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FTC and Rockstar Settle Hot Coffee Dispute

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the angryness dept.

295

kukyfrope writes "The FTC and Rockstar/Take-Two have reached a settlement surrounding the 'Hot Coffee' mod for GTA: San Andreas that will serve to prevent future incidents. The FTC has stated that Rockstar and Take-Two must disclose all content to the ESRB when rating games, or face an $11,000 fine per violation if undisclosed content is discovered. 'Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers,' commented Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection."

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295 comments

$11,000 per item??? (2, Funny)

spentrent (714542) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496683)

Wow, that's not even a slap on the wrist! I would budget 30 Hot Coffee type mods in the next GTA if I were Rockstar.

Re:$11,000 per item??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496751)

It's a slap on the wrist because Rockstar knows that the FTC has no authority here. But Rockstar also fears that Congress could get involved and give them authority (unconstitutionally, IMHO). So they both saved face by reaching this agreement. Not surprising considering the circumstances. The FTC wins beause they appear to have stopped smut in games, and Rockstar wins because they haven't brought about videogame regulation.

Re:$11,000 per item??? (1)

redkazuo (977330) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496799)

However, Take-Two reported losing $24.5 million. This is very odd. Of course this story lacks nice definitions of what "items" are, so it could mean something more than just "11000 for each discovered mini game" or whatever first comes to mind.

Re:$11,000 per item??? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496921)

Every shipped disk would be a violation.

Re:$11,000 per item??? (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497279)

> Every shipped disk would be a violation.

I think Eric Idle sums it up best: "Fuck you very much, the FCC, for proving that free speech just isn't free." (He was fined for saying "fuck" on the radio, but it's the same idea.)

Also, how exactly can the federal government make a law that makes it illegal to say "fuck" or to not have your video game rated? The Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech". When you charge a fine for speech, that abridges the freedom, methinks.

Re:$11,000 per item??? (3, Funny)

mikalveli (978602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497117)

No you don't understand. You see, the guys at the FTC were angry because they have never experienced a hot coffee scene themselves. So, Rockstar hired a few hot coffee girls at $11,000 per "item" and sent them over. A few hours later everything is fine.

Wow, $11,000 (4, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496684)

I wonder how many extra sales Rockstar generated because of the whole Hot Coffee thing. Probably enough to conver that fine several times over. Doesn't seem like much of a deterrant to me.

Re:Wow, $11,000 (2, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496844)

>> Doesn't seem like much of a deterrant to me.

$11,000 is pretty cheap for that kind of advertising. I'd advise a Hot Grits mod for the next GTA title.

Re:Wow, $11,000 (3, Informative)

art-boy (639905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497145)

Actually according to TFA:
According to Take-Two, the publisher has already incurred a loss of $24.5 million due to the "Hot Coffee" scandal, subsequent re-rating of San Andreas, and removal of the game from most retailers' shelves (until it was replaced with the M-rated version).

Re:Wow, $11,000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497155)

why don't people RTFA before posting?
From TFA:
to clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement for electronic games, content relevant to the rating, unless that content had been disclosed sufficiently in prior submissions to the rating authority

The sale of each disk that did not say WARNING: NON-RATED 'HOT COFFIE' SCENES INCLUDED on the package would be a violation

Wow... (1)

DragonPup (302885) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496685)

...what a total slap on the wrist. Not that I am saying Rockstar should be fined or anything, but they did make out like a bandit there.

Re:Wow... (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496756)

I think it's pretty much a fair judgement. Sure the content was there, but they didn't have any intention of making it widely available. Additionally, even though it was made available, no one accidentally stumbled across it...you had to download a patch, install it, and then play through the game to that point.

Beyond that, the game was rated M, which is the rating for 17+, which is the same age range as NC-17 which is the adult film category in the states.

It's hard to see, given all those factors, how it would be possible for them to crack down hard on the game. The superbowl thing was different, because they slipped some (arguably) adult content into an all-ages broadcast.

Re:Wow... (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497278)

Beyond that, the game was rated M, which is the rating for 17+, which is the same age range as NC-17 which is the adult film category in the states.

Which is the entire issue. If it's 17+, and someone sells it to a minor, fine the seller, just like cigarettes.

I mean, WTF else does someone want? Oh, right, the govn't to provide full time parenting for them, so they don't have to do it themselves.

Re:Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496776)

They made out like a bandit because they made a good game, not because they were pushing pr0n on kids. Saying they made out like a bandit sounds like they did something illegal and got away with it when in fact they did not.

