Game Industry Sues State of Illinois

Today, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) sent us a press release, announcing a lawsuit against an Illinois law preventing children from buying violent and sexually explicit video games. Apparently the ESA values the money made from violent games more than keeping them from children. The law requires parental permission, with fines to those caught selling unauthorized games to minors. Their statement reads in part:

The computer and video game industry will file a lawsuit today seeking to prevent implementation of Illinois HB 4023, a bill limiting the sale and rental of computer and video games, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced today. Joining in the complaint are the Video Software Dealers Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. In similar cases in St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Washington State, virtually identical bills were struck down, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

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“This law will have a chilling effect on free speech. It will limit First Amendment rights not only for Illinois’ residents, but for game developers and publishers, and for retailers who won’t know what games can and cannot be sold or rented under this vague new statute,” said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA, the trade group representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. “I’m confident the court will affirm our position. There is already a precedent-setting ruling from the Seventh Circuit, which includes Illinois, establishing the unconstitutionality of this type of statute – and the facts, the science, the law, and the U.S. Constitution have not changed since that decision.”

While it’s doubtful that the ESA is concerned about taxpayer money, they are concerned with publisher revenue, which this regulation in the fifth largest state could weaken. What’s unclear is whether this form of government regulation – which is not an outright ban – is against the Constitution.

The case that the ESA cites as “precedent-setting” was a law in Washington banning the sale of “games depicting violence against public law enforcement officials”. The bill was found unconstitutional only because it specifically targeted the outright ban of games, limited to those with violence against ‘law enforcement officials’. The Illinois law meanwhile only prevents games being sold to minors, just as the government already regulates things such as alcohol.

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