Only hours after the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) filed suit in federal court, a Louisiana judge has halted
a new law that would fine and potentially imprison retailers convicted of selling violent video games to minors.
U.S. District Judge James Brady put in place a temporary injunction that bars Louisiana authorities from enforcing the new law, which was recently signed into effect by Governor Kathleen Blanco. A hearing for a permanent injunction is set for June 27.
The law was proposed by Rep. Roy A. Burrell (D, Shreveport), who had assistance from Jack Thompson, a Florida-based anti-game violence and anti-obscenity activist and lawyer who has long lobbied the video game industry to change its ways.
The law — Act 441 — would fine retailers “not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars” or potential imprison them up to one year if the retailers are convicted of selling violent video games to minors.
Some experts expected the law, which was ratified by the Louisiana state legislature as HB1381, to run afoul of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The legislation attempts to apply the same criteria to violent video games that is used to define obscenity, using language modeled after the Miller Test — the Supreme Court’s test for whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene.
No sooner had Blanco signed the bill into law than
the ESA — a trade group representing video and computer game makers — filed suit to stop it in its tracks. The ESA has successfully fought similar legislation in other states, where federal judges have ruled that depictions of violence are not prone to the same restrictions that pornography is.
Defending the ESA’s actions, ESA President Douglas Lowenstein said that the game industry is already working with parents and retailers to educate the public about the existing, voluntary ratings system and what the ratings and descriptors mean. He pointed to the federal government’s own research, which shows that parents are involved in game purchases more than eight out of ten times.