Where are the parents when the kids are on the internet downloading the patch needed to see the hot coffee mod? I don't care what 'content' is on the disc. Until you download something from the internet, it's not in the game.

    I repeat: Where are the parents when their kids are on the internet downloading hot coffee? There are a lot worse things to download than the hot coffee patch.

If I produce a mod for Solitaire (4, Funny)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496688)

featuring gay BDSM cards, can I get Vista rated M?

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (2, Funny)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496740)

I'd pay $11,000 to see that! Er... the part _after_ the comma...

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (2, Interesting)

Kevin DeGraaf (220791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496773)

If I produce a mod for Solitaire featuring gay BDSM cards, can I get Vista rated M?

No, because there's no gay BDSM content already in Solitaire, dumbass. The "Hot Coffee" mod didn't add "mature"-rated content, it just unlocked what was already there (as shipped by Rockstar).

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496786)

"No, because there's no gay BDSM content already in Solitaire"

That's just because you've not used the mod yet... ; )

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496969)

Well dumbass (two can play at that game), there was no mature content in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. They still got re-rated M with the ESRB because someone produced a mod that made your player naked. Explain that one.

If a game for which there was no offensive content can be re-rated because of a 3rd party mod, then why not Solitaire? Alright, you might say but Solitaire isn't meant to modded. Does that mean that if I can mod a game that I can get it re-rated? A kiddy's painting program for example? Or the Sims?

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (1)

dj961 (660026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497049)

The nude textures are present in game they're just coverd up by a bra.

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (3, Insightful)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497098)

Okay - please - explain this to me:

2 games:
One ships with nude base models for characters, and clothing is put on top when the models are generated for display. The nude models are never shown during "normal" gameplay, but someone makes a mod to make all clothing transparent.

The other ships with a blank void where the naughty-bits are, and puts clothes on top, so you never see the blank-void-naughty-bits during gameplay. Someone makes a mod which adds in those naughty-bits.

Now of course you'll say "But game A ships with naughty-bits!". It doesn't matter - to the end user running show_naughty_bits.exe, it's the exact same experience. Out here in the real world, there's no difference. Once a game is modified from its original form, why can a company be held responsible?

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (4, Insightful)

Danse (1026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497232)

Now of course you'll say "But game A ships with naughty-bits!". It doesn't matter - to the end user running show_naughty_bits.exe, it's the exact same experience. Out here in the real world, there's no difference. Once a game is modified from its original form, why can a company be held responsible?

Exactly. If the user takes an action specifically to modify the game in a way that would violate its rating, then that's the user's fault, not the game developer's fault. If you don't want to see naughty bits, then don't modify the game. If you don't want your kids seeing naughty bits, then don't let them play unsupervised. This crap has gotten way out of hand and is just ridiculous now.

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (3, Interesting)

mmalove (919245) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496821)

Only if you are unlocking gay bdsm material preexistant(although locked) in the Windows OS.

I see this kind of like a loose Sarbanes-Oxley for Video Games: we're going to hold you accountable for disclosing information about your video game up front, and ignorance is not an excuse. Fortunately for Rockstar, they got the slap on the wrist this go because the law/court ruling didn't exist up until now.

Someone at Rockstar left the material coded into the game. Now believe me, I've got nothing against seeing breasts, and young boys are going to look for sex whether or not they see it in a video game (hell, so will grown men, go figure) - but if the rating system is going to hold any meaning, and provide an effective means of keeping the government off the game producers' backs for creating enjoyable games that might include mature themes, then we have to expect the game companies to be honest in disclosing the true nature of content in the game. IE, if there's nudity/sex, come out and say it. Say it loud and clear. Don't curl back and go "oops, thought we took that out, hehe" Because that's the kind of stupid mistake that gets voters worried that they need government crackdowns on entertainment.

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (1, Interesting)

WhiplashII (542766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497255)

OK - go one further. Every byte of the .gif image files used to create this awful solitaire game will be copied from somewhere else in the solitaire executable. So in other words, the "patch" just takes data already in solitaire and moves it around - and naked pictures appear.

The fact is, all of the "data" is already there (it's only numbers!). Really, we need to judge games on how they run during normal, unmodded play. Mods can do anything, and you can use data in any program for any purpose.

Of course, if I was making games I would just include in the license that you agree that you will not make mods that will adversely effect the games rating - problem solved. (Then when someone does it, they are not your responsiblity.)

Re:If I produce a mod for Solitaire (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496858)

If I produce a mod for Solitaire ... featuring gay BDSM cards, can I get Vista rated M?

