Gamesbeat spoke with ESRB president Patricia Vance on the eve of the board's two-decade anniversary. Vance said:
The American public is still very sensitive about sex, relatively sensitive about language, but has a relatively high threshold for violence. Our ratings reflect that.
Other countries have different standards, which is what makes current international efforts by the ESRB so interesting. A collection of game rating organizations from around the world have collected to create a single online questionnaire that
developers can use to receive ratings from all regions at the same time.
The end rating is not the same, Vance says, because cultural norms are different in different parts of the world. But a developer only has to apply once to get their ratings for this country, Brazil, Germany, and other parts of Europe. She said:
It's quite revolutionary. It gets nuanced. Our challenge was to streamline the form. A lot of people made compromises. We're sensitive to each country's specific criteria.
The form, which is undergoing an update, asks developers to answer 10 basic questions, then opens up with more queries depending on the answers to the first 10. Some questions are in the form for a specific country: the use of swastikas, for
example, will affect a game's rating in Germany in a way it does not here. A game might be appropriate for wider audiences in other markets than in the U.S. depending on sexual content. And different countries slice their audiences in different
I don't think there would ever be a universal global rating, Vance said. Among other reasons, this country has the First Amendment right to free speech, which is unique, she said. Governments run most other ratings agencies and have the
right to censor content.
A Texas court has thrown out an overbroad law prohibiting public photography with the intention to sexually arouse someone, on the grounds the previous ruling violated Texas' citizens' constitutional right to freedom of expression.
The Texas Court of Appeals ruled 8-1 to strike down part of a law which bans taking images of another person in public without their consent and with the intention to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person , criticising the paternalistic
intrusion into peoples' private right to be aroused.
The law was framed in response to a case of an upskirt invasion of privacy where the charges were contested on grounds of freedom of speech.
However the lawmakers went way beyond a law to deal with upskirt photography. Presiding judge Sharon Keller explained:
Protecting someone who appears in public from being the object of sexual thoughts seems to be the sort of 'paternalistic interest in regulating the defendants mind' the First Amendment was designed to guard against.
Lawyers argued that the above-mentioned law was the stuff of Orwellian 'thought-crime' . They said that the legislation failed to distinguish between up the skirt photography and taking an image of a girl walking down the
street, suggesting it could be used to criminalise paparazzi photojournalists.
A second actor has sued Google over a movie called Innocence of Muslims that mocked the religious character Mohammad. Segments of the film were released on YouTube and violent protests were initiated in response in the muslim world.
Gaylord Flynn said he has received death threats and fears for his life while Google continues to provide its users with access to the film, according to his lawsuit, filed in a California federal court.
Flynn, who is also suing the film-maker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula , said Google had refused to block access to the movie, even though a ninth US circuit court of appeals panel last February ordered it taken off Google's video-sharing website,
YouTube. In that case, actor Cindy Lee Garcia sued Google for an injunction, claiming she owned the copyright of her performance.
Google argued at the time that an injunction amounted to restricting speech in violation of the US constitution. The company is demanding a rehearing from the full appeals court.
Flynn said the film-maker concealed the true nature of his production. He said he thought he was hired for a movie called Desert Warrior and never consented to be in a religiously oriented film nor in one that propagates hate speech .
Flynn, like Garcia, said he did not sign a release and his own copyright interests remain intact, according to the complaint.
A federal appeals court will reconsider a decision to order YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film clip. Muslims in the Middle East responded violently resulting in death threats to the actors over claims of blasphemy.
An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena will hear arguments by Google, which owns YouTube, disputing the court's decision to remove Innocence of Muslims from the popular video sharing service.
Alex Lawrence, a copyright and intellectual property lawyer in New York not connected with the case, said he thinks the court will reverse the earlier ruling because the judges reached a decision to give Garcia some relief on thinly grounded law:
There's a lot of sympathy for Miss Garcia, Lawrence said. She got paid $500 and received death threats. Everyone feels sympathy for her, but using copyright in this way is a real problem for a lot of industries.
On 16th September, the Electronic Software Ratings Board for video and computer games will turn 20 years old.
The board was created as a response to parental 'outrage' against violent video games such as Mortal Kombat . It is thought to be modelled on the success of the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings system.
Like the MPAA, the ESRB is a self-regulating body. It is not part of the United States government. It makes its own rules, and video game retailers and publishers choose whether or not to abide by them.
But since almost every retailer in America will not sell an unrated game or a game rated for adults only, there's a sort of forced compliance that publishers push onto the developers creating content for them. The same thing happens in the movie
However the resulting cuts imposed on games to achieve the acceptable 17 rating (named M or Mature) are usually minimal. Developers cut out 30 seconds of probably unnecessary violence, and the desired rating is given.
The Internet also offers a convenient way to bypass the ESRB altogether. If developers are that set in their vision, they can release the unaltered game online and sell it themselves. Sure, they won't get big studio funding for development and
marketing, but that's no different than movies, TV or the music industry.
Of course the compromise rating of 17 makes things a bit tricky for sexual content which would more naturally be rated 18. Hence as with movies, sexual content has nowhere to fit in the 'acceptable' ratings and ends up getting censored. This
leads to the effective situation where sexual themes are always rated more harshly than violence.
Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid accidentally telling the bad guys what officers are doing.
The TweetSmart campaign began in late July and aims to raise awareness about social media's potential impact on law enforcement.
A social media 'expert' at the International Association of Chiefs of Police said she's unaware of similar campaigns elsewhere but the problem that prompted the outreach is growing. Nancy Korb, who oversees the group's Center for Social Media
All members of the public may not understand the implications of tweeting out a picture of SWAT team activity.
It's not that they don't want the public to share information. ..[BUT].. .It's the timing of it.
Although there were only three complaints from the more than two million viewers, the US TV censor is determining if the Miley Cyrus Fourth of July Weekend Special violated its censorship rules.
The special was shot while the tour was in Barcelona and Lisbon earlier this year. Onstage, Cyrus' outfit consisted of a skintight unitard with a hood. She also did a sexy dance with a man dressed like Abraham Lincoln, which was the subject of
one of the complaints:
She was dressed more in line with a video geared towards MTV. Her performance was impropriate [sic] for broadcast TV, as she grinded along there was a costumed performer depicting President Lincoln following behind her and alongside her and the
character acted quite lecherous even patting her on the backside. Very patriotic for the 4th ya think?
A parent wrote to complain about the PG-13/TV-14 rating, which he said allowed the show to bypass his TV filter. He spouted:
I am offended, appalled and ready to start taking public action to remove this garbage from our televisions.