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Thompson Sues ESRB, Best Buy 134

Posted by Zonk
from the if-you're-lucky-he-could-be-suing-you-too dept.
Well known anti-gaming lawyer Jack Thompson is following up on his clever sting operations against Best Buy. He's filed suit against the consumer electronics retailer for allegedly selling M-rated games to underage gamers. He has also included the ESRB in that suit. GamePolitics reports: "As we reported, the claim against Best Buy suit looks as if it will be going nowhere. Thompson has also apparently named the ESRB in the suit. That looks like a non-starter as well. His explanation: 'The ESRB has been sued by Thompson because it is well known that it a) is owned and operated by the video game industry, b) does not even play the games it rates to conclusion, c) routinely mislabels games as to age appropriateness, per testimony before the U.S. Congress, and is engaged in representations to American parents that the age label are accurate and are keeping "Mature" games out of the hands of kids.'"
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Thompson Sues ESRB, Best Buy

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  • IANAL (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 25, 2007 @07:49PM (#21121669)
    And neither is Jack Thompson.
    • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sorthum (123064) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @07:53PM (#21121721) Homepage
      Did he get disbarred yet?

      The last time I checked he ESRB ratings aren't legally binding; hence a retailer can sell an M rated game to a four year old if they really wanted to... I realize people can be sued for almost anything, but still...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by budgenator (254554)
        I believe his ability to practice law in Alabama was removed, this was under a reciprical agreement so I not sure if it counts as an actual disbarment or not, still it should count as a bitch slap.
        • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Informative)

          by LrdDimwit (1133419) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @10:27PM (#21123401)
          It doesn't. The one for keeps is in Florida right now (that was the grey prawn incident case). What happens is, when you want to represent a client in a state you're not licensed in, you apply for permission to the court, on the basis you're licensed in [state x]. That permission was revoked. In effect, he got booted off that one specific case. It makes it unlikely he would ever get that permission for another Alabama case, but he remains a lawyer in the state his license is actually in (Floriday) -- but probably not for long. He actually tried to withdraw (from the Alabama case); the judge refused to accept the withdrawal, then revoked his temporary license!
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by nomadic (141991)
          His pro hac vice admission was removed, not really much of a punishment, pro hac vice is sort of a one-shot allowance to practice law in a state. You can be a lawyer for just that case.
      • by Sockatume (732728)
        His bar association have started investigating complaints against him, with a view to disciplining or disbarring him, so in response he took the Florida Bar Association to court. Thompson later withdrew his complaint voluntarily, but it has already proven that the complaints against him have substance.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kemanorel (127835)
      New tag time:

      JTINAL - Jack Thompson Is Not A Lawyer
    • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Funny)

      by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @08:16PM (#21122011)
      "And neither is Jack Thompson."

      It takes a brave man to claim that Jack Thompson isn't anal... I'd call you that, but you posted anonymously.
    • b) does not even play the games it rates to conclusion,

      Thompson might be a crackpot, but this is really a valid criticism of the ESRB, if it's true. Can anybody speak to this point?
  • Doesn't this guy have a job that requires his attention instead of bringing lawsuits against every retailer, person, and organization that he dislikes? A job like, I don't know, actually practicing law in cases that he has a shot of winning?
    • by Sorthum (123064)
      I think he's largely a media/attention whore whose fifteen minutes are long past.

      I strongly suspect we won't be seeing him as an "expert" on the news again...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nuzak (959558)
      The job that pays his bills is medical malpractice suits. He's pretty much arm in arm with actual ambulance chasers. In fact, worse, he's the guy chasing ambulances to see if he can wring money out of the EMTs in it.
    • by sqldr (838964)
      He's welcome to come round my house and clean out the toilet with his tongue for $5/hour.
      • i'd even pay him 6.
        • by sqldr (838964)
          oh I see, competitive market now is it? Well, I'd give him career prospects. The local sewage works are looking a bit green. Jack, you know it's the right decision!
          • I'd give him an audience again.. that's right.. live webcam feed of all cleaning duties!

