About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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Feel free to contact me about articles, websites and etc. you think I may find of interest. I'm also available for consulting work and speaking engagements. Email: ernest.miller 8T

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August 18, 2004

Calif. Legislature Passes Requirement that Retailers Post Video Game Ratings

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Posted by Ernest Miller

GameSpy reports that the California legislature has passed a bill requiring videogame retailers to post ratings labels and provide information about ratings on videogames (Video game bill passes Senate). The bill now awaits the signature or veto of Gov. Schwarzenegger. Read the legislative analysis of the AB 1793 here: AB 1793 - Bill Analysis.

While this is better than original versions of the bill, it still shows the prejudice legislators have against this particular media. Why not similar requirements for bookstores, movie theaters, music stores and magazine stands?

via Joystiq


Here is an AP article on the cybercafe regulations in Los Angeles that quotes your humble correspondent (Violence Tackled at Online Gaming Parlors).

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: CyberCafes | Freedom of Expression | Games

July 08, 2004

LA City Council Votes to Regulate Cybercafés

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to impose requirements for a police permit in order run a cybercafé. Technically, another vote will have to be taken next week and then the ordinance goes to Mayor James Hahn for his signature. The ordinance is expected to go into effect later this summer. Read on for a detailed look at the ordinance...

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: CyberCafes

June 11, 2004

Valve Bullys Cybercafé

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Posted by Ernest Miller

One of the most interesting aspects of the gaming world for me is the LAN party. Sure, online play is great, but the social atmosphere of playing a networked game in physical proximity to the other players on a LAN is fantastic. LAN play and online play hardly compare.

Just a couple of examples: there are few lamers and griefers at a LAN party thanks to the social norms resulting from physical proximity; and, sure, you can use headsets to talk during online play, but it is nothing compared to the before/during/after social interaction of LAN play.

Anyone interested in seeing gaming thrive even more should be supporting and encouraging LAN play.

However, setting up such LANs can be burdensome: hauling around and setting up network gear, PCs or Xboxes, and enough displays is not easy, nor is ensuring all software is patched and up-to-date.

Of course, there are commercial establishments called cybercafés or LAN centers where you can join a group of friends in LAN play without the hassle, for a fee. Many also sponsor regular league play and tournaments. However, the cybercafé industry is new, small and fragmented. Most are barely profitable. Though I like to think of them as the new bowling alleys, they haven't really caught on. [Disclosure: I run a small company on the side, GameJockeys, that will set up a private LAN party for corporate events, parties, etc.]

Game licensing is a serious concern for cybercafés; they realize they need it to operate legally, but it has been hard to come by. Most software companies don't understand their needs and have difficulty negotitating such small licenses with individual members of a fragmented business community. This is changing, however, with companies such as Microsoft offering licenses through cybercafé organizations like iGames such that as long as each copy of a title is legitimately purchased, cybercafés may use them. This licensing arrangement benefits the struggling cybercafé industry and the game industry as a whole by promoting social LAN gaming. [disclosure: GameJockeys is a member of iGames]

On the other hand Valve, a company that has thrived in significant part because of LAN play, is taking a different tack. They are requiring cybercafés to use some seriously problematic software to run the games (Steam) as well as charging what is, for cybercafés, a significant amount of money to have any Valve game available. Fair enough. If that is how Valve wants to license its games, that is their choice. If LAN center customers want to know why Valve games aren't available, that can readily be explained to them.

Of course, these requirements are relatively new. Prior to these licensing requirements, some cybercafés operated in a bit of a grey zone, making the games available in their centers as the licensing issues were worked out. I'm not sure why BattleGround PC Gaming was making Counter-Strike - the five-year old game which is freely downloadble as a Half-Life Mod - available in their center without a proper license, but they did.

Well, Valve Software has sent BattleGround PC Gaming a cease and desist letter. Normally, such a letter would offer three options: a) cease using the software; b) license the software; or, c) get sued. In a bullying fashion, Valve has dropped option a). Rather than simply allow BattleGround PC Gaming to stop using the software, Valve is demanding that BattleGround pay up front for a one-year license or get sued.

What Valve is doing is legally permissible. That doesn't make it right. Perhaps fans of LAN gaming and the professional gaming leagues ought to consider whether Valve's aggressive, overbearing stance is helpful to the gaming community or not. Next time you're considering playing a game of Counter-Strike, why not consider Halo or Battlefield instead?

The text of the License or Be Sued letter is below:

...continue reading.

Comments (68) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: CyberCafes

March 11, 2004

Library Surveillance in Garden Grove

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Findlaw's Modern Practice's Anita Ramasastry has written a column on the recent California appellate decision upholding the city of Garden Grove's requirement that cybercafes maintain surveillance cameras (Can a City Require Surveillance Cameras in Cybercafes?). She is disapproving of the decision and cites the dissent's comparison of Garden Grove's actions with those of dictatorial governments. I've written on the decision extensively here: CyberCafe Ordinance Decision - First Amendment Victory - Privacy Defeat.

via Ernie the Attorney, whose response to this privacy invasion is incredulity

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: CyberCafes | Freedom of Expression | Privacy

February 02, 2004

CyberCafe Ordinance Decision - First Amendment Victory - Privacy Defeat

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Larry Lessig has written a brief note about a California Appeals Court decision that eviscerated privacy rights in cybercafes (mandated telescreen upheld). There is a article here (Internet Cafe Ordinance Sparks War of Words). Read the decision (Thany Thuy Vo v. City of Garden Grove [PDF]). The issue that has Prof. Lessig rightfully incensed is an operational requirement for cybercafes that forces them to monitor (read over the shoulder) what people are doing on cybercafe screens, whether it is reading email, browsing the web or playing a game of Counter Strike. However, there are other major issues involved and the decision has some very important victories in it for those who care about the First Amendment.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) | Category: CyberCafes | Freedom of Expression | Games | Privacy

October 27, 2003

China to Regulate and Standardize "Troublesome" CyberCafes

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Posted by Ernest Miller

C|Net News reports a highly disturbing story from China (China to consolidate Net cafes):

Nearly all of China's 110,000 Internet cafes will be consolidated under the management of larger, mainly state-owned companies in the next three years, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

So much for freedom of expression for the masses through the internet.

Regulation of cyber cafes is something that I've been doing a lot of research on recently. I'll be posting much more on these issues in the near future.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Civil Liberties | CyberCafes | Freedom of Expression