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Category — Agency/Board Actions

Denver to Allow M-Rated Game Ads on Transit

Categories: AdvertisingAgency/Board Actions

On the advice from counsel, Denver’s Regional Transportation District authority voted 12-3 to permit the continued advertising of M-rated and above games on its regional transit system. Such bans exist in Portland and Boston.

Sources: Rocky Mountain News | GamePolitics.com

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China Curbs Use of Virtual Money

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsVirtual Crime CasesVirtual Property CasesVirtual Property Taxation

In an effort to stave off a new form of money laundering, prohibited gambling and threats to the Chinese yuan (Chinese currency), Chinese Web sites have been ordered to limit the use of virtual money. Public prosecutor Yang Tao says “The QQ coin is challenging the status of the [yuan] as the only legitimate currency in China.”

Specifically, virtual money may only be used to buy virtual products and services the companies provide themselves, issuance will be limited, and users are “strictly forbidden” from trading it into legal tender for a profit.

QQ coins, issued by Tencent.com – China’s largest instant-messaging service provider – are the most popular form of online credits used by 220 million users. They are being used to pay for an increasing array of services including gambling, phone sex services and shopping online

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China to Police Online Games

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsCensorshipViolent Game Law Cases

China will police online games to ensure legality and suitability of content. Game distributors must first get approval to release new games. They will be responsible for detailed monthly reporting and to ensure operators do not add illegal or improper content.

The latest crackdown was prompted by “a rash of problems with imported online games, some of which contain sensitive religious material or refer to territorial disputes,” Xinhua said. It said some were criticized as pornographic or too violent.

Sources: Gamasutra | China View | ABC News | Fox News (AP)

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Librarian of Congress Exempts ‘Abandonware’ DRM Circumvention for ‘Preservation” from DMCA Liability

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsCopyrightsDMCA-TPM CasesDRMHackingLegal Reform

In its recent triennial rule-making with respect to exemptions from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works, the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, has ruled, again, that persons making non infringing uses of older abandonware video games, as described below, will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)) during the next three years. Specifically exempt from the prohibition are:

…video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

Dale's Comment: Firstly, despite many reports to the contrary, this is not a wholly new ruling. The 2003 triennial rule-making contained the following very similar exemption:

… video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access.

Indeed, this rulemaking is more restrictive than the previous rulemaking because it now specifically limits such circumvention for preservation purposes as I discuss below.

Secondly, I have read many blog 'interpretations' of this exemption over the last few days (not linked to here for obvious reasons) and most bloggers don't seem to understand this exemption. Most are interpretting this exemption as a free-for-all right to decrypt, copy, distribute and use any abandonware on any system.  My reading of this exemption is much more limited. 

Clearly the circumvention exemption for "archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive" doesn't apply to the average gamer.  However, the first portion of the exemption "for the purpose of preservation" would apply to the average gamer.

It appears the average gamer has the right to circumvent technological measures used to protect video games in obsolete formats that are already owned by the user for the purpose of preservation when the gaming console, for instance, is no longer manufactured or reasonably available in the commercial marketplace. 

This DMCA exemption does not exempt other provisions of Title 17 (the U.S. Copyright law) that otherwise generally prohibit copying, distributing and otherwise infringing copyrighted works.

So, what exactly does this exemption allow you, the owner of a video game in an obsolete format, to do. It allows you to circumvent the copy-protection scheme used to protect obsolete format video games for the purpose of preserving them (backing them up and, presumably, using the backup if the original copy becomes defective).  That's pretty much it. Indeed in the Librarian of Congress' commentary on the exemption he flatly says: 

"…the sole basis for this exemption is preservation and archival use…"

An important point here is that Billington did NOT exempt non-obsolete formated video games from the DMCA. So, it is still illegal under the DMCA's (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(A)) to circumvent DRM on modern video games for the purpose of backing them up – let alone for any other purpose.

