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 2006: Jan-March

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28th September   Playing Homage to the BBFC

Based on an article from Gamasutra

ESRB logoThe US Senate has proposed new legislation that would place tougher requirements on the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), including mandatory hands-on time with rated games, and put the body under the watch of the Government Accountability Office.

According to Brownback's press release, the new bill, known as Truth in Video Game Rating Act (S.3935), was proposed by Senator Sam Brownback, a long-standing critic of the ESRB.

Were the Truth in Video Game Rating Act to pass, it would require the ESRB to have access to the full content of and hands-on time with the games it was to rate, rather than simply relying on the video demonstrations submitted by developers and publishers as it currently. The hands-on system might be more akin to the UK's BBFC ratings board's approach, which requires a team of testers to spend at least a day playing through a game, as previously reported. It would also "prohibit video game producers and distributors from withholding or hiding playable content from a ratings organization."

On top of the new requirement, Brownback's bill would also require the Federal Trade Commission to specifically define parameters for describing game content and what would count as a mischaracterization of a game’s content.

Furthermore, the Truth act would place the ESRB under the watch of the Government Accountability Office to rate the performance of the group and look into alternative systems of game ratings, including the possibility of a new universal media ratings system encompassing games, movies, and television.

The current video game ratings system needs improvement because reviewers do not see the full content of games and don’t even play the games they are supposed to rate, said Brownback.
For video game ratings to be meaningful and worthy of a parent’s trust, the game ratings must be more objective and accurate.

 

26th September   A Baptism of Obscenity

Based on an article from X Biz

A group of religious nutter activists have joined together to urge President Bush and the Department of Justice to step up obscenity prosecutions.

Southern Baptists public policy specialist Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religion Liberty Commission, joined Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson and more than 80 other nutter activists in sending a letter to Bush requesting a meeting to discuss expansion of the campaign against what they called “illegal pornography.”

The letter called Bush’s help essential because pornographers and sexual predators are increasingly targeting America’s most vulnerable citizens: our children. The letter also asked the President to speak out publicly about obscenity.

While praising the administration’s efforts to date, the signers asked the President to add prosecutors and resources to the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force at the Department of Justice.

A White House spokesman said Bush could not meet with the group until after the November election because of a tight schedule.

 

27th March
Updated 29th March
  Diaries of FCC Intimidation

From the BBC

Director Barry Levinson has criticised the US broadcast regulator for "intimidating" a US TV network into censoring his new series.

The Bedford Diaries, on the WB network, was due to air with girls kissing and a female character opening her jeans.

But Levinson, who is producing the show, said some scenes had been cut for fear of being fined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): The network is very fearful of what the FCC has been doing. They're intimidating the networks and levying these fines, so the networks are not sure of what they can or can't do.

In the series, a group of students in a human behaviour class are given the assignment of keeping diaries of their sexual experiences. The network is streaming an unedited version of the pilot episode on its website.

We have always been mindful of the FCC's indecency rules, said the network in a statement:
Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to make some additional changes.

 

29th March Update: Diaries of Cuts

From the Advocate

The Bedford Diaries is all about sexy undergrads—some straight, some experimenting, some possibly gay—taking it off and turning each other on. If it sounds too hot for US network TV, it is. Two scenes of the premiere episode set to air Wednesday night have been cut, one being a lusty kiss between two young women. The other sliced scene showed a girl shoving her hand down her pants.

The WB Network brass say the cuts are due to the FCC's recent close monitoring of “explicit” and “indecent” content.

 

26th March  Cinemas Hit by Alcohol Ban for Nude Entertainemnet

From MT Express

The age-old practice of having a glass of wine or beer at the movies is in doubt following the failure of a legislative bill that would have given cities authority to determine for themselves whether the practice is acceptable.

The bill, labeled H777aa, introduced by Representative Wendy Jaquet would have allowed cities to pass an ordinance permitting the sale of beer and wine to movie theater patrons over the age of 21. It was voted down by the House of Representatives in a vote of 30 to 38.

