit video games, having failed twice before, are hoping the third time is the charm.

Rep. Michael Morley, R-Spanish Fork, is currently drafting language for a bill he hopes to have introduced in the House within a week that will go after what the bill's supporters call the "deceptive practices" of the video game industry.

Morley's proposal would change existing state Truth in Advertising laws that prohibit phony and misleading sales pitches to include any business that publicly pledges to keep adult "entertainment" away from minors and then fails to do so.

Morley said several of the large retail chains in the state currently make claims that would not be permitted under his bill. He said he has been working with retailers and consumer protection groups to make sure the legislation is both effective and constitutional.

He acknowledged that his proposal was relatively limited in scope and would have little to no effect on some segments of the video game industry.

"If they're one of those places that thinks, 'Well, as long as they have a heartbeat and some money we'll sell to them,' then this won't have any impact on them," Morley said.

Morley said he hasn't been able to get a feel for the level of enthusiasm among House Republicans for yet another bill directed at the video game industry.

Proposals to more tightly regulate the video game industry have failed to get any significant support from Utah lawmakers on two previous tries. In 2006 a bill sponsored by former Rep. David Hogue died quietly in the House Judiciary Committee. A year later an almost identical bill sponsored by former Rep. Scott Wyatt suffered the same fate in the House Public Utilities and Technology Committee.

In both cases there were significant first amendment concerns among members of both political parties that could not be resolved.

Other states haven't fared any better trying to regulate the industry. Washington State enacted a law in 2003 banning the sale of some violent video games to minors and a federal court quickly ruled that the law was a violation of free speech protections and overturned it.

The supporters of Morley's bill claim this latest approach takes care of the problems with constitutionality that previous incarnations of the legislation encountered by avoiding specific content prohibitions and instead targeting the marketing practices of the video game industry.

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