Only if you can demonstrate your mod merely unlocked the already existing gay BDSM content which was in Solitaire. Otherwise, it's you who distributed the M content and gets in trouble, now Microsoft.

In this case, Rock Star shipped the game with that content present, but disabled. This mod only re-enabled the content, not provided it.

So, if you discover such content in Windows and can release a mod for it, then, be our guest. :-P

Um... (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496696)

should the FTC be allowed to levy fines on behalf of a private organization? Why the hell is the FTC even involved, wouldn't this be more a contract dispute? Far as I know, they don't get to regulate games, but maybe it all falls under the same decency laws everything else does.

Re:Um... (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496788)

. . .maybe it all falls under the same decency laws everything else does.

No, truth in advertising. The rating is a specific claim of suitability. If they had released the game unrated there would be no claim against them.

KFG

Because fraud is involved (2, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496823)

They put the content in the game, then locked it away. The ESRB did not know about this, rated it lower than it should have, and then people bought it based on the ESRB's rating, thus buying it under false pretenses. The FTC stepped in and actually did something free-market: "you will abide by the rating system that you agreed to sell your product under." Punishing fraud is one of the most basic things the government is supposed to do.

'M' was too low? (0)

FatSean (18753) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497221)

MATURE
Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

I think that fits the bill.

Re:Because fraud is involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497228)

No, actually that is the antithesis of a free market. A free market means there is no government intervention. Sure, the government might do something that promotes what it thinks the best interests of all players involved (and I might not disagree with this idea either), but thats not what a free market is.

Re:Because fraud is involved (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497289)

Preventing fraud is anti-free markets and only supported by communists. Corporations are supposed to be allowed to fraud customers which can be fixed by the markets. Once done, the corporation would be punished by customers, not some large, godless, liberal government that only gives money to colored people over white people.

So doing it again... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496699)

So doing it again would only cost them $11.000? That's quite cheap for such a lot of publicity.

Important message from CMDRTACO (+5, Informative) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496700)

Hello, my name in Rob Malda. I am an homosexual.

Sometime after slashdot was created, I became exposed to the picture of man with a gapping anus. At first I was disgusted by the picture, but it eventually grew on me. One time, I decided to stretch my ass in the same fashion. I smelled my fingers and became very aroused. I put my fingers in my mouth.

Because of the smell and noises coming from my office, the other editors became aware that something unusual was going . Editor Timothy joined me and we performed this activity and more on each other.

I come from a very republican family, and doing that kind of thing goes against my core values. My psychologist believes that I may have a second personnality named Kathleen. This could be true, there a lot of women clothing in my bedroom and I don't think they are Timothy's. I might be a transvestite in a second life!

--taco

The Problem (+5, Insightful) (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497174)

This post is pure drivel and its heading points out a small problem with CSS redesign. The score of the post is all the way over on the right side and so can be "interrupted" by the title of the post. The score should be on the left hand side just like the other metadata about the post.

parents - think of the children! (5, Insightful)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496714)

I really loved the bit about "parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system"... yep, I can see it now...

"yeah, son, you can play this game where you have to sell drugs, have sex with prostitutes, murder policemen and steal their cars... it's all ok; just so long as there is no unrealistic computer simulated sex in it"

Why did anyone care about this. Not only was it not in the main game it was by far the least offensive thing in the list I just mentioned... I'd rather my children had sex than killed policemen

Re:parents - think of the children! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496848)

There's even a better argument, though; it's an independent, third-party, non-government-mandated/regulated ratings system. Why the hell should parents have the "right" to anything regarding it? It's paid for by publishers, not taxes.

Re:parents - think of the children! (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497154)

There's even a better argument, though; it's an independent, third-party, non-government-mandated/regulated ratings system. Why the hell should parents have the "right" to anything regarding it? It's paid for by publishers, not taxes.

Because if the parents can't rely on the ESRB rating, then the ESRB is worthless and we'll end up with government regulation, which is the last thing that the industry wants. That said, I still disagree with their priorities. Heinous acts and all sorts of violence are more ok than sex, or even just seeing a nipple. That's just some messed up thinking right there.

Re:parents - think of the children! (1)

mctk (840035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496875)

Whoah, whoah, whoah! Don't try to fool me with your logic and reason. Look, joe_155, it's not that GTA would be okay as long as "there is no unrealistic computer simulated sex in it". Because, my friend, there was no unrealistic computer simulated sex in GTA. Don't you see? That's where the problem is. It's especially a problem if it's not in the game, because then the game cannot be incorrectly rated for content that's not even in the game, but might be if someone chooses to put it there. Is that clear?

