ESA to sue Michigan Governor
9/14/2005 7:26:00 PM
As an Ohio State grad,
I know nothing good comes from Michigan. Seriously though, the
Entertainment Software Association is planning on sueing Michigan's
Governor to overturn the state's new video game law. The new law, SB
416, would restrict the dissemination of video games containing certain
violent content. Doesn't anyone want to take responsibilities as
parents in trying to make sure their kids are not playing games they
Video Game Industry to Sue Michigan's Governor; Industry Seeks to Have Unconstitutional Video Game Law Overturned
WIRE)--Sept. 14, 2005--The computer and video game industry will file
suit in Michigan asking that the state's new video game law be
overturned, the Entertainment Software Association announced today.
Similar laws were previously found unconstitutional and thrown out in
St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Washington State, costing taxpayers
hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
"If this law is
implemented, it will not only limit First Amendment rights for
Michigan's residents, but, by virtue of its vagueness, it will also
create a huge amount of confusion for Michigan's retailers, parents,
and video game developers," 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 given the
rulings on similar statutes in other jurisdictions; indeed, the facts,
the science, the law, and the U.S. Constitution have not changed since
those decisions were handed down."
The new law, SB 416, would
restrict the dissemination of video games containing certain violent
content. According to the ESA, given the bill's hopelessly vague
language defining the game content subject to the Act, retailers will
have no objective way to determine whether they are in compliance and
game developers will not know if their products would be covered. Civil
and criminal penalties for violating this Act are fines of up to $5000
to $40,000 or imprisonment for up to 93 days.
The ESA argues
that this bill is an effort to substitute the government's judgment for
parental supervision and turn retailers into surrogate parents.
Lowenstein said that the industry's products were being unreasonably
and unfairly singled out. He contends that while there is no question
that a few games have content that some audiences will find offensive,
the same can be said for some content in TV, films, music, and books.
Since the government does not regulate the sales of those entertainment
industries, it should follow suit for the sale of video games.
Ultimately, he concluded, parents, not government or industry, must be
the gatekeepers of what comes in the home.
"In 2004, the average
game buyer was 37 years old and the average game player was 30,"
Lowenstein said. "Knowing this, our industry creates a wide range of
content for a diverse consumer audience, just as other entertainment
industries do. And, it's illogical that video games would be treated
more harshly than R-rated movies or music CDs with parental warning
labels, both of which can be legally viewed and sold to minors. How can
you treat a video game based on James Bond any different than a book or
movie based on the same subject matter?"
The ESA noted that both
parents and retailers are already doing a good job in monitoring what
games kids purchase. According to the Federal Trade Commission, parents
are involved in the purchase or rental of games 83% of the time, and
industry data shows that nine out of ten parents monitor the games
their kids play. Moreover, with the strong support of the ESA, leading
retailers have already implemented systems to prevent the sale of
Mature-rated games to persons under 17. In fact, the National Institute
on Media and the Family found last fall, prior to full implementation
of these new enforcement systems, that retailers prevented the sale of
Mature-rated video games to minors 66% of the time. All games are
clearly rated with both age and content information through the
Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system (www.esrb.org).
The Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) has expressed its strong support for the ESA's action.
ESA is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and
public affairs needs of the companies publishing interactive games for
video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the
Internet. ESA members collectively account for more than 90 percent of
the $7.3 billion in entertainment software sales in the U.S. in 2004,
and billions more in export sales of American-made entertainment
software. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software
publishers including a global anti-piracy program, owning the
Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show, business and consumer
research, government relations and First Amendment and intellectual
property protection efforts. For more information, please visit