            Come on Jack, Feel validated because someone will actually care again about what you are doing!!
  • by netsavior (627338) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @07:51PM (#21121683)
    Ok so the ESRB is at fault because it makes faulty ratings, and WorstBuy is at fault because they do not enforce the aforementioned faulty ratings? Which is it, do they need to be enforced or are they invalid?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Surt (22457)
      I don't think there's really any contradiction there.
      The ratings are flawed. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be good ratings that aren't flawed.
      There's basically no enforcement. This doesn't mean that there shouldn't be enforcement.

      In the event that we had an effective and enforced rating system, I imagine some people would be happier.

      Jack Thompson is crazy, but his desire to change both aspects of a two dimensional problem is not self contradictory, and is not an indicator for his insanity.
      • Last time I checked, laws that tried to limit who could purchase games based on their ESRB rating were being tossed out left and right.

        Certainly there has to be a law against something before a company can be sued for breaking said law...
        • by LrdDimwit (1133419) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @10:44PM (#21123565)
          In fact, one of the opinions said that it is an unconstitutional delegation of power for a state to give private bodies powers like this. Making ESRB ratings binding gives power to decide what is, and isn't, legal to a private body that isn't accountable to anybody. I mean, if the ESRB mislabels something and refuses to change it, nobody can sue them. Not the maker, not consumers, nobody. A state body can be sued, but the ESRB is just issuing an opinion. Supposing the ESRB decided they had a grudge, so anything with Rockstar's name on it was AO, no matter what? Should that be made legally binding?

          Apparently in Thompsonland. Suing Best Buy for not enforcing something that courts have said *cannot* be made mandatory seems to me to be going nowhere fast. He's using tactics similar to the 65 million dollar pants lawsuit, too -- claiming that because Best Buy said they enforce the ratings, they can be sued into oblivion for not being perfect. (The pants man claimed a "satisfaction guaranteed" sign meant they had to give him anything he wanted. Literally.)
          • by Amouth (879122)
            i just wnat to know if we can now take JT to court for exploiting a child.
          • by HTH NE1 (675604)

            (The pants man claimed a "satisfaction guaranteed" sign meant they had to give him anything he wanted. Literally.)
            That's not what "satisfaction guaranteed" literally means. It literally means he has a right to demand satisfaction, i.e. firearms at twenty paces.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Surt (22457)
          It should be the same as the movie ratings system. I wasn't suggesting that we needed legal enforcement, I was suggesting we needed point of sale enforcement. The stores should comply with the ratings and not sell games to underage kids voluntarily. Of course, this won't happen until parents protest in front of non-compliant stores like they did with non-compliant theatres, because, hey, there is money to be made, and who cares about morality when money is involved?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Last time I checked, laws that tried to limit who could purchase games based on their ESRB rating were being tossed out left and right. Certainly there has to be a law against something before a company can be sued for breaking said law...

          You can pretty much sue anyone for anything, it's just that most people wont waste the time and money to sue someone for something that has no real legal standing.

          Personally I think that the ESA/ESRB should sue BestBuy/any other store that ignores the rating system pu

          • Personally I think that the ESA/ESRB should sue BestBuy/any other store that ignores the rating system putin place because really that's the core problem with the whole system.

            Suing a company for doing something you don't like, that has no basis in law, is just asking for a harassment counter-suit.

            EB, BestBuy, etc. don't even bother to enforce the ratings and while it's nice to blame the parents, by not enforcing it in the stores it makes it difficult for a parent to effectively managed their child's access

      • Enforcement of ESRB ratings is just another attempt to enforce moral behavior with the force of law. The law shouldn't be in control, parents should.