Re:parents - think of the children! (1)

rmadmin (532701) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496912)

*clap* I agree completely. I played GTA 3 for about a week. My 8 year old caught me playing one night and he thought it was the coolest thing ever and begged me to play it. I pawned it off at one of those used game stores for $5 the next day. Screw all these laws and fines. Parents that actually give a shit and pay attention to what their kids are doing would yeild better results in my opinion. I really can't see a parent saying "Billy, you're so annoying today, go sit infront of the TV and kill some cops, hookers, blow up some cars, snipe off some people, and quit bugging me already."

Re:parents - think of the children! (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497227)

I'd rather my children had sex than killed policemen

      I'd rather my children have sex with dead poli...uhh nevermind...

Aww, c'mon. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497251)

I'd rather my children had sex than killed policemen

Why can't they do BOTH? ; )

Re:parents - think of the children! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497272)

Wow, since when did GTA have realistic sex with prostitutes? Hell if thats true I'm picking up the game tonight!

Entirely the Fault of the Parents (5, Insightful)

Kamel Jockey (409856) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496717)

Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers

This is crazy. It is not like GTA San Andreas was rated "E for Everyone" and then "unexpectedly" showed some adult-rated content to minors. Even with an "M" rating, how could any reasonable parent buy this game for their child and not thing something inappropriate would be there?

Re:Entirely the Fault of the Parents (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497188)

This is America. There are parents who think it's perfectly appropriate for their children to see graphic violence but that seeing an exposed nipple will permanently harm their children.

One can only assume they don't breastfeed.

Re:Entirely the Fault of the Parents (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497238)

Even with an "M" rating, how could any reasonable parent buy this game for their child and not thing something inappropriate would be there?

Perfectly legal conversation in much of the US between two people one of whom is sixteen years of age:

"Yeah sweetheart, I asked you over to show you the Hot Coffee mod of GTA, but the guy at the store wouldn't sell it to me because I was underage. Wanna fuck?"

"Yeah, sure."

Anyone who has ever claimed that our sex laws make a lick of sense was either lying and/or ignorant.

KFG

Re:Entirely the Fault of the Parents (1)

Babbster (107076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497260)

You're right, but only to a point. In this case, a parent could find a game with stealing, murder and drugs "appropriate" for their child but draw the line at sex - in fact, unfortunately, this is exactly the way many parents feel. The issue, therefore, is the rating and its attendant descriptors. For example, the ESRB could find the sexual content to fall within the parameters of an "M" rating but they'd still put a descriptor on the box indicating the presence of that content. That they didn't have the opportunity to do so because the content wasn't disclosed is the problem, and that's why the FTC got involved.

I think the reason that the FTC didn't do anything serious this time is likely because they were told that leaving unused content in games has been going on for a long time. For example, developers will leave unused models and textures on a disc just in case an obscure line of code exists that makes reference to a file that is no longer truly part of the game (i.e., I've read that there were extra mechs in Mechassault 2 that had models on the game disc but never appear in the game). Rockstar will just have to be more careful next time and if they are then they won't have to deal with the FTC on this issue again.

$11 K ? (2, Insightful)

thePig (964303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496724)

$11 K per violation?
this is absurd .. for complanies that make money in millions...

Re:$11 K ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497199)

Violations = each instance of the item that is published with the offending material.

I'm still confused (4, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496730)

Why was this even an issue? Rockstar didn't ship this content as active, a third party mod had to be used to get to it. They did not ship that content with intent to be seen, and if the code wasn't there by default to enable that section, it can hardly be their fault if players go out of the way to activate it.

Re:I'm still confused (2, Insightful)

Pope (17780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496794)

Doesn't matter, IMO, the content shouldn't have been in a final shipping product in the first place.

Re:I'm still confused (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496964)

Doesn't matter, IMO, the content shouldn't have been in a final shipping product in the first place.

Now companies need to start looking into buying insurance to protect against this. After all, how much coding did the embedded version of Hot Coffee take? Compare that to the amount of legit code and you see that an unethical person could put something into the program before release and hold that over the company for blackmail purposes or revenge if they ever get fired. I don't think this is something that's as easy to protect against as one might think. http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/20 02/06/va_nimda_korea.html [sophos.com] Even Microsoft missed some code when shipping a product. Scanners and automated tools are only as good as the information they're told to look for. An individual programmer set on adding some content (or sloppy about removing a joke) could cost a company a lot of money. Maybe not that much in terms of fines ($11k is still a lot of money, especially for smaller companies), but in terms of consumer faith and reputation.

