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Posts from — June 2006

Tokyo Tax Authority Demands Sony Pony up another $244 in Taxes

Categories: Import/Export Cases

Fresh off its UK Import Duties Loss, the Tokyo Regional Tax Bureau rules that Sony owes an additional 27.9 billion yen (over $244 million) in additional taxes for 74.4 billion yen (about $650 million) in unreported income. The taxes stem from Japan’s “transfer price tax system” which is designed to prevent inter-company transactions between domestic and international affiliates at lower than market prices.

Sources: GameSpot | Next Generation | Gamasutra (4th para)

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Judge Hears Arguments on Louisiana Violent Video Games Law

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

Text of Violent Game Bill (HB 1381)
Text of ESA Complaint
Text of Temporary Restraining Order
U.S. District Judge James Brady took the has extended the temporary restraining order he issued on June 20 barring authorities from enforcing the measure and continues to hear arguments in the case. Based on the hearing to date, it appears Judge Brady will make the same ruling striking down the law as unconstitutionally restrictive of free speech as was the case in several other jurisdictions. He is expected to rule next week.

Sources: Gamasutra | Shreveport Times | The Advocate | 10 KLFY | Nola.com (AP) | GamePolitics.com

GamePolitics Full Coverage of Louisiana Violent Game Law

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Is the Lack of Force-Feedback in Sony’s PS3 Controller a Technical or Legal Issue?

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Sony has explained that the lack of force-feedback in its forth-coming PS3 controller was due to its inherent interference with the PS3 controller’s new tilt feature. However, both Immersion’s claims, and this YouTube video demonstrating the compatibility of force-feedback and tilt functionality in the 1999 Pelican controller for the PS1, suggest that Sony’s decision was less about technological constraints and more about its reluctance to pay royalties to Immersion after losing the force feedback patent case to Immersion.

Sources: PS3 Fanboy (with YouTube video demo) | GameIndustry.biz | Hexus | IGN | Video Game Generation | Business Week | Gamasutra | joystiq

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Toronto Independent Games Conference (Aug 31 – Sept 2, 2006)

Categories: Conferences

The Toronto Independent Games Conference (TIGC) is announced. It is a Toronto-based educational conference and trade event for game developers, with a strong focus on 3rd party “indie” developers, hobbyists, and students. TIGC provides educational, business, and networking opportunities for both game development professionals and those who would like to break into the game development industry.
 
Source: TIGC Website

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Roger Hill Sues Take-Two Over Use of Likeness without Consent

Categories: Personality Rights Cases

Roger Hill is suing Rockstar and Take-Two for using his likeness in the video game tie-in which was released for PS2 and Xbox last year. He is seeking a payment of $250,000 plus an order to restraining the use of his likeness. Take-Two claims it has a valid third party license to use the likeness.
 
Sources: GameIndustry.biz 1  |  GameIndustry.biz 2 (possible criminal indictment)  |  EuroGamer  |  Spong  |  Ferrago  |  Pro-G  |  IGN  |  Next Generation  |  Gamasutra  |  GameDaily.biz  |  CVG  |  1Up.com  |  GameSpot  |  joystiq

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Take-Two Receives Subpoenas Over Hot Coffee

Categories: Sexuality Cases

Take-Two received grand jury subpoenas issued by the District Attorney of the County of New York requesting production of documents, relating to: the knowledge of the Company’s officers and directors regarding the creation, inclusion and programming of hidden sex scenes (commonly referred to as “hot coffee”) in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office appears to be exploring the possibility of criminal charges against Take-Two or some of its employees.

