The State of New York has passed a new law which requires video games sold there to have clear label ratings for the level of violence. Currently, the U.S. video gaming industry issues ratings on a voluntary basis, relying on the film industry ratings as its standard.
The new law makes it compulsory for video games to be labeled according to violence content, even games that are already labeled; and requires new video game consoles to have parent-controlled lockout capability by 2010.
The New York law also establishes an advisory council to evaluate the ratings issued by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board and to conduct studies on the relationship between real-life violence in minors and interactive media. Touted as a public information and consumer education bill with child safety in mind, the new law has raised free speech concerns.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is unhappy about the far-reaching extent of the new law, and has announced that it will be challenging the law in court. The group claims that similarly worded legislation in the states of California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington have been struck down as unconstitutional.
One of the underlying concerns with content labeling is that it can lead to content censorship. The Legislative Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Robert Perry, indicated that the group was taking action because it believed the new law was a "back-door" method to attempt to regulate video game content.