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Category — Legislature

Telefilm Announces Video Game Developer Competition Finalists

Categories: Canadian DevelopersGame Industry IncentivesStartup Game Developer Issues

Competition Rules

The Canadian federal agency, Telefilm, has announced the four finalists in round 2 of its video game developer competition. The finalists are:

The finalists were chosen at this years’ Game Developers Conference.

In the prior round, each finalist had won $50,000 to explore their proposed game, seek venture capital etc.. In this round 2, each of the four finalists received a further $250,000 to develop a prototype of their game. In September a winner will be chosen at Vancouver’s VidFest. The winner will receive a further $500,000 to launch their game.

In addition to the four finalists above, on January 15, 2007 the following additional $50K round 1 winnners were announced:

Good luck to all.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameCareerGuide.com | CBC.ca | PlayBack | Canada.com

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Take Two Seeks to Enjoin Thompson From Brining GTA IV & Manhunt 2 Suits

Categories: "Inside Baseball"InjunctionsJack ThompsonViolent Game Laws

Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

In response to pre-existing threats form Jack Thompson, Take-Two Interactive has preemptively asked the Southern District Court of Florida to provide declaratory and injunctive relief against Jack Thompson to stop him from bringing suit:

  1. to stop the sale and distribution of Manhunt 2 (due out in the summer of 2007) and GTA IV (due out in October 2007); and
  2. seeking pre-publication review of the games;

as he did in the past with Bully. In the words of the complaint:

…declaratory relief is especially necessary here because Thompson has a history of making multiple threats of legal action, whether substantiated or not, both against Plaintiff as well as the retailers who purchase the video games and offer them for sale to the public.

Dale’s Comment: Interestingly, the firm representing Take-Two in this action, Blank Rome, LLP, is the same firm that previously had sought to have Jack Thompson held in contempt of court.


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Eidos Sets Up Shop In Montreal With Help of Quebec Government

Categories: Canadian DevelopersGame Industry Incentives

Publisher/Developer Eidos Interactive, Ltd. (a division of SCi Entertainment Group PLC), most famous for its Tomb Raider and Hitman franchises, has announced plans to take advantage of Quebec’s tax and other incentives and open up a new development studio in Montreal. Details include:

  • studio to be headed by former Babel/Ubisoft exec Stéphane D’Astous
  • 110 jobs (including 70 developer positions) will be created in 2007 with 350 jobs in total to be created over 3 years
  • Montreal to pay 40% of salaries and a three year tax holiday
  • new studio to develop next-gen titles
  • studio to consist of three next-gen development teams
  • first title will be based on existing IP

Dale’s Comment: With the previous employment pilfering spats between EA and Ubisoft Montreal, one can only anticipate this sudden increase in demand for developer talent will create even more pressures between these big three Montreal developers.

Related: Gamasutra Interview with Stéphane D’Astous on new studio (Feb 19, 2007)

Sources: Gamasutra I | Gamasutra II (background info) | GameSpot | Spong | CBC.ca

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France to Provide Video Game Development Tax Credits

Categories: Game Industry Incentives

The French Parliament has approved tax credits for local producers of video games “with a cultural dimension”. The credits can finance up to 20 percent of a company’s production costs to a maximum of 3 million euros (close to $4 million U.S.) a year. Whether these credits will violate the E.U.’s subsidy prohibitions is still to be determined.

Sources: Reuters | joystiq | GamePolitics.co

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EU Considers Unified Violent Games Restrictions

Categories: Game RatingsLegal ReformViolent Game Laws

Germany is leading the European Union in calling for the EU to adopt an Europe-wide standardized labeling system with age restrictions and warnings. Each country would be free to set their own ratings.

Sources: Gamasutra | GamePolitics.com

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Nassau County New York Mandates ESRB Ratings Signage

Categories: Child Sale RestrictionsGame RatingsNew LawsRetail Sales

Following both the States of Georgia and Washington, New York State county, Nassau, enacted a law requiring video game retailers to post signs explaining the ERSB rating system.

Source: GamePolitics.com

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Finland Adopts PEGI Rating System in Law

Categories: Game RatingsLegal Reform

Unofficial Translation of Law
Finland has enshrined the The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating system as law.  According to the PEGI press release:

The Finnish Parliament passed a revision to the Act on Classification of Audiovisual Programs enabling the recognition of all PEGI age classifications into Finnish Law. From the outset, i.e. April2003, PEGI ratings have been endorsed by the Finnish Board of Film Classification on the basis of the Act on Classification of Audiovisual Programs. Article 12, however, provided for 11 and 15 age categories instead of the PEGI 12+ and 16+ respectively. By revising article 12, the Finnish Parliament has now fully acknowledged the PEGI system into its legislation. From January 1, 2007 onwards, all the PEGI age categories (3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+) will be in use on video games sold in Finland.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameDaily.biz | PEGI Press Release

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Proposed German Law would Criminalize Violent Video Game Makers and Gamers

Categories: Violent Game Law CasesViolent Game Laws

This story has been floating around the gaming sites for weeks. I haven’t covered it because I can’t imagine that such a proposed bill will ever become law. But, since the L.A. Times is now covering it, I thought I’d at least mention it in passing.

