New York Gov Signs Video Game Law

New York Governor David Paterson signed a video game bill into law yesterday that requires parental controls on all consoles, pushes game rating enforcement and launches a state-backed study of video games and violence.

The bill takes effect in 2010.

"The state has ignored legal precedent, common sense and the wishes of many New Yorkers in enacting this unnecessary bill," said Richard Taylor, senior VP of communications and research for the Entertainment Software Association. "This government intrusion will cost taxpayers money and impose unconstitutional mandates for activities and technologies that are already voluntarily in place. It also unfairly singles out the videogame industry over all other forms of media."

Laws that try to enforce the ratings system by providing fines against retailers have been ruled unconstitutional over and over again — just look to states such as in California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Illinois and Minnesota for examples. In those cases, the ESA ended up collecting hefty damages from the states — at taxpayer expense.

"One wonders where this overreach by government in New York will end," said the ESA's Taylor. "If New York lawmakers feel it is the role of government to convene a government commission on game content, they could next turn to other content such as books, theater and film."

The bill was part of a group of public safety bills that the governor signed as a "package"; the official announcement from the New York Governor's Office follows. The part about the video game bill is in bold:

GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS PACKAGE OF BILLS THAT WILL PROTECT THE PUBLIC SAFETY AND RIGHTS OF NEW YORKERS

Includes Reforms to Protect Children and Adults in Residential Care and "Jonathan's Law" Extension

A New Law Will Protect Children by Automatically Revoking Teaching Certificates from Educators Convicted of Sex Crimes

New Law Will Expand Access to Civil Orders of Protection to Victims of Abuse

Governor David A. Paterson signed a package of bills, many of which are focused on public safety and protecting the rights of New York residents. Among the more than three dozen bills signed into law by Governor Paterson, some will enhance protections for children and adults in residential care, revoke teaching certificates for educators who are convicted of sex crimes and ensure the State will explore the negative effects of violent video games.

"We have the obligation to be constantly vigilant about amending our laws to protect the residents of New York State. Many of these bills will do just that by closing loopholes or creating new laws to enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers," said Governor Paterson. "The first duty of government is to provide a safe society for our resident to live, work and raise their families. These new laws will enhance the protections afforded to the citizens of this state and will address gaps in protection that have existed for years. I applaud the Legislature for working with me and my staff to reach agreements on fixing these problems."

Governor Paterson has also signed a new law (S.8665 / A.11707), which will expand access to Civil Orders of Protection, allowing a person who is or was in an intimate relationship with an abuser – even though not related to that person – to seek an order of protection in family court. This substantially expands protections for victims, who for a variety of reasons may be unwilling to press charges in criminal court.

Another specific package of reforms – consisting of four bills – will represent a significant improvement for adults and children who live away from their families in residential care, particularly in mental hygiene facilities. The package includes: enhancing the standards used to determine if child abuse or neglect has occurred in residential facilities (S.8534-A / A.11753); extending the time period for retroactive requests for information under Jonathan's Law (S.8389-A / A.10897-A); prohibiting the withholding of food or hydration from residents of mental hygiene facilities (S.8551-A / A.11482-A); and making recommendations as to appropriate work hours for direct care employees in mental hygiene facilities (S.8679-A / A.11757).

Two other bills signed by Governor Paterson are directly aimed at protecting children: A.11500-A / S.8553 automatically revokes the teaching license of any school official who is convicted of a sex offense; A.11717 / S.6401-A establishes an advisory council to conduct a study on the connection between interactive media and real-life violence in minors exposed to such media. This bill will also require new video game consoles to have parental lockout features by 2010, and mandate that games sold at retail disclose the ratings obtained from the gaming industry's voluntary rating system.

In addition to these bills, Governor Paterson signed another 31 bills relating to criminal justice and the judiciary, as well as education issues and business and finance.