        Ratings should be there to give parents an idea of what they'd be letting their child play. They should be accurate. However, I believe that the parent/guardian of the child should have control over what is acceptable to them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Surt (22457)
          To be clear, that's really all I meant. The parent/guardian should have control, which means that best buy can't be selling the game to the child behind the parent's back. There should be no issue with the parent buying the game and giving it to their child. Most kid's are smart. Very smart. If your kid isn't capable of hiding things from you, it's not that you're a great parent, it's that your kid is dumb.
    • by Valdrax (32670) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @08:23PM (#21122105)
      Unfortunately, the rules of civil procedure have really tilted things so that you need to sue everybody who could possibly at fault at first and then sort out who's really at fault by the time it comes to trial. Otherwise, you run the risk of the statute of limitations running out in the time it took you to find out that it's really the other guy's fault.
    • "Which is it, do they need to be enforced or are they invalid?"

      Both. There are two points of failure, not one. It is not a contradiction.

    • maybe he thinks the ESRB got one right by accident and bestbuy didn't enforce it?
    • Did anyone else read the parent's title as "Self Counter-Strike Mayhem?"
  • by the_tsi (19767) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @07:51PM (#21121691)
    "an email from Attorney Jack Thompson stating that his 15-year-old son purchased the Mature-rated game BioShock from a local Best Buy."

    Jack's son: if you're reading this, don't worry. We know your dad forced you to do it, and you're not as much of a tool as he makes you out to be. In another three years you can move out, and we'll all pretend this crap never happened.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I might add that Thompson is a common name and unless your dad named you Bealzebub, after your grandfather, you stand a pretty good chance of being able to conceal your infamous pedigree.
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [lacitpx]> on Thursday October 25, 2007 @08:21PM (#21122075) Homepage
      Here's a good idea: RockStar should hire Jack's son as a games evangelist. Pay they kid's way through pre-law (or whatever he wants to do) and have the kid come out every now and then to talk about how cool the newest game is...
    • by jandrese (485)
      At least the kid has taste. He could have been buying Deer Hunter XXV or something.
      • At least the kid has taste. He could have been buying Deer Hunter XXV or something.
        Wouldn't he be suing WalMart then?
    • by Ironsides (739422) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @09:03PM (#21122573) Homepage Journal
      "an email from Attorney Jack Thompson stating that his 15-year-old son purchased the Mature-rated game BioShock from a local Best Buy."

      Me thinks Jacko may have made a bit of a mistake this time. Last time I heard about someone doing this, it was a guy who dressed his 14 year old daughter up and made her look over 21. He sent her to a bar who's owner he hated to get the owner in trouble. The judge took one look at the case, threw out the charges against the bar, and had charges filed against the parents for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

      Here's to hoping a similar thing happens in this case.
      • by G Fab (1142219) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:37AM (#21124513)
        That gave my heart a nice warm feeling to imagine, but there really isn't anything illegal about a minor buying an M game. It's just the ESRB's opinion, and they cannot make law. Those ratings were designed to placate moralists.

        Jack knows he will lose. He wants to get enough of the Tipper Gores in the world angry about this inability to enforce the ratings. No telling what effect that would have. I think it would actually be fine for gaming. Jack's just an idiot.
        • by Creepy (93888)
          Ah, and he's wrong, as well - somebody CAN in fact, enforce the ratings, and it has nothing to do with who buys the product - this type of person called a "parent."

          This reminds me far too much of the movie rating system, though. For many years it was essentially voluntary to enforce PG or R ratings, then some crazies took issue to it and pushed enforcement. To me it was always more of a guideline, and there are plenty of movies out there with entirely broken ratings - Whale Rider, for instance - a G movie
          • by G Fab (1142219)
            Too true.

            Take any Stephen Spielberg movie - change the credit to Stephen King and the raters will automatically drag the ratings up one level. Compare IT to Poltergeist.

            And you can't conflate sex with violence, but that's what these ratings do. Parents are the key. But the problem in our society is that parents are never asked to do anything - because parents vote and you can't insult the voters and win elections. So politicians try to do all the parenting they can.