A proposed Bavarian and Lower Saxony law would impose fines and possible jail sentences for up to one year on game developers, distributors and game players of games in which the goal is to inflict “cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters.” This is so broad so as to include a huge swath of popular video games today.

Dale’s Comment: As a blog policy, I typically don’t comment on draft bill because most of them never become law. If you are interested in this type of coverage, GamePolitics.com is for you! Again, I will be flabbergasted if such an extreme law ever sees the light of day in Germany. Of course if this amounts to anything I’ll cover it here.

Sources: L.A. Times | GamePolitics.com | Gamasutra

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Gamasutra Feature: Litigations that Changed Games Industry

Categories: Featured ArticlesPolicy Analysis

Gamasutra Feature: Litigations that Changed Games Industry by Gregory Boyd

Sources: Gamasutra

A related article is “My Three Trials” by Bill Kunkel where he describes his experiences as an expert witness in three historic video game trials. The Article is in three pieces:

  • Part 1 – Atari v. Magnavox
  • Part 2 – Nintendo v. Galoob
  • Part 3 – Capcom v. Data East

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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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EU Investigating Whether French Video Game Developer Tax Incentives are Legal

Categories: Game Industry Incentives

The EU is investigating whether France’s proposed tax breaks for French video games industry (a tax credit worth 20 percent of the cost of the game) are designed to support “genuine cultural projects” and therefore legal under EU rules, or harm comptetition and trade between member states, and therefore offside EU rules.

Sources: Gamasutra | Middle East Times (AFP) | International Herold Tribune | Forbes (AFX) | San Jose Mercury News | Business Week | European Union Press Release

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Canada to Provide Seed Money to Winner of Video Game Developer Competition

Categories: Canadian DevelopersGame Industry IncentivesStartup Game Developer Issues

Competition Rules

Today, the Canadian federal agency, Telefilm, invited new Canadian video game developers to compete for Cdn $2M (U.S. $1.8M) in financing. The ten projects voted most likely to succeed in the “Great Canadian Video Game” competition will receive $50,000 each to further explore their proposed game, seek venture capital etc.. Two months later the field will be winnowed to 4. Each of those will receive a further $250,000 to develop a prototype. At next year’s Vancouver VidFest, a finalist will be given a further $500,000 to launch their game.

Click here to apply! Applications are due by December 15, 2006.

Dale’s Comment: I am of mixed-emotions about this. I have no problem in principle with tax incentives to favor emerging industry. But I have always argued against Canada’s ubiquitous Canadian content rules and preferential treatment for Canadian-owned businesses over foreign-owned businesses. I’m also not so sure Canada actually needs these incentives because it is disproportionately represented on the global stage by its extremely successful video game development community – Montreal’s Ubisoft, Edmonton’s BioWare, Vancouver’s EA and Radical, London’s Digital Extremes, to name just a few.

All that said, if one of these new developers requires a place to spend this money on first rate legal services – look no further! Laughing

Sources: Reuters/Hollywood Reporter | City News | ZDNet | Washington Post

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Manitoba Provides Grants to Developers

Categories: Game Industry Incentives

The Manitoba Government announced new grants to video game developers for up to 45 percent of labour costs for new video games provided 25 percent of the salaries are paid in Manitoba.
Sources: Manitoba News Release  |  Toronto Star  |  Winnipeg Sun  |  Manitoba’s Knowledge Enterprise Branch  |  GamePolitics.com

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British Energy Conservation Law Could Thwart Wii’s Always-On Feature

Categories: New Laws

A new British law requires standby features of appliances to be slashed from product designs. Apparently 8% of the UK’s energy each year is consumed by standby devices. The WiiConnect 24 feature keeps the Wii turned on 24/7 in a low power state in order for Wii friends to be able to phone the users Wii and for the Wii to phone home to receive automatic updates etc.
Sources: Club Skill  |  GamePolitics.com  |  Joystiq

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Congressman Joe Pitts Claims his Video Game Comments were Misportrayed in Daily Show Lampoon

Categories: Game RatingsHumourLegal ReformPolicy AnalysisViolent Game Laws

After raising many eyebrows with his comments, Congressman Joe Pitts claims his statements on the affects of violent video games on children aired in a June 22 Daily Show segment were misportrayed.

Sources: DailyLocal.com | GamePolitics | Joystiq | YouTube Video (snippet)

Click here to view YouTube video.

Dale’s Comment: It’s hard to understand how Congressman’s Pitt’s comments could have been misportrayed. They were aired uncut. This is simply another example of a (probably) well intentioned, aging, out of touch Senator speaking on a subject he does not understand. Sounds like Washington as usual to me.

