April 27th, 2006

Malaysian Game Pirates Ringing Up Profits

Despite recent police crackdowns, game pirating remains a lucrative endeavor in Malaysia.

How lucrative? According to Gamasutra, 2005 saw 4.8 million pirated discs seized, mostly video games and movies, as well as nine machines for copying discs. The total seized this year so far in 2006 is 1.5 million discs, most destined for export, and 18 copy machines. The haul is estimated to be worth about $14 million.

Recent raids at Kuala Lumpur airport netted 8,000 discs destined for South Africa, 7,000 movies headed to Cambodia, and 36,000 video games going to Uruguay.

Police believe the increase in quantities seized, especially the vast increase in copy machines, indicates that efforts to curb the trade are less than effective. Legal production of discs in Malaysia is 9 million per year, with more than 90% of that number being exported.

Last year the ESA named Malaysia as the leading source of pirated software, with China running a close second. Yahoo reports that this year the Malaysian government is giving companies until April 30th to stop using pirated software, and will begin conducting raids to check compliance.

Although the recording industry has pressured the Malaysian government to do more, the BBC reported last year that pirated CD's may even have come from government-licensed factories.

-Reporting from the banks of the River Saskatchewan, home of the Last Saskatchewan Pirate, GP Correspondent Colin McInnes

CA Congressman Calls on Game Industry to Improve ESRB

Baca's back.

Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA), long-time critic of the video game industry, has been relatively quiet over the past year while political players like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), California Assembly Speaker pro Tem Leland Yee (D) and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) plowed ahead with high-profile video game legislation.

But don't think Baca has given up on the video game issue.

An article in today's Press Enterprise details a Capitol Hill press conference held by Baca on Wednesday. There, Baca called for the game industry to improve the ESRB rating system.

"Parents are misled by the video-game ratings," he told reporters.

The veteran congressman believes game ratings, especially for "T" and "M"-rated games, aren't clear enough and don't provide all of the information parents need to make purchasing decisions.

Over the years, Baca has introduced a number of video game-oriented bills in the House, but none have gained any traction. His latest effort, HB1145, which would require the Federal Trade Commission to study the ESRB system for unfair or deceptive practices, has been stuck in committee for more than a year.

ESRB president Patricia Vance, reacting to Baca's comments, said, ""M-rated titles include content that parents may find inappropriate for younger players. We continue to encourage parents to regularly check the ratings to help them make educated purchase decisions, and to monitor the games that their children play."

Texas Politician Will Propose Video Game Tax

If you've been saving up to buy a copy of SIN Episodes: Emergence or The Da Vinci Code, it might be a good idea to stash away a few more bucks than you originally planned.

As reported in today's Brownsville Herald, a Texas state senator plans to introduce a 5% tax on video game sales at an upcoming Senate Finance Committee meeting.

State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, said his game tax plan would raise $65 million every two years. The money would be allocated to build new schools or repair older ones in financially-strapped school districts.

"You have all these kids buying video games," Hinojosa said, "Sometimes they are good, some are bad and that's not my call. But I think that we can generate (money) to put toward the schools they go to."

Coincidentally, the last video game tax story covered by GP also came out of Texas. Readers may recall the failed gubernatorial ambitions of wacky millionaire Star Locke, who vowed to impose a 50% tax on violent games.

GP: Hinojosa's approach is unique, if nothing else. Unlike most game-legislating politicians, who are up in arms about content issues, Hinojosa seems to be saying, "Forget the content. Let's just squeeze some money out of these kids."

Another "Video Games Made Me Do It" Defense

The lawyer for a Canadian teen who shot and killed a friend during a session of Grand Theft Auto has plead guilty to the crime of "Criminal Negligence Causing Death." His lawyer blames GTA.

"The video they'd been playing had similar type of unruly behavior"" said attorney Rod Brecht, who is quoted in The Star-Phoenix. "They were all playing around," Brecht continued. "Everybody was getting along. Nobody realized the gun was loaded."

The incident took placed in February, 2005, when the boy, 13 at the time, was hanging out with some friends, drinking, smoking marijuana and playing GTA. The boys found a shotgun under a bed and took turns passing it around.

According to attorney Brecht, his client held the shotgun in a menacing stance as he had seen GTA characters do. The boy then pointed the gun at 15-year-old Preston Martin and - thinking it was unloaded - pulled the trigger. Martin was killed instantly.

Brecht, who is attempting to secure a probationary sentence for his client, said the boy is haunted by nightmares and flashbacks.

GP: My bad for forgetting to mention that GP reader Indystar tipped us off on this one...

VGVN Targets Oklahoma

In its first foray into state-level politics, the ESA-sponsored Video Game Voters Network (VGVN), issued an e-mail "Action Alert" to members at 2:11 P.M. Eastern time today.

The alert is in response to Oklahoma's pending legislation, HB3004. GamePolitics broke the news earlier this week that the Oklahoma State Senate had passed the measure unanimously. It appears to be on its way to the desk of Gov. Brad Henry for signature. Should Gov. Henry sign it, HB3004 will become law on November 1st.

The VGVN alert calls upon gamers to contact anyone they know who might live in Oklahoma to speak out against the bill. The message reads, in part:

"The effect of legislation seeking to regulate games would stifle constitutionally-protected creativity in a medium that is at the cutting-edge of innovative entertainment. This is why we need your help. Although you don't live in Oklahoma, you may know someone who does! Please spread the word about the VGVN and this legislation to anyone in your family, clan, MMORPG, forum or work who lives in Oklahoma."

This may be the first time gaming clans and MMO's have been used for political purposes. It will be interesting to see the results.

Okie Games Bill Heads to Guv - 1st Amendment Fight Looms

After clearing some parliamentary hurdles in the Oklahoma legislature, HB3004, video game legislation proposed by Rep. Fred Morgan (R) and Sen. Glen Coffee (R) will soon be on its way to Gov. Brad Henry's desk for signature. Henry, pictured at left, is a Democrat.

Both the House and Senate passed the bill unanimously. State Senator Bernest Cain (D) had filed a motion to reconsider the 47-0 vote earlier this week. However, Cain opted not to pursue this option. Technically, the Oklahoma House must approve amendments added by the Senate. The bill sponsor, however - in this case Rep. Morgan - gets to decide when that occurs. A source on the Morgan staff told GamePolitics that the State Rep. would accept the Senate amendment and expected the bill to go straight to the Governor. A member of Coffee's staff concurred with that assessment.

Once the bill arrives on his desk, Gov. Henry will have five days in which to sign it into law. In a story broken by GamePolitics earlier this week, a source in the Governor's office indicated that he most likely would sign the bill.

That, of course, would trigger the inevitable First Amendment challenge by the video game industry.