Re:I'm still confused (4, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496974)

Doesn't matter, IMO, the content shouldn't have been in a final shipping product in the first place.

Maybe not, but there is no functional difference between the content not being shipped with it and being shipped but turned off.

Re:I'm still confused (1, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497029)

Maybe not, but there is no functional difference between the content not being shipped with it and being shipped but turned off.

Someone being able to turn the content on proves otherwise.

Re:I'm still confused (5, Insightful)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497149)

Someone could have created a mod which created that scene rather than unlocking it. For the end-user, what the hell is the difference? They're just running hot-coffee-patch.exe.

How culpable is a company for people modifying their software? If I take all of their textures and pick-and-choose-and-cut-and-paste until I have something that looks like a boobie, did the software "ship" with that boobie?

Re:I'm still confused (1)

ThinkWeak (958195) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497205)

That all depends...

What time of day did you make the boobie? If it was after 10pm EST, then it's probably alright.

Re:I'm still confused (2, Insightful)

Scudsucker (17617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497257)

Someone being able to turn the content on proves otherwise.

Not when you have to run a third party program, with no affiliation to Rockstar, it doesn't.

Fair enough. (1)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496732)

Personally, I think this was a pretty good settlement. $11,000 per violation isn't really all that much, but something that might be a good idea to consider: it's for their own good.

According to the article, Take-Two claims to have lost $24.5 million due to the scandal (and having most stores take it off the shelf while they wait for the re-rating). The people programming the game might not even know this. But they will undoubtedly know about the fine, so... they will probably make more of a point to let everyone know.

Of course, that's just my take.

Re:Fair enough. (1)

Cartack (628620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497076)

They lost 24.5 million ( I wonder what kind off accounting they used to come up with that figure )... Also I wonder how much of that is offset by all of the publicity/sales they gained from the whole affair.

Re:Fair enough. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497209)

They lost 24.5 million ( I wonder what kind off accounting they used to come up with that figure )

      Accounting services provided courtesy MPAA and RIAA! Oh and sorry, that was BILLION.

Government saves us again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496735)

That was a close one!

A victory? (4, Insightful)

Rapter09 (866502) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496742)

Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system
I think that's a statement that could be construed as a victory for the ESRB, reinforcing that it wasn't the ESRBs fault that T2\RockStar didn't disclose the information. I think it's a good statement.

that's just great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496755)

.. but isn't that like almost encouraging them to do it? per violation.. does that mean per game sold, or per porno game in a game? .. heck at this rate, they would be able to get away with making a full porno game released as PG and have more than enough sales from horny pimple faced teens and the viewership of slashdot to cover what constitutes half the salary of an average receptionist for a whole year...

good one guys.

-Sj53

No, actually, it wasn't a big deal. (4, Insightful)

Frobozz0 (247160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496780)

"We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers,' commented Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection."

*sigh*

No, actually it wasn't that big of a deal. Our priorities in this country baffle me sometimes. The rampant violence in this game wasn't bad in their eyes. Some rough sex and they draw the line? Come on, you had to mod the program just to see it!

I hope enough people see through this charade.

It's not about the sex. It's about the lies. (4, Insightful)

donutello (88309) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496948)

Rockstar games was and is free to include sex scenes in their video games - as they are free to include violence.

What they can't do is deceive the rating board about the content. This is the Federal Trade Commission. Deceptive trade practices fall properly within their purview.

That being said, $11,000 is a ridiculously small fine and takes into account the fact that this was inadvertent rather than intentional.

This had NOTHING to do with SEX. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497048)

It isn't about the sex, it's about not giving truthfull information to the ratings people.

Re:No, actually, it wasn't a big deal. (1)

bwalling (195998) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497210)

The problem isn't that there was content of this nature, it was that it was hidden from the review committee, which can be considered deceptive. If this were allowed, then all games could get through with an E and then actually have violent/pornographic/profane content "hidden" in the game, provide the user enter the secret code that "accidentally" found its way on to the Internet. This decision makes reasonable sense. It's not so much about the content in this particular instance, it's about the potential abuse of this "loophole"

Re:No, actually, it wasn't a big deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497280)

It's not a "secret code" -- techincally, it's a violation of the DMCA. And, if you're breaking the law by viewing the content, I don't think it should be judged based on it...

I guess that means no more Easter Eggs (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496781)

You can bet that companies are now going to pay more attention to inclusion of varies ... undocumented features.

Workarounds now (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496815)

Now that one mode of getting more revenue is closed (at $11K it is just a slap in the wrist, anyways), they will come up with workarounds.
Maybe new hacks (patches??) which will plug in all M-rated items.

