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Monday, March 20, 2006

Barack and FEPA

Via the VGN, which I've also added some deep links onto the sidebar, I sent some of our Congressmen a letter saying I didn't support the Family Entertainment Protection Act ... which is essentially the federal version of the Illinois law which got slapped down and will likely cost the state over half a million.

Barack Obama replied:

Dear Joshua:

Thank you for your letter opposing the Family Entertainment Protection Act. I appreciate knowing your views on this matter.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is currently charged with rating video games according to age appropriateness. However, many retailers do not stringently follow these ratings, which can rage from "E" for "everyone" to "AO" for "adults only. There has been some significant Congressional activity lately in response to growing concerns among parents that video games have become too sexually explicit and that violent content has been made too easily available to minors. Among these bills is S.2126, the Family Entertainment Protection Act.

The central element of the Family Entertainment Protection Act is a prohibition against any business for selling or renting a Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending game to a person who is younger than seventeen. The bill also calls for an annual analysis of the video game rating system, and authorizes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate misleading ratings. Under the bill the FTC would also be able to conduct annual, random audits of retailers – often referred to as ‘secret shopper surveys’ – to determine how easy it is for young people to purchase Mature and Adults Only video games. Finally, the bill gives consumers the authority to register complaints with the FTC.

I understand the concerns of those who believe that Congress is meddling too deeply in this issue and that the proposed legislation could raise free speech problems. All members of our communities, in my view, do have an obligation to ensure that children are protected from harmful material, but that should never come at the cost of denying others their constitutionally protected rights. The challenge here is finding the right balance between these two principles. My colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee are reviewing S. 2126 to see if it meets these challenges, and I will follow their analysis closely. As this process continues, I will certainly keep your thoughtful comments in mind.

Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch as this issue develops.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

I responded thusly:

Subject: FESA

Having received your response about the Family Entertainment Protection Act it is at least somewhat reassuring that you've given the matter considerable thought.

There are couple other concerns of mine which I don't think have been brought into the public debate. On a simple fiscal level, I don't think the FEPA makes sense. The extra cost of auditing and regulating a business which, to date, has not shown capable of causing any increased public harm seems gratiuitous ... especially considering the fact that Congress just raised the debt level to an all new record high.

Protection simply for protection's sake is not in the public interest, but contributes to wasted. Unless FEPA can prove, without a doubt, that it solving a public harm issue, I don't see it's justification as anything but a false moral front.

The same money spent helping kids eat healthier would save more lives and healthcare spending.

Thanks for your time,

Josh Birk

Programmer, gamer, voter.

Although I think I mispelled received in my version. Whoops. At any rate, I think it's important to keep on message with this that a) some of us do think this is a serious issue and b) it's not worth the cost.

Tired of politicians pushing the video game button whenever they want to appear more moral to voters, at the expense of free speech and taxpayer's money.

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