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Unconstitutional Video Game Law Costs California Taxpayers $282,794

by Rainier on Aug. 5, 2008 @ 3:06 p.m. PDT

The state of California today reimbursed the ESA $282,794 for attorney’s fees after the state attempted to defend an unconstitutional law restricting the constitutional rights of video game publishers, developers and consumers.

“California deserves more from its legislators than pursuing flawed legislation. State employees are facing pay cuts. California’s services are being scaled back. And, anxiety is rising in Sacramento to find funds,“ said Michael D. Gallagher, CEO of the ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. “Rather than tackling real problems affecting Californians, they chose to waste time, money and state resources. It is shameful that legislators pursued personal agendas in spite of the facts.”

The ESA noted that this payment comes at an especially troubling time for the state, calling to mind other pressing budgetary and legislative priorities and issues, including:

  • California is currently facing a $15-billion budget gap
  • More than 10,000 California state employees were laid off last week in light of the budget crisis
  • Governor Schwarzenegger is seeking to cut wages for nearly 200,000 state employees, forcing them to work for $6.55 minimum wage instead.
  • The state already cut 10 percent to its Medicaid reimbursement rate and deferred payments to vendors

“Caregivers are not well-served by court battles and legal fees. Rather, they would have been far better off if state officials worked together with our industry to raise awareness about video game ratings and the parental controls available on all new game consoles—both of which help ensure that the games children play are parent-approved.”

On August 6, 2007, Judge Ronald M. Whyte ruled in favor of the ESA's Motion for Summary Judgment, permanently enjoining enforcement of the California video game law that regulated the sale of computer and video games in that state. Judge Whyte acknowledged that video games are protected by the First Amendment and found there was no evidence that playing violent games results in real world violence. The state currently is appealing this decision.

“It is unfortunate that the state is stubbornly pursuing an appeal that is likely to lead to even more court-awarded fees,” concluded Gallagher.

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