Thus, nobody can slight them on being on the wrong ... since the M-rated areas are not part of the package ...
So, no recall of the game too.

The FTC should have blocked these too, in the ruling.

Performing a major CYA perhaps? (2, Insightful)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496817)

As indicated above, this is a slap on the wrists. Considering the Nazi-like ways that the FTC has handled "oscenity" issues in the past, like Howard Stern, this is mild! I wonder if this is more becuase they're covering their asses. Let's face facts. They got a ton of criticism because of the way that they handled this. That wasn't a Rockstar release. It was a third party hack. Lots of games have third party hacks that allow this. That doesn't mean that it was done with the approval of the game maker. If a programmer puts an inappropriate comment in a program that will never be displayed but someone gets offended when trying to illegally hack the code, should the company be sued?

Antucally, this kind of ruling sets a precedence that almost makes it seem like a possible marketing tactic: Hey, if we don't announce this and someone finds out, we could make a huge increase in sales from the publicity and only pay an $11,000 fine! It's costs more to advertize in major gaming magazines!

I will take exception with one this that was said (emphasis mine):

Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system.

Bullsh*t. Parents have the privilege to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. Just like the movie rating system, these rating are not enacted by laws. They are not legal rights as the ESRB is not an institution that was empowered by a government act! Stop calling them "rights"!! Sorry,folks. Pet peeve, but there is a major difference between a right and a privilege ... at least for now.

*sigh* Where's my caffeine? (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496840)

Antucally

Christ! If that's not an indication that I need to buy more Penguin Mints, I don't know what is. If anyone can translate that for me, I'd appreciate it. I think I meant to say "actually", but upon looking at that, I'm not quite sure. :)

Re:Performing a major CYA perhaps? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496927)

Considering the Nazi-like ways that the FTC has handled "oscenity" issues in the past, like Howard Stern, this is mild! I wonder if this is more becuase they're covering their asses.

Howard Stern ran into problems from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), this article describes the actions of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

They're not that different, though. (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497136)

As I said in my reply to myself, I'm in need of more late-afternoon caffeine. I realized small errors (cough) like that after I hit "Submit". Oh, well.

But in reality they're not all that different when it comes to this kid of issue. Both are government agencies that are responsible for various aspect of in this case communication. One handles the regulation of media over the airwaves; the other handles in this case the regulation of over physical goods.

I still think that this was a major CYA on their part.

Re:They're not that different, though. (0, Troll)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497267)

The other handles in this case the regulation of over physical goods.

But your original message was still off. Rockstar was not punished for obscenity, since the FTC doesn't not regulate obscenity itself. They were published for deceptive advertising in allowing a rating to go on the game that did not truly reflect its content.

Re:Performing a major CYA perhaps? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497032)

are you against truth in advertising as well?

False advertising? HOW?! (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497216)

Exactly how was that false advertising? There was a segment in there that was never meant to be used that was exploited by code that was not authorized by Rockstar!

Let's say that I make a family game that's rated "E" that if played as is has nothing offensive, but in the code are some comments with vulgarities in them. Some hacker makes an unauthorized mod that uncomments those comments. Now that vulgarity is available and can be displayed even though it was commented out. Yet I submitted my game to the ESRB, told them what it was about, gave them copies to rate it, and it cleary deserved "E". How can it possibly considered to be "false advertising" that someone without my authorization hacked my code to make a comment seen that was never supposed to be seen?

Sheesh.

Re:Performing a major CYA perhaps? (2, Insightful)

donutello (88309) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497033)

How does this crap get modded up? This was the FTC, not the FCC that dealt with Howard Stern.

Bullsh*t. Parents have the privilege to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. Just like the movie rating system, these rating are not enacted by laws. They are not legal rights as the ESRB is not an institution that was empowered by a government act! Stop calling them "rights"!! Sorry,folks. Pet peeve, but there is a major difference between a right and a privilege ... at least for now.


No. You are wrong. The right to not be deceived by false advertising is a right, not a privilege. If a product advertises a certain feature, it better well have it. In this case, the producers of the game made certain statements about their product, which led to the rating they received, which turned out to be false. The game did not comply with the standards for the advertised rating.

Re:Performing a major CYA perhaps? (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497186)

So all those diet pill ads on tv work?

My GOD - just imagine!

Re:Performing a major CYA perhaps? (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497270)

No. You are wrong. The right to not be deceived by false advertising is a right, not a privilege. If a product advertises a certain feature, it better well have it. In this case, the producers of the game made certain statements about their product, which led to the rating they received, which turned out to be false. The game did not comply with the standards for the advertised rating.

