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S. 2126 (109th): Family Entertainment Protection Act

The text of the bill below is as of Dec 16, 2005 (Introduced).



1st Session

S. 2126


December 16, 2005

(for herself, Mr. Lieberman, and Mr. Bayh) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation


To limit the exposure of children to violent video games.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the Family Entertainment Protection Act.



Congress finds the following:


Research shows that exposure to video games, television, movies, and other forms of media has powerful effects on the development of children and adolescents and that such effects can be positive or negative depending on the nature and content of the media.


Experimental research and longitudinal research conducted over the course of decades shows that exposure to higher levels of violence on television, in movies, and in other forms of media in adolescence causes people in the short-term and, after repeated exposure, even years later to exhibit higher levels of violent thoughts, anti-social and aggressive behavior, fear, anxiety, and hostility, and desensitization to the pain and suffering of others.


This evidence is so strong, it has been replicated in so many populations, and it draws on such diverse methodologies that a 2003 comprehensive review of the literature concluded the scientific debate over whether media violence increases aggression and violence is essentially over and 6 major medical and public health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, issued a Joint Statement to Congress in 2000 stating that research points overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior.


New research shows that exposure to violent video games causes similar effects as does exposure to violence in other media, including increased levels of aggression in both the short-term and long-term, and research shows that the uniquely interactive, engaging nature of video games may be especially powerful in shaping children’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


Research shows that children are more likely to imitate the actions of a character with whom they identify, and in violent video games the player is often provided with a behavioral script where he or she takes the point of view of the shooter or perpetrator.


Research shows that children are more likely to learn from behaviors that they repeat over and over again and behaviors that they are rewarded for taking, and in most video games, surveys show, players repeat actions over and over again, aggression goes unpunished, and perpetrators are rewarded for taking aggressive action


The video game industry, through the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, has created a system of self-regulation, and a system to provide information to parents about the nature and content of video games.


The Entertainment Software Ratings Board has determined that certain video games contain intense violence and explicit sexual content that makes them inappropriate for minors, and has rated these games Mature and Adults-Only.


Research shows that children whose parents monitor and control their access to violent media are less likely to demonstrate the negative effects of such media.


Parents rely on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings system to protect their children from inappropriate material yet, numerous studies have demonstrated that young people can access Mature-rated games with relative ease.


There is a need to enact legislation to ensure that the ratings system is meaningful.



In this Act, the following definitions shall apply:



The term business means any ongoing lawful activity that is conducted—


primarily for the purchase, sale, lease, or rental of personal or real property, or for the manufacture, processing, or marketing of products, commodities, or any other personal property; or


primarily for the sale of services to the public.



The term Commission means the Federal Trade Commission.


Entertainment Software Ratings Board

The term Entertainment Software Ratings Board means the independent rating system, or any successor ratings system—


established by the Interactive Digital Software Association; and


developed to provide information to consumers regarding the content of video and computer games.


Video game

The term video game means an electronic object or device that—


stores recorded data or instructions;


receives data or instructions generated by the person who uses it; and


by processing such data or instructions, creates an interactive game capable of being played, viewed, or experienced on or through a computer, gaming system, console, or other technology.


Prohibition on sale of violent video games to minors


In general

No business shall sell or rent, or permit the sale or rental of any video game with a Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to any individual who has not attained the age of 17 years.


Affirmative defenses


In general

It shall be a defense to any prosecution for a violation of the prohibition under subsection (a) that a business—


was shown an identification document, which the business reasonably believed to be valid, indicating that the individual purchasing or renting the video game had attained the age of 17 years or older; or


had an established ratings enforcement policy—


as evidenced by—


cash register prompts reminding employees of that business to check for identification stating that a customer is of an appropriate age to purchase or rent a video game, or an established video game age identification training program for employees of that business;


clear labels indicating the rating on each video game sold or rented by that business; and


signs on the wall of the business property explaining, in simple, easy-to-understand language, the ratings enforcement policy of that business; or


as evidenced by an online age verification system, in the case of online sales.



If a business is found to repeatedly violate the prohibition in subsection (a) despite the adoption by such business of an established ratings policy as described in paragraph (1)(B), such business shall be prohibited in any prosecution for a violation of this section from using any of the defenses listed in subsection (b).



The manager or agent of the manager acting in a managerial capacity of a business found to be in violation of the prohibition under subsection (a) shall be subject to a civil penalty, community service, or both not to exceed—


$1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first violation; and


$5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent violation.


Annual analysis to prevent ratings slippage


In general

The Commission shall contract with an organization with expertise in evaluating video game content and that has no financial or personal interest, connection, or tie with the video game industry, to determine, in a written report, on an annual basis, whether the ratings established by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board remain consistent and reliable over time.


Content of analysis

Each annual analysis report required under subsection (a) shall—


evaluate a random sample of video games, representing the full menu of Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings;


determine whether each such rating has essentially the same meaning from year to year; and


compare Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings to independent, valid, and reliable rating systems ratings.


Authority to conduct secret audits

The Commission shall conduct, and make public the results of, an annual secret audit of businesses to determine how frequently minors who attempt to purchase video games with a Mature, Adults-Only, or Rating Pending rating are able to do so successfully.


Authority to investigate misleading ratings


In general

The Commission shall conduct, to the extent practicable, an investigation into embedded content in video games that can be accessed through a keystroke combination, pass-code, or other technological means to estimate—


what proportion of video games contain embedded content that is inconsistent with the rating given to such games, and what proportion of the domestic market such games represent;


what proportion of video games containing embedded content that is inconsistent with the rating given to such games are known to the video game manufacturer at the time of the commercial release of the game to contain embedded content, and what proportion of the domestic market such games represent; and


whether video game manufacturers have the capacity to ensure that video games do not contain embedded content that is inconsistent with the ratings given to such games.


Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that whenever the Commission determines that the content of a video game, either immediately accessible or embedded but accessible through a keystroke combination, pass-code, or other technological means, is inconsistent with the rating given to such game, the Commission shall take appropriate action under its authority to regulate unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce as authorized under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45).


Timing of report

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall report to Congress the findings of its investigation under subsection (a).


Authority to register complaints


In general

The Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission shall ensure that consumers can file complaints alleging that content-descriptions or labels on a video game are misleading or deceptive using the same Commission Consumer Complaint procedure by which the Bureau of Consumer Protection accepts complaints concerning other forms of unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent advertising, including through an easily accessible online filing system.


Report to Congress

The Bureau of Consumer Protection shall tabulate and report to Congress, on an annual basis, the number of complaints under subsection (a) levied against each video game manufacturer and business.


Effective Date

This Act shall become effective 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act.