New York state passes video game labeling law

Guests play the Xbox 360 "Halo 3" Multiplayer Beta video game during a preview party at Quixote Studios in Los Angeles May 15, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Video games sold in New York state must clearly label ratings for violent content under a law signed on Tuesday, which rights groups criticized as likely unconstitutional.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said that it planned to mount a legal challenge against the law, signed on Tuesday by New York Gov. David Paterson, as it raised free speech concerns.

The group said that similar laws in California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington state have been thrown out as unconstitutional.

The U.S. video gaming industry submits to ratings on a voluntary basis, and the system is similar to movie ratings.

The new law says that is it compulsory for games that are already rated to be labeled and also requires that new video game consoles are installed with parent-controlled lockout features by 2010.

“This legislation will provide information and educate consumers to help them make better choices for their children,” said state Sen. Andrew Lanza, a bill sponsor.

Robert Perry, the NYCLU’s legislative director, said the new law was a “back-door” way of regulating video game content.

The law also establishes an advisory council to study “the connection between interactive media and real-life violence in minors exposed to such media” and to evaluate the ratings issued by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

Reporting by Edith Honan, editing by Christine Kearney and Eric Beech