Related Posts:

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Louisiana Senator Defends Violent Games Law

Categories: Violent Game Laws

Text of Preliminary Injunction
Text of Temporary Restraining Order
Text of ESA Complaint
Text of Violent Game Bill (HB 1381)

Louisiana Senator Mike Michot defends the recently blocked violent Video Game Bill. Attorney General Charles Foti has promised to take the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sources: GameDaily.biz | KATC3 | Gamasutra | Next Generation | Game Politics 1 | Game Politics 2 | 1Up.com

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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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.

Related Posts:

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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

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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Minnesota Video Game Bill Signed Into Law – ESA to Fight It

Categories: Violent Game Law CasesViolent Game Laws

Minnesota’s new video game law provides a twist, in that it fines those under 17, $25 for purchasing or renting Mature and Adults Only rated games. Unlike laws from other States that failed to pass Constitutional-muster, it doesn’t punish retailers for selling or renting to minors, but it does require retailers to post a sign notifying customers of the fine. The law goes into effect on August 1, 2006. As usual, the ink wasn’t dry before the ESA vowed to fight it.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | Next Generation | GamePolitics.com | GameSpy | GameDaily.biz | Joystiq | 1Up.com | Team Xbox
ESA to Fight: Gamasutra | Next Generation | GamePolitics.com | GameDaily.biz | GameIndustry.biz

Text of Bill:

S.F. No. 785, 2nd Engrossment – 84th Legislative Session (2005-2006) Posted on May 22, 2006

A bill for an act relating to crime prevention; prohibiting children under the age of 17 from renting or purchasing certain video games; providing penalties; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 325I.BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:Section 1. RESTRICTED VIDEO GAMES; PROHIBITIONS.

Subd. 1. Definition. As used in this section, “restricted video game” means a video game rated AO or M by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

Subd. 2.Prohibited acts; penalty. A person under the age of 17 may not knowingly rent or purchase a restricted video game. A person who violates this subdivision is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $25.

Subd. 3. Posted sign required. A person or entity engaged in the retail business of selling or renting video games from a location or structure with access to the public shall post a sign in a location that is clearly visible to consumers. The sign must display the following language in 30-point font or larger: “A person under the age of 17 is prohibited from renting or purchasing a video game rated AO or M. Violators may be subject to a $25 penalty.”

EFFECTIVE DATE. This section is effective August 1, 2006, and applies to violations committed on or after that date.

Dale’s Comment: Imagine a police officer writing-up a ticket to a 13-year-old violator? “May I see your library card and hall-pass please?” Or better yet, an eight-year-old in night court challenging the fine!? Please Mr. Judge, I thought the video game “Hot Coffee” was a beverage preparation tutorial. How would a child go about paying the fine, with their credit card or check book? Perhaps the police will garnish their allowance for the next 6 months. ;)

GamePolitics Full Coverage Of Minnesota’s Violent Video Game Law

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Information Policy Action Committee is Formed to Lobby Congress for Pro-Technology Reform

Categories: Lobbying

Ren Bucholz (EFF), David Alpert (Google) and Mark Stoller, have banded together to form a new Political Action Committee called the Information Policy Action Committee (IPAC) to lobby Congress for “pro-Geek”, “pro-technology” reform. Because the EFF is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity, it can’t get involved in any electoral politics. The RIAA & MPAA are not barred by law from lobbying Congress. The founders of IPAC realized that “geeks need to be engaged in electoral politics in a direct way” as a tool to counter the multi-million-dollar lobbying efforts of the industry heavyweights. From the IPAC website:

We believe that technological innovation and individual creativity are vital to the future of this country. We believe that a prosperous and democratic society depends on freedom for all individuals to pursue scientific invention and artistic expression. Unfortunately, new, more draconian copyright and patent laws threaten to stifle these freedoms and restrict public participation in science, art, and political discourse.

Sources: IPAC | TWiT – see episode 49A | TWiT Podcast 49A: Interview with IPAC Founder Ren Bucholz

Related Story: IPAC Send Senators iPods: IPAC | Content Added to Senators’ iPods | Engadget | ars technica | Boing Boing

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Western Australia Adopts Tough Video Game Law

Categories: Child Sale RestrictionsViolent Game Laws

Western Australia passed the Government’s Censorship Amendment Bill last night, enacting a $5,000 fine to sell or rent MA-15 plus-rated video games (the equivalent of a mature-rated release over here) to a minor. It’s currently unknown whether any legal action will be taken to try and reverse the decision.

Sources: 1Up.com | Yahoo! News Au | ABC (Australia) NewsOnline | GamePolitics.com

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Georgia Confirms Video Game Tax Incentives

Categories: Game Industry Incentives

Georgia has enacted tax code changes allowing digital entertainment producers, including video game companies based outside of the state, to gain new savings on products developed there. The incentive takes the form of a credit on Georgia income taxes. Both Georgia-based and non-Georgia-based companies with limited tax liability can transfer them to a Georgia company, as long as the transferor recoups at least $.60 on the dollar.
Sources: Gamasutra  |  GameCloud  |  Gameplanet  |  GamePolitics.com

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