Idaho State Police's Alcohol Beverage Control division began an inquiry last year into the selling of beer and wine to movie theater patrons. Local theaters have been given a stay to serve alcohol while the issue is resolved.

The issue arose as part of a Idaho law that prohibits serving alcohol while showing of films depicting nudity or simulated sex—a provision that Jaquet said was intended for pornography, not R-rated movies.

It is important to realize that if the Idaho State Police allows prohibited acts to occur in your establishments, we may all have inadvertently opened a door to licensees or businesses far less reputable than yours who would seek to exploit and capitalize on any opportunity to expand or modify their business practices, the letter says.

 

26th March   Texas Sex Shop Harrassment

From AVN

Police in this Forth Worth suburb raided an adult store, confiscating various sex toys and pornography, forcing it to shut down.

Police officers acting on a search warrant at the Log Cabin Books and Movies, searched the business and confiscated sex toys and pornography deemed obscene by a judge.

Scott Raven, public safety chief, said the 10:30 a.m. operation lasted six to eight hours mostly due to the confiscation and cataloguing of nearly all of the shop’s materials which he said “filled a police van two times.”

The police action came after District Judge James Wilson examined material purchased from the store by undercover officers and deemed them to be obscene.

Under Texas law, obscenity is material which “the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”

 

24th March   Signposts to Intolerance

From Kansas.com

The Kansas House gave tentative approval today to a bill restricting signs that advertise sexually oriented businesses. The sign restrictions were added to a bill updating the state's highway advertising laws.

Billboards advertising adult video stores, strip clubs and other sex-related businesses would be banned within a mile of highways. A business within a mile of such roadways could post no more than two signs - one no more than 40 square feet with the name, address, phone number and operating hours, and another noting the premises are off-limits to minors.

Republican Virginia Beamer, proposed the amendment, which is identical to a bill that is pending in the Senate. It is one of several measures sex-shop opponents are employing at the state level and in communities across the state.

The bill, 253, advanced to a final vote in the House.

 

23rd March   Oklahoma Games

From GameSpot

While a piece of Utah legislation seeking to have video games with "inappropriate violence" classified under the same statute that applies to pornography fell into legislative limbo earlier this month, a similar Oklahoma bill has passed the House without a single opposing vote.

Last week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved HB3004 unanimously, with 97 Representatives voting for it, none against it, and four excused from the voting.

The Oklahoma bill makes it illegal for stores to sell or allow minors to view any game with inappropriate violence. If passed, retailers would not even be able to display the games for sale unless the bottom two-thirds of their covers were obscured by "blinder racks" in the same way that adult magazines are.

While the bill's formatting on the matter is a little different, the text bears a striking resemblance to that of Utah's piece of legislation when it comes to defining inappropriate violence. According to the law, that term would be defined as any depiction in a game that, when taken as a whole, has the following characteristics:

a. the average person eighteen (18) years of age or older applying contemporary community standards would find that the interactive video game or computer software is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors, and
b. the interactive video game or computer software lacks serious literary, scientific, medical, artistic, or political value for minors based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:
(1) is glamorized or gratuitous,
(2) is graphic violence used to shock or stimulate,
(3) is graphic violence that is not contextually relevant to the material,
(4) is so pervasive that it serves as the thread holding the plot of the material together,
(5) trivializes the serious nature of realistic violence,
(6) does not demonstrate the consequences or effects of realistic violence,
(7) uses brutal weapons designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and damage,
(8) endorses or glorifies torture or excessive weaponry, or
(9) depicts lead characters who resort to violence freely

The bill's definition of inappropriate violence specifically mentions games, so similar depictions in books, movies, or music would not be covered. If passed, store owners caught selling such games to minors would be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $500 on a first or second offense and $1,000 on future offenses.