            This isn't a democrat v republican thi
        • by Guppy06 (410832)
          "It's just the ESRB's opinion, and they cannot make law. Those ratings were designed to placate moralists."

          They're not going to be placated if they just slap ratings on the game but sell them to minors anyway. And for that reason (at least) I'm disappointed that the Best Buy part of the suit isn't going forward.
    • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @09:14PM (#21122701)
      I hope Jack got the copy of Bioshock back before his kid was exposed to it. You know how impressionable teenagers are - a few hours of playing, and Jack Jr. might have been inspired to craft complex literary-political allegories that investigate the nature of humanity.
      • All we need to do is ask the state of Florida one simple question!

        "Would you kindly disbar Jack Thompson so we can get on with our lives?"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by montyzooooma (853414)

        I hope Jack got the copy of Bioshock back before his kid was exposed to it. You know how impressionable teenagers are - a few hours of playing, and Jack Jr. might have been inspired to craft complex literary-political allegories that investigate the nature of humanity.

        With some of the most violent cutscenes I've ever seen in a game. Oh, and you may not fully understand the words "complex" and "allegory". Good game, but I wouldn't want a kid (say, under 12?) to play it.
    • by mstahl (701501)

      Is Jack Thompson's kid even allowed by his father to own a video game console? A PC? Anything? Seems to me a man as anti-videogame as him wouldn't permit it, lest something like this happen.

      And on a related note: I feel really sorry for any of this guy's unfortunate offspring....

  • by CyberBill (526285) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @07:53PM (#21121711)
    Anyone can sue anyone, but that doesn't mean they'll win.

    There is no law on the books that states an M-rated game cannot be sold to a minor, in fact, everytime this legislation is attempted it is shot down as unconstititional.
    • No, anyone can't sue anyone. You must have "standing" to sue.
    • Actually, here in TN, you can't sell a M rated game to anyone under the age of 18. Even though the box says 17.
      • Yeah, and I live in a dry county (campbell)... Some things are going to stay behind the times. I've heard TVA is thinking about revoking some money to the dry counties, because of the lost tax revenue. We'll see how that goes.

        If a 15 year old can't go out and buy a game that's not "acceptable" to their age, what's going to stop them from just grabbing the .torrent?
    • I thought 'M' stood for 'minor'! :-)
  • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @07:54PM (#21121723)
    I used to hate Jack Thompson, but the more I read about him, the more I look forward to hearing what his latest stunt will be. He's become a larger than life comic book villain who will do anything, no matter how outrageous, to get himself publicity or to take down a force much bigger than he could ever hope to stop. Watching his latest absurd attempt to make everyone look at him and trying to figure out what he'll do next has become more entertaining than many of the games I've played. I've gone long past considering him any kind of threat and now often wonder if he is for real or can reasonably believe that any of his ideas are going to work. He's more and more like an incompetent Mr. Mxyzptlk, but more fun to watch.
    • by eosp (885380)
      So like why I watch O'Reilly...because he's fun to laugh at?
      • by Copid (137416)

        So like why I watch O'Reilly...because he's fun to laugh at?
        My problem is that I need to see stuff like that in the context of "Look! It's funny! Laugh!" Watching the show without that is torture for me. I don't know about anybody else, but I feel embarrassment on behalf of people who can't seem to feel it for themselves. Watching Bill O'Reilly take himself seriously (or, at least, pretend to take himself seriously) triggers that.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      It's all fun and games until Jack Thompson burns his own children alive outside of the local Best Buy in "protest." Thompson cites divine inspiration. Film at 11.
    • by kevmatic (1133523)
      5 bux says Thomson is actually employed by the Video Game industry in order to drum up free publicity for them.

      I called it first.
    • by Calmiche (531074) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @10:56PM (#21123681)
      Whew. I feared I was the only one.

