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ESA Files Lawsuit To Overturn Louisiana's Violent Video Games Bill

by Rainier on June 16, 2006 @ 4:19 p.m. PDT

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco has signed bill HB1381, drafted with help from anti-video game activist Jack Thompson, into law, prohibiting the sale or rental of games with violent content to minor by retailers. Not skipping a beat the ESA filed suit in the Federal District Court of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to overturn the state's new video game law.

"We are confident this bill will be found unconstitutional, as have similar statutes in other states," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the ESA, the trade group representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. "As recently as March 31 of this year, The Honorable George Caram Steeh, US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, stated that video games were 'expressive free speech, inseparable from their interactive functional elements, and are therefore protected by the First Amendment."

Under HB 1381, vendors would be subject to fines of between $100 and $2,000 and up to a year in prison if caught selling video games containing "violent" content to minors.

"This bill is an unnecessary effort," said Lowenstein. "Both parents and industry are working together to ensure that video games are purchased responsibly. The Federal Government has found that parents are involved in game purchases more than eight out of ten times. Retailers already have increasingly effective carding programs in place to prevent the sale of Mature or Adult Only games to minors. Legislators know full well that this bill is destined to meet the same fate as other failed efforts to ban video game sales."

"HB 1381 also directly undermines efforts legislators started after enactment of tax credit legislation less than a year ago designed to lure video game development and production to Louisiana to generate needed high-paying technology jobs," noted Lowenstein. "Signing this bill into law would no doubt hurt the state's economy, essentially hanging up a 'Stay Out of Louisiana' sign on the state's borders for video game companies."

"Louisiana legislators have decided to squander taxpayers' money on a bet they can't win," noted Bo Andersen, president of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), the not-for-profit international trade association for the retailers and distributors of console and computer video games and DVDs. "Despite what the legislature has been told, the Louisiana video game restriction law is not unique -- a very similar measure was passed in Michigan and promptly overturned in federal court. The Louisiana law suffers from the same constitutional defects as the Michigan law and the five other video game laws that have been enjoined on constitutional grounds. It will meet the same fate, and the taxpayers of Louisiana will end up having to pay for the legislature's reckless gamble."

Lowenstein said that a more effective, constitutionally sound way to ensure that video games get into the hands of appropriate players would be for everyone -- industry, retailers, government, parents groups and health groups -- to educate parents about the ESRB ratings and content descriptors and the parental controls available in all next generation consoles.

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