HB 353 has been passed in the Utah state senate, and now sits on Governor Jon Huntsman’s desk.  This bill would hold retailers responsible for selling minors material labeled for mature audiences.  Sellers of books, movies, video games, and music could be penalized up to $2000 for “violating” age guidelines created voluntarily for informational purposes only.

This bill takes a voluntary effort by manufacturers to provide consumers with information about their products and turns it into a mechanism to deprive minors of their First Amendment rights.  By incorporating the private voluntary ratings system, it also constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative authority to a non-governmental entity.

Private rating systems, such as the ones used to label movies, music and video games, are not required by law, and if they were, would probably be unconstitutional.  Video games, music and film are all protected expression under the First Amendment.  Only “obscene” material that is completely without artistic or other social value is not protected;  other kinds of sexual content is legally protected as is content depicting violence.

The bill may result in consumers getting less information.  Stores not willing to risk lawsuit or fines for violating age restrictions may simply decide not to display ratings information.  The industry as a whole could even consider dispensing with its voluntary rating system if the result is to make retailers vulnerable to lawsuits and judgments.

We urge Governor Huntsman to veto this problematic bill.  Contact the Governor to voice your concerns at:

Phone: 801-538-1000 and 800-705-2464

Utah State Capitol Complex
350 North State Street, Suite 200
PO Box 142220
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Or send an email through this site.