I don't think they made any false statements at all. The game, as it was sold to people, deserved the rating it had. That only changes if you modify the game yourself later. The users took action specifically to change the underlying code of the game in order to make this content available in the game. The users knew what they were doing. It's not the fault of the developer.

Re:Performing a major CYA perhaps? (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497298)

How does this crap get modded up? This was the FTC, not the FCC that dealt with Howard Stern.

All right! All right! I already admitted that I goofed up on that one! Brother!

No. You are wrong. The right to not be deceived by false advertising is a right, not a privilege. If a product advertises a certain feature, it better well have it. In this case, the producers of the game made certain statements about their product, which led to the rating they received, which turned out to be false. The game did not comply with the standards for the advertised rating.

Bull! That code was never meant to be an accessible part of the game by anything that the user would have done through normal means! It was inaccessible when using the game as intended. Only by a third party hack without the approval of Rockstar was it even made available!

I've used the example before and I still stand behind it! If I made a program that as intended is a family game, but I have vulgar code comments that got compiled into the executable and some hacker releases the comment through an unauthorized hack. I advertisied the game as a family game, which is was, but some hacker makes a hack that makes it not-so-family-friendly. It wasn't meant to be an accessible part of the game, so there was no reason whatsoever to advertise it. How does that possibly mean that I am somehow responsible for false advertising?!

$11,000 might not sound like much... (1)

Nutmegan (971365) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496827)

But if I discover the hidden content and tell two friends, then they each tell two friends...the fines could reach millions of dollars easily. Is the government into multi-level marketing style fines?

Whatever happened to caveat emptor? (5, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496830)

""Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system," commented Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection."

After reading TFA, this is the most remarkable line in it. Props to submitter.

Parents don't have the right to rely on ESRB ratings. They have the ability to do so -- and can if they want -- but that is not a right. If a parent decides the ESRB rating is untrustworthy, or that Take2 is untrustworthy, that is their right. It is their right to not purchase games they feel might not adhere to the voluntary ratings system. Parents have the rihght to choose what's best for their kids -- and if they don't have all the information, that's nobody's fault but their own.

You know what? If parents have the right to rely on an independent, private body for game ratings, then I have the right to rely on Fox News (an independent, private body, right?) for fair and balanced news, the right to have all the information presented to me. So where's Fox's fine for not presenting fair and balanced news? Please, Ms. Parnes, why doesn't Fox or CNN or ABC or any news or entertainment media entity not get fined $11,000 every time they don't give us all the information?

/rant

Re:Whatever happened to caveat emptor? (2, Insightful)

CompressedAir (682597) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497121)

We've had limits on "caveat emptor" for quite a while now.

Or is it all right for a food package to put "peanut free" on food that does contain peanuts? I'm not talking about a bag of peanuts either... Candy that nominally does not contain peanuts often is "contaminated" by nearby candy producing lines.

The basic principle in America is that an advertiser is not allowed to outright lie to you. We can all certainly debate whether that's what Rockstar did here (I, personally, do not feel that anyone was willfully deceived), but we threw out the idea of unlimited buyer bewareing a long time ago.

It goes like this: Many people in the country feel that exposure to sex harms their children. (I know, I know, but it's their belief and I don't tell people what to believe.) Thus, Rockstar did the equivalent of putting "peanut free" on a jar of peanuts and feeding it to someone who is allergic.

I don't agree, but I do understand.

Re:Whatever happened to caveat emptor? (2, Interesting)

Danse (1026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497198)

Parents don't have the right to rely on ESRB ratings. They have the ability to do so -- and can if they want -- but that is not a right. If a parent decides the ESRB rating is untrustworthy, or that Take2 is untrustworthy, that is their right. It is their right to not purchase games they feel might not adhere to the voluntary ratings system. Parents have the rihght to choose what's best for their kids -- and if they don't have all the information, that's nobody's fault but their own.

The difference in this case is that the ESRB ratings were established by the industry as a substitute for government regulation. They claimed they could self-regulate, and didn't need the government to step in. Same thing as the movie industry. Now if the ratings aren't reliable, then the government will have cause to step in and establish its own system for informing people of what's in the games. Not that they'd do any better probably, but that's the argument. That's why they say that parents have a right to rely on the ratings.

Re:Whatever happened to caveat emptor? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497217)

I think you'll find the current administration of the FTC thinks that FOX news is fair and balanced. But they may have to use fines against the other networks to bring them into line.

