Tag Archives | Legislation

Microsoft to Offer Choice of Browsers–In Europe

Today, the European Commission (EC) announced that Microsoft will permit Windows 7 users in European countries to select their default browser from a ballot screen when they configure their machines.

The news comes as a bit of a surprise, because, last month, the company said it was going to strip Internet Explorer from European versions of the operating system, and was originally strongly opposed to idea of providing a ballot screen.

Microsoft was compelled to make the change as a remedy for the EC’s Microsoft vs. Opera antitrust case that began in 2007. The company had a contingency plan to ship Windows 7 in January if it was unable to reach an agreement with the EC.

The settlement will no doubt keep Windows 7 on schedule for its fall debut. Windows 7 was released to manufacturing on Wednesday.

The EC has clearly learned from the failure of previous mandates. There was no demand for the Windows Media Center free edition of the OS that the EC mandated Microsoft sell in Europe. I’m glad that the ballot option was chosen over no browser at all.


Europe Gives Internet Explorer the Boot from Windows 7. Big Deal!

Internet Explorer Gets the BootLooks like any lingering question about the European Union’s antitrust case against Microsoft delaying the release of Windows 7 just ended. Earlier today, Cnet’s Ina Fried reported that Microsoft will release versions of the new OS that are sans Internet Explorer for sale in Europe. Microsoft has confirmed its intentions.

The Europe-only versions of Windows 7 will have an “E” appended to their names (such as “Windows 7 Home Premium E), and their existence apparently eliminates concerns that Microsoft is competing unfairly with Mozilla, Opera, and other browser makers by bundling IE with the world’s dominant operating system. European consumers and businesses will be free to download IE or any other browser, of course. And Microsoft says that PC manufacturers will be able to bundle IE if they so choose, in which case the end result will still be a computer with Windows 7 and IE 8 installed.

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Calif. Game Sales Law Goes to the Supreme Court

gavelNot content with a state appeals court decision and a trail of failed legislation in other states, California state Sen. Leland Yee is getting his wish: His fight for government regulation of violent video game sales to minors will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The irony is beautiful when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’s heard the “loud and clear” message to reduce deficits through budget cuts and on the same day endorses a legal pursuit that will waste taxpayer money. But here we are once more, chasing the spectre of evil, killer video games, trying to hide them with censorship so they don’t corrupt California’s precious children.

To recap, the law would ban the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18. Any game that contains “especially heinous, cruel, or depraved” violence would include a 2-inch by 2-inch sticker with the number “18” on it. If a store owner is caught selling these games to minors, the retailer is fined $1,000.  Upon hearing a complaint from the games industry, a judge blocked the law, and an appeals judge agreed with the decision. Yee still isn’t giving up.

Because the state would essentially be throwing the Entertainment Software Ratings Board out the window — it’s a voluntary system by the video game industry, after all — a new, government-run system would need to be put into place. I doubt the costs of running such a system would be covered entirely by fines, especially if store owners start taking drastic measures to keep violent games out of the wrong hands, such as putting certain games behind closed doors or not selling them entirely.

So now we get to the point I’ve argued previously: Game fans of a mature age may find their favorite games behind the glass, so to speak, regardless of the games’ artistic or cultural merits. Why don’t movies and music receive the same scrutiny, even though minors are having more success buying them? Because, Yee and the state of California argue, they’re not interactive. This issue of how games affect players will likely be the focus of the debate if the Supreme moves the case forward.

There’s a sentiment among readers of GamePolitics, where I first read this story, that the Supreme Court needs to hear this case. Presumably, our top justices have nothing to gain politically from these laws, and will therefore put them to bed for good because they’re unconstitutional.

I agree with that notion. We may never be able to save the children — there are far too many other factors playing into that — but at least no more tax dollars will go to waste.


California Video Game Law Smacked Down, Again

gavelBack in October, a federal appeals court listened to arguments on a three year-old bill that would put government labels on mature video games and ban their sale to minors. At the tail end of last week, the court ruled that law unconstitutional.

Judge Consuelo Callahan said while the games that concerned lawmakers are “unquestionably violent,” there are ways for parents to keep them from children, such as parental blocking features on consoles and the voluntary ESRB labels that appear on every retail game. Further, Callahan dismissed studies that suggest a link between violent games and aggression. None of it establishes or suggests a casual link between playing games and real mental harm, she said, according to the AP.

State Sen. Leland Yee, who wrote the bill, wants the case taken to the Supreme Court, but it’s not known yet how the state’s attorney general will respond.

The original hearing was one of the first stories I wrote about for Technologizer. Fresh-faced, I let out some of my pent-up frustrations with these kinds of laws, which have failed numerous times in the past. In short, sealing off mature video games as “harmful to minors,” along with cigarettes and pornography, can really hurt a medium that does address serious topics in new ways. Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3, while violent, are great examples.

Entertainment Software Association president Michael D. Gallagher called the laws “an exercise in wasting taxpayer money,” which sounds funny given that the trade group is taking some of that money back — Californians were already forced to pay $282,794 to the ESA after the legislation was originally sticken down. Still, the industry does have the right to recoup its legal costs, and when it says a Supreme Court battle would only hurt taxpayers more, the anti-game crusade becomes even tougher to justify.