Having passed the House, the bill has now moved to the Oklahoma Senate.

 

21st March   Supreme Art

From AVN

The Supreme Court turned back (refused?) an appeal today from a photographer who claimed a federal decency law violated her free-speech rights to post pictures of sadomasochistic sexual behavior on the Web.

Justices affirmed a decision last year by a special three-judge federal panel upholding the 1996 law which makes it a crime to send obscenity over the Internet to children.

The Supreme Court appeal was brought by photographer Barbara Nitke, whose work is featured in the book Kiss of Fire: A Romantic View of Sadomasochism, and by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

Material that is obscene is not protected by the First Amendment, but Nitke's lawyer contends her work is art that is not obscene.

The conclusion is that the law requires that those sending obscene communications on the Internet take reasonable actions to keep it away from children, like requiring a credit card, debit account or adult access code as proof of age.

 

16th March   Common Sense Malfunction

From Gamespot

The Federal Communications Commission today reached decisions in many of the backlogged indecency complaints it has received over the past three years. In two noteworthy cases, the Commission levied fines against CBS for the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" in the 2004 Super Bowl, and for a scene depicting a teen orgy in the series Without A Trace. They also cite Nicole Richie and The Surreal Life 2 as being "indecent and profane."

CBS was walloped with the most fines, totaling $3.6 million. The Commission upheld a $550,000 fine against the network for the February 2004 Super Bowl halftime incident involving Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson's pierced breast. An episode of the crime drama Without A Trace depicting teenagers engaged in sexual activities was also found to be indecent. The fines for Trace totaled $2 million, with 72 affiliates being fined $32,500 each.

In its statement, the Commission said, [We] hold that CBS consciously and willfully failed to take actions to prevent the broadcast of the material, and that CBS is responsible for the halftime show. The Commission also finds episodes of Without A Trace and The Surreal Life 2, which contained numerous graphic, sexual images, to be impermissible under the Commission's indecency standard.

VH1 was fined for an episode of The Surreal Life 2 where Ron Jeremy and Andy Dick attend a nude pool party. Although the nudity was "pixelated," the Commission concluded that despite the obscured nature of the nudity, it is unmistakable that partygoers are exposing and discussing sexual organs.

The Commission also singled out Fox Broadcasting for the network's 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards shows, wherein the "F" word was used by Cher and Nicole Richie, respectively. The FCC isn't fining Fox due to a previously established precedent that isolated use of expletives doesn't warrant a fine.

The number of complaints received by the commission has risen year after year, said FCC chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican. I share the concerns of the public--and of parents, in particular--that are voiced in these complaints.

NBC, which is being nailed for several shows on the Spanish-language networks it owns, will take on the FCC in court, saying,
The FCC has no authority to censor a program based on its own taste.

 

12th March
updated 17th March
  Nutter Brain Rot Caught from Clothing

...and it pandemic in the US

Based on an article from WKYT

A proposal banning full nudity and seminude lap dancing at strip clubs is headed for the Kentucky State Senate.

The measure, which would make nudity and seminude lap dancing in an adult establishment as sexual misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday by a 9-1 vote.

The proposal, Senate Bill 250, would allow employees of adult businesses to be "seminude" if they remain 6 feet away from patrons and stay on a stage at least 18 inches above the ground.

This is designed to protect women, claimed the bill's sponsor, Senator Julie Denton, Republican

Louisville, Lexington and other cities already have ordinances imposing similar restrictions on adult businesses. The state law would prohibit cities from enacting weaker ordinances.

This is, if you will, a bare minimum, said Kent Ostrander, executive-director of the nutter Family Foundation of Kentucky.

The proposal defines seminude as the showing of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola and extending across the width of the breast at that point, or the showing of the male or female buttocks.

State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, Democrat, said a statewide law may not be necessary. Scorsone, the lone legislator to vote against the bill in committee, also took issue with Ostrander's contention that patrons are catching sexually transmitted diseases by placing a tip in the waistband of a stripper's attire.