Sources: GameSpot | ars technica | Team Xbox | Gamasutra | GameDaily.biz | GameIndustry.biz | GamePolitics.com | The Register | Red Herring | joystiq | Business Week | New York Times | Law.com (AP) | Times Online | Fox News | MSNBC | Forbes

New York Investigation:

LA Civil Suit:

FTC Investigation Related Posts:

Stanhouse Class Action Suit:

Cohen Class Action Suit:

Other Hot Coffee Related Posts:

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Insomniac President Files Brief in Louisiana Constitutional Suit

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

Text of Price’s Brief
Insomniac Games‘ President Ted Price argues that games are as much a means of expression as books, movies and music. He fears that many games might be criminalized under the law’s broad definition of violence. He explains how his own best-selling Ratchet & Clank series might fall under the provisions of the Louisiana statute.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameDaily.biz | Gamasutra | Next Generation | IGN | GameSpy | 1Up.com | Advanced Media Network

GamePolitics Full Coverage of Louisiana Violent Game Law

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Louisiana Passes Second Video Games Bill – with ESA Support

Categories: New LawsSexuality Cases

Text of Law (SB 340)
Shortly after passing the more controversial, violent game bill (HB 1381), Louisiana has enacted a law, SB 340, that extends the state’s current list of sexually explicit material considered “harmful to minors” to be inclusive of video games in the same way the law extends to pornographic videos, books and magazines. Because the definition of “harmful to minors” deals exclusively with sexually explicit and not “violent” content, the bill will not be contested by the Entertainment Software Association.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz | GameSpot | GamePolitics | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | Digital Lifestyle | Gamasutra

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Australia Bans Another Video Game – Reservoir Dogs

Categories: Game Bans

The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), has refused to give official classification to Eidos’ video game – Reservoir Dogs, meaning that the game cannot be sold in Australian stores. According to a statement, “The Classification Board made this decision on the basis that Reservoir Dogs contains frequent depictions of violence that have a high impact.” Ironic, since the original movie played in Australian cinemas when it was released.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | EuroGamer | GameDaily.biz | joystiq | GameSpot | GamePolitics.com | Sydney Morning Herald | Ferrago | APC Start | Hexus | Team XBox | Earth Times | ITWire | vnunet.com | OFLC Media Release [pdf]


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ESA/EMA Sues Oklahoma over ‘Games as Porn’ Law

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

Jon Stewart on Congressional Debate over Video Games

Categories: Game RatingsHumourLegal ReformPolicy AnalysisViolent Game Laws

In this Daily Show clip, Jon Stewart lampoons Congressman Joe Pitts’ Lack of understanding of the video game industry, affects of violence on children and the ESRB rating system.

Sources: YouTube Video (snippet) | joystiq | GamePolitics | Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz

Click here to view YouTube video.

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UK’s ASA Permits Controversial PSP Ads

Categories: AdvertisingAgency/Board ActionsDecisions

Text of ASA Decision
June 21, 2006
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has opted not to uphold the 45 complaints filed against Sony for its PSP advertising campaign, which included a series of objectionable/racy posters that were primarily placed in outdoor locations, as well as on billboards and buses. The ASA agreed with Sony that the ads did not contain any explicit language or images likely to cause widespread offence or harm to children.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | vnunet.com | CNet | GameSpot | Brand Republic | joystiq | mad.co.uk

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District Judge Temporarily Blocks Louisiana’s Violent Game Bill

Categories: InjunctionsViolent Game Law Cases

UK Court of Appeals Rules PS2 is Not a Computer Eligible for Import Duties Rebate

Categories: Import/Export Cases

Text of Decision
After a five year battle, the British Court of Appeal has failed to overturn a ruling that classified the PlayStation 2 as a video games console rather than a computer, thereby denying Sony a lucrative £34.2 million ($63m) import duties rebate in the United Kingdom. Lord Justice Chadwick also denied Sony the right to take the appeal to the European Court of Justice describing Sony’s lawyers’ arguments as exceeding “the bounds of propriety” and going “beyond what can be regarded as acceptable written advocacy”. The rebate was phased out in 2005 so this should not be an ongoing legal issue.

Sources: GameDaily.biz | GameIndustry.biz | Gamasutra | Next Generation | joystiq | GameSpot | Boomtown | IGN | Link | Link | Out-law.com | Geek.com | GameSHOUT

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Louisiana Violent Game Bill Signed Into Law – ESA Files Suit

Categories: Violent Game Law CasesViolent Game Laws

Text of Violent Game Bill (HB 1381)
Text of ESA Complaint
This new bill (HB 1381) drafted by controversial Florida attorney Jack Thompson, allows a judge to rule on whether or not a video game meets established criteria for being inappropriate for minors. A person found guilty of selling such a game to a minor would face fines ranging from $100 to $2,000, plus a prison term of up to one year. The ESA immediately filed suit.

