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Category — Legal Reform

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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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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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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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.

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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.

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Congress, FTC Discuss Video Game Rating System

Categories: Legal ReformPolicy Analysis