Minnesota Pays For Unconstitutional Game Law

The Entertainment Software Association wants Minnesotans to be outraged, and maybe they should be. After the state pursued an obviously unconstitutional video game law in 2006 that sought to penalize minors who purchase or rent M or AO rated video games, the ESA was forced to challenge the law. They were successful, and the state had to pony up $65,000 in legal fees to the ESA for their effort.

"Minnesota's citizens should be outraged at paying the bill for this flawed plan. Minnesota's public officials ignored legal precedent and instead pursued a political agenda that ultimately cost taxpayers money," said Michael D. Gallagher, CEO of the ESA, which represents U.S. computer and video game publishers. "Courts across the United States have ruled consistently that video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of art, such as music and literature."

The full press release, which can be found after the jump, is basically the ESA's way of saying don't f*** with the video game industry. Damn straight.

Minnesota Pays $65,000 in Legal Fees to the Video Game Industry

Taxpayers Pay for Politicians' Decision to Pursue Unconstitutional Law

JUNE 30, 2008 - Washington, DC - The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced today that the state of Minnesota paid $65,000 in attorney fees and expenses incurred as a result of their successful challenge to Minnesota's unconstitutional video game law. The ESA, which prevailed over similar unconstitutional laws in nine other jurisdictions, now has been awarded close to $2 million in fees and expenses spent in defending gamers, developers and publishers' First Amendment rights.

"Minnesota's citizens should be outraged at paying the bill for this flawed plan. Minnesota's public officials ignored legal precedent and instead pursued a political agenda that ultimately cost taxpayers money," said Michael D. Gallagher, CEO of the ESA, which represents U.S. computer and video game publishers. "Courts across the United States have ruled consistently that video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of art, such as music and literature."

On July 31, 2006, Judge James M. Rosenbaum, US District Court, Minnesota, issued a permanent injunction to halt implementation of a Minnesota law which sought to penalize minors for the purchase or rental of M- or AO-rated games. In his decision, Judge Rosenbaum stated that "...there is no showing whatsoever that video games, in the absence of other violent media, cause even the slightest injury to children." The Court then raised questions about the Legislature's motives in passing such an obviously unconstitutional law, stating "...several other states have tried to regulate minors' access to video games. Every effort has been stricken for violating the First Amendment....The Court will not speculate as the motives of those who launched Minnesota's nearly doomed effort to "protect" our children. Who, after all, opposes protecting children? But, the legislators drafting this law cannot have been blind to its constitutional flaws."

Gallagher said that "politicians need to realize that the key to protecting our children from inappropriate media content is not haphazard legislation, but rather parental education. Video games have a first class ratings system supported by retailers, opinion leaders and parents. It would be a far better use of public funds to help support this system, rather than continue to pursue unconstitutional legislation that works against it."

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assigns content ratings to computer and video games. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 80 percent of parents are aware of the ESRB system, and over 70 percent of parents use it in making their buying decisions. And, a new FTC report released last month shows that 80 percent of the agency's undercover underage shoppers were not able to buy M-rated video games, 433% above the rate measured in 2000.

The Entertainment Software Association is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies publishing interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the Internet. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, owning the E3 Media & Business Summit, business and consumer research, federal and state government relations, First Amendment and intellectual property protection efforts. For more information, please visit www.theESA.com.