Dale’s Comment: Jack Thompson has drafted HB 1381 in a way that tries to respond to the First Amendment issues that brought down similar laws in other jurisdictions. It is drafted in such a way to use the same legal standard by which obscenity is determined – the Miller test. The Miller test defines obscenity as something that “by contemporary community standards appeals to the prurient interest; depicts sexual content specifically defined by state law in a patently offensive way; and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”. The Miller hasn’t, to my knowledge, been used in cases that attempt to uphold the constitutionality of legislation controlling depictions of violence.

Sources: Gamasutra | GamePolitics | GameSpot 1 | GameSpot 2 | Next Generation | Macworld | Reuters | GameDaily.biz | Muskogee Phoenix (Editorial) | ESA Press Release | joystiq | Link | Link | Advanced Media Network

GamePolitics Full Coverage of Louisiana Violent Game Law

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Congress, FTC Discuss Video Game Rating System

Categories: Legal ReformPolicy Analysis

ESRB to Institute Possible $1m Game-Ratings Fine

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame Ratings

The ratings board has “enhanced” its enforcement system, and will soon be able to fine companies up to $1 million for failing to disclose objectionable content during the game-ratings process. In addition, repeat offenders could have their ratings services revoked entirely.
 
Sources: GameSpot  |  Next Generation  |  GameDaily.biz  |  GameIndustry.biz  |  1Up.com  |  Kotaku  |  Joystiq

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Square Enix Cracks Down on Gil-Farming RMT in Final Fantasy XI

Categories: CheatingGold FarmingPlayer Bans

Square Enix permanently suspended 250 Final Fantasy XI accounts involved in large-scale RMT operations. The users were caught using unauthorized third-party software tools, in violation of the end user agreement, to ‘farm’ for “Gil”, (FFXI’s in-game currency) and selling it for real-world money – a practice known as real money trading (RMT).

Sources: GameSpot | Square Enix’ Press Release | EuroGamer | Galbadia X

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Blizzard Bans Another 30,000 WoW Cheaters

Categories: CheatingGold FarmingPlayer Bans

In what is becoming a regular quarterly (if not monthly) purging exercise, Blizzard has banned another 30,000 accounts for cheating, gold-farming, using automated programs and otherwise breaching its Terms of Use. This is becoming so common the leading gaming news sites seemingly no longer cover it.

Sources: ars technica | EuroGamer

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Oklahoma ‘Games As Porn’ Bill Signed Into Law – ESA to Fight It

Categories: Sexuality CasesViolent Game Law CasesViolent Game Laws

Text of Law (HB 3004)
Here we go again! This law redefines a list of items, such as hardcore pornography, which are deemed “harmful to minors”, to include video games which use “inappropriate violence”.The new law will make it a felony for anyone in Oklahoma to sell, rent or display games which contain inappropriate violence. Stores must keep such games hidden in a similar manner to pornographic magazines and videos. The law ignores the ESRB age rating for games, and instead makes its own definition of inappropriate violence. The law is due to come into force on November 1, 2006. The ESA has already launched a constitutional challenge to the law which is likely to succeed based on the experience of similar challenges in other jurisdictions.

Sources: Gamasutra | GamePolitics.com | Governor Henry’s Press Release | GameSpot | GameIndustry.biz | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | joystiq
ESA to Fight: Gamasutra | GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | GameIndustry.biz | Next Generation | 1Up.com | ars technica | Business Week

Note: Oklahoma becomes the eighth U.S. jurisdiction to enact such a law. Previous laws in Washington State, Illinois, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Michigan were held unconstitutional. California’s video game law is currently under review. Minnesota’s bill was signed into law last week.

