By Jesse Hiestand
The trade group representing the video game industry sued the state of
Minnesota on Tuesday to overturn a new bill that would fine children
and teens for buying or renting mature or adults-only games.
The Entertainment Software Assn. (ESA) filed the suit in Minnesota
Federal District Court, arguing that the bill attempted to substitute
governmental judgment for parental supervision.
The ESA has successfully convinced courts to strike down six similar
bills during the past five years, usually by arguing that the
prohibitions on certain video games were unconstitutional.
"The bill's tortured effort to end run the First Amendment by
punishing kids directly fails under the Constitution because children
have rights under the First Amendment, like all other citizens," ESA
president Doug Lowenstein said. "The state is attempting to impose
liability on children because they know that courts have consistently
held that they cannot penalize retailers. We believe that the courts
will agree that fining children violates the First Amendment as well."
The bill would impose a $25 fine on anyone under the age of 17 who
bought or rented a video game marked "M" for mature or "AO" for adults
only. Stores would be required to post signs alerting customers to the
Lowenstein said that the average game buyer last year was 40 and the
average player was 33. He also questioned how lawmakers reasonably
expected retailers to collect the $25 fine from children.
The ESA, the U.S. association for console, computer and Internet game
developers, said many leading retailers already are working to prevent
the sale of Mature-rated games to people under 17.
The association's most recent legal victory came in April when a
federal judge in Michigan issued a permanent injunction halting the
implementation of a state bill that would ban the sale of violent
video games to minors. The judge rejected the state's claim that the
interactive nature of video games makes them less entitled to First
Amendment protections, the ESA said.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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