Re:Whatever happened to caveat emptor? (2, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497262)

There are false advertising laws on the books, so if the box says the game doesn't contain any AO style material, but it does in fact contain AO material, that seems likely to be a legal breach to which parents could seek legal redress, and in that sense they do have a right to rely on the game ratings. Further, it is in fact the FTC's job to regulate trade, and to address violations of the false advertising laws.

It's a right in the same sense that you have a right to expect that UL approved appliances aren't going to have easily exposed wiring that will electrocute you.

Now, as to FOX, if they advertise that they are fair and balanced, you might have a claim (they don't, do they? I don't watch much tv, but I know they have a reputation for being right wing).

Glad the FTC is watching over (4, Interesting)

zuki (845560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496839)

This was totally outrageous! Just as much of a newsworthy item as Janet's 'wardrobe malfunction'!(I couldn't sleep for 3 months after watching that one)!

It would be a crying shame that kids should be exposed to (Godless?) non-graphical but still titillating sex simulations.

It might detract from their training shooting hundreds of thousands of opponents, so that they can further be brainwashed into becoming our next batch of cannon fodder to send to Iraq or wherever else our glorious leaders will be "Bringing Freedom" to in the coming years.

The FTC is only performing its patriotic duty to keep kids in line for all the state-sanctioned killing they will have to do later on.

Although, as Dr Strangelove once pointed out, reproductive duties might also have to become state-sanctioned and even encouraged when population needs to be replenished due to a 'red button malfunction' in the Oval Orifice.

Z.

Re:Glad the FTC is watching over (2, Funny)

fwwr5007 (977554) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496970)

"Mr. President, we must not allow an undocumented feature gap!"

gn4a (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496842)

the gay Niggers [goat.cx]

pfft (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496849)

So whilst it's perfectly all right for "the children" to experience gunning down coppers, twocking cars and running down pedestrians with an ambulance, a bit of rumpy-pumpy sets all the censors ablaze? Someone better tell them that the US has the largest porn industry of any other country on earth so they can shut that down too...

go ahead and modd me :offtopic: (-1, Offtopic)

ats-tech (770430) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496850)

This purple is horrible.

A spoon full of sugar helps the cool-aid go down (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15496908)

Just another case of the wrong party being forced to drink the cool-aid...
9 out of 10 Sheep agree that someone should have to drink it.
Although the cool-aid should never been poured for drinking in the first place.

Tags for this article (1, Offtopic)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496941)

Out of curiousity, is there any article that you could see getting posted to Slashdot that *wouldn't* get tagged with "stupid"?

Re:Tags for this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497181)

is there any article that you could see getting posted to Slashdot that *wouldn't* get tagged with "stupid"?

      (looks around desperately for the -1 Stupid mod option)

Disclose ALL content, eh? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#15496946)

Take-Two must disclose all content to the ESRB when rating games

Just to be sure, if I were Take Two, I'd hand them a hard-copy printout of every single line of code in the game. "You demanded everything. Well, here ya' go! Good luck going through all that."

-Eric

Re:Disclose ALL content, eh? (3, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497116)

"Take-Two must disclose all content to the ESRB when rating games"

Just to be sure, if I were Take Two,


If you plan to someday run a company you will need to learn to think through a couple of rounds of moves and countermoves. ;-)

I'd hand them a hard-copy printout of every single line of code in the game. "You demanded everything. Well, here ya' go! Good luck going through all that."

And the ESRB responds: "With an attitude like that, no rating for you. Good luck talking to the buyer for Walmart."

Re:Disclose ALL content, eh? (1)

psykocrime (61037) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497252)

Just to be sure, if I were Take Two, I'd hand them a hard-copy printout of every single line of code in the game.

And make sure it's all expressed in octal codes.

Aren't ESRB ratings optional? (4, Insightful)

jclast (888957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497215)

How is it that Rockstar and Take2 can be fined for submitting their game to an optional software review board?

Besides, why do we have both M and AO? The ages associated with both are 17 and 18. Drop one and leave the system alone.

I wrote about this for eToychest [etoychest.org] earlier today, so I won't reiterate my take on the news here, but I will say this:

Parents have access to a wealth of videogame related information. Reviews and screen captures abound on the Internet. It's time for parents to stand up and do their jobs as parents again. If you can't decide for yourself what your child should be doing, maybe you shouldn't be a parent.

drown in jpgs (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 8 years ago | (#15497237)

This isn't going to be very effective. What, will Rockstar give them a CD of every jpg image and polygon in the game? Will that be considered "full disclosure"?

moD up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15497245)

The r3signation to download the This post brought
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