by Timothy Lee
Tue, Mar 17th 2009 5:13pm
The Utah legislature has seemed strangely obsessed with technology issues this session. Perhaps spurred on by a questionable BYU study on the problems created by video games, the Utah legislature has passed a bill promoted by disgraced lawyer and anti-videogame activist Jack Thompson to regulate the sale of video games to minors. The good news, as Ars Technica reports, is that the law was largely defanged during the legislative process. Under the final version of the bill, retailers would not be liable for selling M-rated video games to minors if they'd put their employees through a training program. They'd also not be liable if the children had gotten the games by lying about their age. With that said, there's still plenty to object to here. For starters, the legislation punishes retailers for failing to follow their published policy on video game sales. That means that a retailer that has a strong policy against selling to minors will face more liability if it breaks that policy than a retailer that doesn't have such a policy. This could have the perverse effect of discouraging retailers from adopting strong policies against selling violent video games to children. It will also force a lot of retailers to put their employees through "training" programs that may be completely unnecessary. But probably the most serious problem with this legislation is that it may be an opening wedge for future regulation of video game sales. Expect the same interest groups that pushed this legislation through to come back in future years with bills that would close the "loopholes" in this year's legislation.
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