GamePolitics.com Full Coverage of Oklahoma ‘Games as Porn’ Law
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University of Laverne Law School to Offer Video Game Law Course

Categories: Misc

La Verne University Law School claims that the first class on computer game law in the U.S. was taught in 2002 by University of La Verne College of Law Professor Ashley Lipson. This year, Lipson and his colleagues have created a comprehensive schedule of course offerings that include “Multimedia Law,” “The Law of the Computer Games Industry” and “The Law of Cyberspace,” along with classes in intellectual property and entertainment law.
 
Sources: La Verne Press Release  |  Gamasutra
 
Dale’s Comment: A similar course (.doc) is taught at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. I wish such a course existed back when I was in law school! :)

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Blizzard/Vivendi Settle WOW Unofficial User Guide DMCA Dispute

Categories: Copyright CasesDMCA-TPM CasesSettlements

Text of Complaint
In an out-of-court settlement, a 24 year old Florida man, Brian Kopp, who claimed last March that he’d been unlawfully blocked from selling copies of his unofficial “World of Warcraft” guide by the Blizzard and Vivendi, can resume his sales on eBay. The settlement does not provide for monetary compensation for Kopp. Blizzard and Vivendi agreed to withdraw their previous take-down notices and to drop their infringement claims. They also agreed to refrain from filing future DMCA take-down notices against the same items Kopp had already disputed through counter-notices. Kopp agreed to retain the book’s disclaimers about its unofficial nature and agreed not to include links or instructions on how to locate ‘cheats’ in the game.

Sources: CNet | Kopp’s Press Release | GameSpot | USA Today | Kotaku | GameDaily.biz | Gamasutra | EuroGamer | GamePolitics.com

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THQ Settles Tetris Rights Dispute

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer CasesSettlements

In 2005, THQ sued The Tetris Company, alleging breach of contract, claiming it it had met all the requirements of its deal to have their license agreement renewed until 2007. THQ was previously prevented from releasing a Nintendo DS version of Tetris when Nintendo published the title itself last April. Under the settlement THQ will publish a version of Tetris for the Xbox 360 in Europe and North America. Presumably THQ has no rights to publish Tetris in Japan or for the DS. Tetris was published last year by AQ Interactive on the Xbox 360′s launch date in Japan.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | EuroGamer | Ferrago | GameIndustry.biz

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Take-Two/Rockstar Settle with FTC over Hot Coffee Mod

Categories: Game RatingsInvestigationsSettlementsSexuality Cases

Text of Consent Agreement
Under a consent agreement, accepted by the FTC in a 5-0 vote, Take-Two and Rockstar Games will be subject to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation if they violate their agreement to: (i) “clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement for electronic games, content relevant to the rating, unless that content had been disclosed sufficiently in prior submissions to the rating authority”; (ii) not misrepresent the rating or content descriptors for an electronic game; and (iii) “establish, implement, and maintain a comprehensive system reasonably designed to ensure that all content in an electronic game is considered and reviewed in preparing submissions to a rating authority.”

Sources: FTC Press Release | Gamasutra | ars technica | joystiq | GameSpot | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | GamePolitics.com | ars technica | 1Up.com | CNet | San Jose Mercury News | TheStreet.com | CNN

New York Investigation:

LA Civil Suit:

FTC Investigation Related Posts:

Stanhouse Class Action Suit:

Cohen Class Action Suit:

Other Hot Coffee Related Posts:

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ESA Files Suit Against Minnesota Game Law

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

ESA v. Minnesota (March 17, 2008 – 8th Cir Court of Appeals)
Click to hear Oral Arguments on Appeal (Feb 12, 2007)
Text of Appeal (Aug 29, 2006)
Permanent Injunction (July 31, 2006 – District Court)
Text of Complaint (June 6, 2006)
Text of Enjoined Bill (May 22, 2006)

As expected, the ESA has announced that it has challenged the Constitutionality of the new Minnesota bill that would fine children under age seventeen $25 for buying or renting video mature or adults only rated games – on the grounds that it infringes upon their First Amendment rights.

Sources: ESA Press Release | Gamasutra | GameDaily.biz | GamePolitics.com | Next Generation | Washington Post (Reuters) | ign.com | 1Up.com | GameSpot | GameIndustry.biz | ars technica

GamePolitics Full Coverage Of Minnesota’s Violent Video Game Law

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