State Sen. Perry Clark, Democrat, said adult businesses wouldn't thrive if so many people didn't patronize them.
I was told recently by the minister of a large church that if his members would stop going to these places, we wouldn't have to deal with this issue.

 

17th March   Update: Brain Rot Spreads Through Kentucky Legislators

From WCPO

A bill seeking to outlaw lap dancing at Kentucky strip clubs won easy approval today in the Senate.

If the bill becomes law, someone appearing nude in an adult establishment or offering semi-nude lap dances would be guilty of sexual misconduct. The penalty would be up to a year in jail.

The measure now goes to the House.

The bill would allow semi-nudity among employees of sexually-oriented businesses if they remain at least six feet away from patrons on a stage at least 18 inches above the floor.

 

11th March   Dickheads in the Michigan Supreme Court

From AVN

The Michigan Supreme Court have refused to review lower court decision against Timothy Bruce Huffman, who was arrested after a three minute segment aired on a public access channel showing a joke-telling penis with a face painted on it. The lower court had ruled that nudity on a public access cable program was illegal.

Huffman’s lawyer Steven Savickas said a Washington D.C. law firm may to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court pro-bono.

But Steve Shapiro, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was unsure whether the high court would hear the case, saying that there needs to be evidence that a television indecency problem is widespread and not just in Michigan.

Last May, a Michigan court of appeals found that Michigan’s indecency statute also applies to television, and is thus applicable to Huffman’s talking penis on cable access. That court concluded that such nudity on television “can be more offensive than more traditional public exposure.”

 

9th March   Appeal for a Merry Christmas

From Movie City News

The MPAA Appeals Board overturned the "R" rating for Sony Pictures Classics Film, Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas). The film, inspired by true events, takes place in the trenches of the World War I battlefield on Christmas Eve in 1914. The Classification and Ratings Administration originally rated the film R for some war violence and brief nudity. Sony Pictures Classics, along with director Christian Carion, appealed the Rating Board¹s decision and prevailed with a 2/3 majority, obtaining a PG-13 rating (for war violence and a brief scene of sexuality/nudity).

 

8th March   Anti-Anonimization

From Online Casinos

A New Jersey Assemblyman has launched a Bill to control anonymity of posts

Late last year there was news of a federal US attempt to control discourtesy and abuse on the Internet and this year we have seen Rep. Bob Goodlatte launch his latest attempt to ban online gambling that includes proposals to censor at ISP level.

Readers might be forgiven for assuming that American politicians seem to have developed an (unhealthy) interest in reducing the freedom of the Internet, and the latest attack is not reassuring.

New Jersey Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi has submitted a Bill that would make certain operators of interactive computer services and Internet Service Providers liable to persons injured by false or defamatory messages posted on public forum websites, and have an adverse effect on the choice of anonymity by posters.

In what could become a privacy and database nightmare for internet operators, the bill proposes to force websites to police their users and real time messages.

Here's an example from the New Jersey politician's proposal: The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate.

An operator of an interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish and maintain reasonable procedures to enable any person to request and obtain disclosure of the legal name and address of an information content provider who posts false or defamatory information about the person on a public forum website.


Readers can find full details on this further attempt to tamper with the Internet at
www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/A1500/1327_I1.HTM

 

6th March   Censorship by Bulldozer

From the Sydney Morning Herald

Military bulldozerA New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced as "censorship".

James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally said it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering putting it on in March: In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take. He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.

Rickman, best known for his acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London's Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision: I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production 'postponed' does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled.

Corrie was a 23-year-old activist from Washington state. She was crushed in March 2003 when she put herself between an Israeli Army bulldozer and a Palestinian home it was about to demolish in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

 

2nd March   Booth Bother

From AVN

A recent story noted that changes in the Scottsdale’s Sexually Oriented Business Ordinance is having an impact. Zorba’s adult video store may have to undergo a complete overhaul in order to comply with the ordinance.