      I'm starting to enjoy the write-ups in the news and gamming journals, as well as the Penny-Arcade rants and comics. I can just imagine him, sitting in his volcano lair, stroking his white fluffy cat and yelling "I'll get you next time Gamers!"

      You know, if he didn't act so serious and foam-at-the-mouth angry, I'd be tempted to think he was the greatest viral marketing for videogames ever invented. I bet he has sold more games than the entire marketing departments for Take 2 Games/Rockstar.
      • by pokerdad (1124121) on Friday October 26, 2007 @08:23AM (#21127073)

        I can just imagine him, sitting in his volcano lair, stroking his white fluffy cat and yelling "I'll get you next time Gamers!"

        Jack Thompson is Dr. Claw? I don't think so. Doesn't this sound more like him...

        "...frequently led assaults himself, but often vacillated between being a coward at heart, usually the first to turn tail in retreat whenever the tide of battle shifted unfavorably, or pushing his troops to seize victory at all costs, berating them when they turned to retreat. Impatient and frequently hysterical, he was prone to fits of rage when things went badly, often launching into extended rants. He was also greedy and egotistical, often mistreating his own troops to the point of mutiny, and on multiple occasions saw his plans foiled by his own arrogance."

        That is wiki's description for Cobra Commander [wikipedia.org], and for me at least, the high pitched whine of CC is how I always imagine JT.

    • by zolaar (764683)
      I like him because anyone who backs his points of view finds themselves agreeing, point-for-point, with a crazy person. Most people in places of power tend to avoid associating themselves with the derranged.

      I like him because I fear the day he is replaced in his crusade by someone even remotely competent. Yikes.
  • At what point will/did Thompson's lawsuits change from bad press, to annoyance, and finally to free publicity? For everyone interested in meta-information about video games, it probably has never been a question for more than five minutes, but what about the really critical market of casual gamers, parents, etc. pp. ?
  • sigh (Score:3, Funny)

    by NiceGeek (126629) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @08:00PM (#21121817)
    I'll say this for him, he's consistent
  • by Null Nihils (965047) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @08:33PM (#21122251) Journal
    Surely he knows he's not likely to be legally effective; the only reason he keeps doing shit like this is to get attention, both for his ego and his "vidjamagames are evil" meme.

    So: stopgivinghimattention

    If he actually has a chance to pass a stupid law or get a stupid ruling, then we can pay attention. The US, however, has this thingy called a "Constitution" that makes stupid laws kind of hard to pass. So this is just a case of some crazy jerkoff being a crazy jerkoff. Nothing to see here, please move along.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ucblockhead (63650)
      No! Given him LOTS of attention! Spread his voice far and wide!

      He's a complete loon, and the more people see him acting like a complete loon, the more it will discredit his cause.
      • by G Fab (1142219)
        I totally agree with this.

        Jack is making the anti-gaming censors look like assholes who want to take fun away from adults and are willing to invent bullshit problems.

        All speech will have its enemy. Gaming is lucky that its enemy is this pathetic fool.
      • Sadly it doesn't matter. All it takes is 2 minutes to look up his name on google to realize how out there and uncredible he is and yet he still gets on TV and people who don't know anything about videogames see him. Will those people take the 2 minutes to look him up on google? In most cases they won't. After all, he's on tv so he must be credible!
        • He'd have his own show on CNN or MSNBC. Just look at the ranting crackpots who get airtime on those networks.
    • If we had a loser pays tort system in this country he'd be out of business by now.
  • Read the headline and think it was referring to Fred Thompson, the lawyer-turned-senator-turned-actor-turned-presidential-candidate?

    Not trying to support him or anything, I just saw the name, thought lawyer... Maybe I'm just too far out of the loop on this Jack Thompson guy.
    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday October 25, 2007 @08:46PM (#21122417) Homepage Journal
      Has anybody ever seen both of them in a room at the same time?
      • by Khaed (544779)
        I'd like to see them in the same room, if I could somehow convince Fred Thompson to beat the living crap out of Jack Thompson...

