Rhode Island Bill Proposes Jail Time for Selling M-Rated Games to Kids

Well, here we go again. Rhode Island has a bill in its legislature that provides for up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail for selling M- or AO-rated games to underage buyers.

The bill may sound familiar to failed efforts in California and Utah, although I'm not sure any sought to put people in jail for selling M-rated games to kids under 17.

But it seems a key point is that it doesn't ban outright the sale of "ultra-violent video games" or attempt to make some classification of their content, as a 2005 California law did. And while the Utah law is more similar in structure (ramping up fines for the underage sales), it was vetoed by the state's governor before it became law; no court took a crack at it.

The bill is sponsored by four Democrats, so let's all remember that this kind of schoolmarm prudery is hardly exclusive to conservatives. The Parents' Television Council, of course, cheers the legislation, saying it "empowers parents by enforcing the industry's voluntary guidelines which, far-too-frequently, are not followed." Citation needed? The PTC backs up the position by claiming its Rhode Island chapter found that "half of the retailers our chapter visited responded with contempt when it was pointed out that they weren't following the ratings when selling adult games to children."

Obviously, the sale of tobacco, porn, firearms, liquor, etc. are regulated and violating those regulations result in fines, and these laws exist without any constitutional problem. I think the difference there is such things are regulated by the state, which has the statutory authority to regulate them, whereas the ESRB ratings are privately organized and voluntarily followed. The state doesn't enforce them. Again, I'm no legal scholar or lawmaker.

Rhode Island can press ahead with this bill, but the Entertainment Software Association has a robust state legislature lobbying operation and it's been very successful in getting these kinds of measures spiked.

RI Adult Videogame Bill Draws Kudos from PTC
[Game Politics, thanks SenseLocke]