The new rules, said the report, require adult store managers to have unobstructed views of the entire building, except for bathrooms, with the space illuminated by at least a 40-watt light bulb. No “doors, curtains, walls, merchandise, display racks or other materials” can obscure any part of the business under the rules.

The East Valley Tribune reported that Mayor Mary Manross said the video store rules are necessary to prevent sexual activity at Zorba’s: There are many known, documented secondary impacts of those kinds of businesses, especially when you have them configured with private booths.

The new ordinance also targets exotic dance clubs. Changes would ban nude dancing and restrict dancers from coming within four feet of patrons. However, the owners and employees of the city’s two dance clubs, Babe’s - which has been purchased by adult star and AVN Hall of Famer, Jenna Jameson and will be renamed Club Jenna after remodeling - and Skin Cabaret, led a referendum drive that gathered more than 8,000 voter signatures, putting the issue on the September ballot.

The report concluded by saying that if passed, the ballot measure would repeal the nudity and distance rules for the clubs, which will enjoy a reprieve from the ordinance until the public vote. Video store provisions in the ordinance, however, were left off the referendum.

 

1st March   Handcuffed to Restricted Freedom

From AVN & the Sacrameto Bee

A Sacramento Superior Court Judge has ruled that a Folsom, California ordinance restricting the sale of sex toys does not violate a business owner's First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The challenge to the ordinance was brought by Sam and Misty Dufour, owners of Ms. Teaz, a lingerie shop in Folsom’s Historic District.

A November, 2004, emergency ordinance was passed by the city shortly before Ms. Teaz opened its doors, transparently targeting the store. The ordinance, which prohibited the sale of explicit items such as bondage paraphernalia, as well as requiring blinders on displays of adult magazines, was made permanent in January 2005.

Dufour's attorney, Greg Garrison, argued that the city's ordinance was vague and contradictory. For example, said Garrison, the ordinance prohibits devices with non-sex-related utility being marketed ... in a manner promoting sexual or sadomasochistic uses. Garrison said that language unfairly allows Target or Wal-Mart, for instance, to sell toy handcuffs, while similar handcuffs could not be sold at Ms. Teaz, because, in that context, they would be marketed for their "sexual utility."

However, Judge Connelly rejected that line of reasoning, said the report. A marketing restriction can't be "bootstrapped" into a free-speech issue:
If you follow that to its logical conclusion, then every product would fall under the First Amendment.

 

26th February
Updated 3rd March
  Distinctly Family Unfriendly Law

From the Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah House voted overwhelmingly  to yank violent video games out of the hands of minors and punish as felons adults, including parents, who provide such entertainment to children.

Republican David Hogue implied such games played a serious role in school shootings such as Columbine:
Would these same kids have done this anyway without watching violent videos? Maybe not.

Bill HB257 would add extremely violent "interactive video or electronic" games to the state's statute protecting minors from harmful material; the statute is commonly used to prosecute those who provide pornography to children.

Hogue mentioned such games as Resident Evil 4 and Grand Theft Auto. But to violate the terms of the legislation, a violent video game would have to be "patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community" and lack any serious "literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."

Republican Scott Wyatt said such a tough standard means only the most depraved video games would fall under this bill.

A few lawmakers, including Orem Republican Margaret Dayton and Salt Lake City Democrat Ross Romero, questioned HB257's constitutionality. Dayton said the bill was "frustrating." She dislikes such video games but said violence has certain constitutional protections that pornography does not have: That's why we can have pictures in the Bible, battle scenes or war movies.

Romero also didn't like the fact the bill could land a parent in jail for two weeks, if they buy an extremely violent video game for their child.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

 

28th Feb   Update: Bully Plays the Blame Game

From Games Industry.biz

Utah representative David Hogue's controversial violent videogames