        Fred Thompson is a fairly big guy, if I recall correctly, and Jack Thompson is not.
      • -- To the Prat-cave!

        (prat) [urbandictionary.com]
    • That's probably for the best. I'm told that anger is bad for your overall health.
    • by macshit (157376)
      Read the headline and think it was referring to Fred Thompson, the lawyer-turned-senator-turned-actor-turned-presidential-candidate?

      WTF is it with Fred Thompson, anyway?? You keep seeing the media ranting about how he's "the new Ronald Reagan", but he seems to entirely lack Reagan's charisma (and charisma was pretty much Reagan's only strong point).
      • by technos (73414)
        WTF is it with Fred Thompson, anyway?? You keep seeing the media ranting about how he's "the new Ronald Reagan", but he seems to entirely lack Reagan's charisma (and charisma was pretty much Reagan's only strong point).

        Reagan seems to have morphed from 'the doddering old guy who gave us Reaganomics, the Star Wars space laser, Just Say No to Drugs, Uniboob, and Saddam Hussein' to 'SuperConservativeMan! Tax cuts for the wealthy will crush our enemies with prayer in the schools!!'... Which seems to be Fred Tho
  • ..he does have a point regarding the ESRB. Some ratings on games are absolutely crazy, one way or the other. The T rating is the game equivalent of PG-13 not only in generality but in how much it varies. Just as you'll often see a shooter movie like The Bourne Identity featuring quite a bit of violence alongside movies with a few vague sexual references in the PG-13 category, games that have very little objectionable content but not the squeeky-clean E are often rated T as there is no real buffer zone betwe
    • by Targon (17348)
      Because there are so many gamers who are over the age of 25 at this point, there is a good reason why so many people want M rated titles, because we are mature adults who are sick of seeing games toned down just to get a T rating(to increase the number of sales). There is a huge difference between a game that is focused on sex(the Adult only), and wanting the same level of mature content in games that have been in R rated movies.

      I swear, it's idiotic that the entire video game industry is afraid to show a
    • what it needs is a list.
      Do people die?
      Is there nudity
      blah blah.

      So A parent can look at a game and know what it contains. Where as with a rating system to area of gray is too broad.
  • by Hayden Panettiere (1174137) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @10:19PM (#21123317)
    It encourages kids to violate the laws of physics!
  • Where's the money? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adona1 (1078711) on Thursday October 25, 2007 @10:37PM (#21123505)
    One thing I am curious about is - how does this guy earn a living?

    I mean, he keeps filing lawsuits, but a) not for specific damages for him, and b) he never wins. He definitely doesn't have a chance to actually practice law or anything...

    Or is he just on a retainer for people who want games banned/people who don't want games banned and realise that having a nut like JT doing all the talking is doing their cause wonders?
    • He doesn't. His wife does. In his book he talks about how when his son was born he and his wife decided someone would stay home. He was making less money so he stayed home. Apparently his wife is part of a rather well respected Florida law firm and so she probably makes quite a bit of money.

      All this is coming about because Jack's kid is now a teenager (15 or so I think) and so Jack has a lot more free time. If he actually had to earn a living as a lawyer then I'm sure he wouldn't be spending nearly so
  • I don't know who the fuck he thinks he's saving. His name is Jack Thompson, not Jack Bauer. This is a video game in an xbox, not a nuke in San Fran.
  • There's nothing clever about using a child to go in to a store and try to buy something, tobacco narcs have been using this technique for over a decade.

    Also, I find it pretty disgusting that Thompson is using his own children to further his political agenda. Atleast tobacco narcs have the decency to pay their child "agents" and explain to them what they are doing. I wonder if Jack gave his son the choice or if he just forced him to do his bidding.
  • When will someone finally put this guy in a straitjacket and thrown him in a rubber room? He's just plain wacko.

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