Video Game Decency Act returns

US congressman reintroduces stalled legislation from last year, would make it a crime for publishers to lie to ESRB to get a lesser rating on a game.

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The Video Game Decency Act of 2006 was one of a handful of pieces of proposed federal legislation that failed to get traction in congress last year. And much like the recently resurrected Truth in Video Game Rating Act, the legislator behind the Video Game Decency Act is taking a second crack at the idea by resubmitting a functionally identical version of the act to congress.

As reported by Game Politics, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the Video Game Decency Act of 2007 into the House of Representatives last week, where it was quickly referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

According to the bill, "It shall be unlawful for any person to ship or otherwise distribute in interstate commerce any video game that contains a rating label containing an age-based content rating for that video game where the person, with the intent of obtaining a less restrictive age-based content rating, failed to disclose content of the video game that was required to be disclosed to the independent ratings organization that assigned such age-based content rating, and which resulted in the video game receiving a less-restrictive age-based content rating than it otherwise would have resulted."

The original bill was introduced in the wake of a pair of high-profile game reratings. Take-Two's 2004 hit Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was rerated from M for Mature to AO for Adults Only after it was discovered that third-party software programs could help users gain access to a sex-themed minigame, while Bethesda Softworks' 2006 role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was bumped up from T for Teen to M for Mature.

In the Oblivion matter, the Entertainment Software Rating Board laid the blame for the rerating on Bethesda, saying the company understated the game's violence and failed to disclose a hidden skin for a topless female character when it submitted the game for rating. Like the San Andreas sex minigame, the topless female character was only accessible through the use of third-party mods. Oblivion was also published by Take-Two.

Shortly after the Oblivion rerating, the ESRB revealed that it can already fine companies up to $1 million for not disclosing objectionable content. The board has also said it could punish repeat offenders by refusing to rate their games at all, effectively preventing their games from being carried by major US retailers.

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