This exemption expires after three years unless the rule proponent (in this chase the Internet Archive) proves their case again. Namely, that without the exemption:

current technologies that control access to copyrighted works are diminishing the ability of individuals to use works in lawful, noninfringing ways.

Sources: Library of Congress Rulemaking | Detailed Background and Librarian of Congress Discussion | GameSpot | GWN | Joystiq

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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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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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China’s Ministry Of Culture Bans Four Video Games

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame Bans

Blood Rayne II, Obscure, AV Mahjong, and Kong Bug Lao Long (Horrible Cage) have been banned in China for allegedly containing pornographic imagery, gambling or violent content.

Sources: ChinaTechNews | P2P.net

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ESRB Re-rates Oblivion to Mature Following 3rd Party Mods

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame RatingsSexuality Cases

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating assigned to the PC version of Bethesda Softwork’s blockbuster video game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from T (Teen 13+) to M (Mature 17+), following the revelation of a topless game skin contained within modded versions of the game. The un-moddable Xbox 360 version of the game has also been re-rated to M ostensibly due to “Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence”. While critical of the decision, Bethesda has chosen not to challenge the ruling.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | GameSpy | Washington Post | Reuters | San Jose Mercury News | The Inquirer | Joystiq | GamePolitics

Bethesda’s Response: Bethesda Press Release | Gamasutra | GameSpot | Next Generation | Team Xbox | GamePolitics

ESRB’s Response to Industry Criticism:GameDaily.biz

Dale’s Comment: Based on the facts as I understand them, this is regrettable. It is unclear why Bethesda should suffer as a result of third-party mods added into their game without their control. This ruling has the effect of requiring developers to make their games tamper-proof in order to avoid retroactive ratings changes based on the malicious behavior of others. This is very different from last year’s GTA Hot Coffee controversy where, despite early denials, it was later determined that Rockstar had, indeed, embedded unlockable sex scenes within the source code of the game. As far as we understand from Bethesda so far, this is not the case here. But, given the heat the ESRB took last year for its failure to quickly respond, I can somewhat understand this “shoot first, ask questions later” approach, as unfair as it may be to Bethesda.

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ASA Upholds Complaint Against Konami Advert

Categories: AdvertisingAgency/Board ActionsDecisions

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against an advert for Konami title Crime Life: Gang Wars which claimed it exploited racial stereotypes and glorified violence.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz | Gamasutra | GamePolitics.com

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Japan Set To Enforce New Game-Related Electronics Restrictions

Categories: Agency/Board Actions

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry will begin enforcing a law concerning the sale of used electronic devices, beginning April 1st, in a move that is said by some to have significant effects on second-hand sales of older video game consoles or software.

Source: Gamasutra

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Activision Ordered not to Show “Misleading” Call of Duty Ads Again

Categories: AdvertisingAgency/Board ActionsDecisions

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints from three television viewers that adverts depicting scenes from Activision title Call of Duty 2 and its current generation console counterpart CoD2: Big Red One were misleading, and declared that they must not be shown again in their present forms.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz | Gamasutra | Gamespot | GamePolitics.com | EuroGamer | 1Up.com | IGN | Boomtown

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China Cracks Down On Game-related Internet Cafes

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsChild Sale RestrictionsGame Addiction

The Chinese government has introduced new legislation setting tighter restrictions on Internet cafes and entertainment content, including video games, according to an Associated Press report. New regulations prohibit teenagers from entering Internet cafes or karaoke bars, deeming them unfit and potentially corrupting environments for students.

Sources: GamaSutra | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | joystiq

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ESRB Demands U.S. Game Publisher Audits For Hidden Game Content

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame RatingsSexuality Cases

In the wake of the hot-coffee controversy, the Entertainment Software Rating Board is demanding that US publishers complete a comprehensive audit of all titles released over the past year in a bid to crack down on hidden in-game content.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | The Register | Ferrago

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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