New York Assembly Bill 11717


Summary

New York Assembly Bill 11717 would bar any retailer from selling or renting any video game that has been rated if the rating is not prominently displayed on its cover or jacket. The bill would also require all video game consoles in New York to have personal identification technology or password protection to allow blocking of video games or portions of video games that contain certain undefined content or by rating. The Attorney General would be allowed to seek an injunction to bar future sales by a retailer for violating the law and seek a fine if the retailer is in contempt.

The bill would also establish an Advisory Council on Interactive Media and Youth Violence to review content and ratings and report to the governor and legislature.

Analysis

The labeling provision of the bill is unconstitutional compelled speech. Voluntary ratings are provided by the video game industry as a tool for parents and retailers. The government cannot endorse or compel the use of the rating systems by mandating that retailers post signage explaining the system.

The bill raises several other concerns. It is unconstitutional for the bill to prohibit minors from accessing content in console games but not games accessed through other devices, such as the Internet, computer or handheld devices.

Also, the provision requiring personal identification or password technology to block all or part of video games with “certain content” is vague on what parts of video games or what content must be subjected to the restriction. Furthermore, the manufacturer does not know what rating systems would be used under the law. Finally, it is unclear that the technology exists to allow password protections for only portions of video games.

Actions on the bill

  • The bill [3] is introduced in June 2008.
  • Media Coalition submits a memo in opposition [2] shortly after the bill’s introduction, explaining the constitutional concerns with the bill.
  • Both the New York Assembly and the Senate pass the bill in July. Media Coalition sends a letter to Governor David Paterson [1], urging him to veto the bill.
  • Governor Paterson signs the bill into law on July 21, 2008.