Minnesota Sued Over Video Game Clampdown

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 restrictions.

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.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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