Louisiana Pays ESA $91K for Illegal Game Law

By Chris Faylor, Apr 18, 2007 12:10pm PDT
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana has ordered the state to reimburse the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) its $91,000 spent protesting a Louisiana law that prohibited the sale of violent video games to minors. Following the ESA's legal challenge, the law, House Bill No. 1381, was deemed unconstitutional.

House Bill No. 1381 was written by Louisiana Rep. Roy Burrell (D) (pictured left) and signed into law by Louisiana governor Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) on June 15, 2006. It prohibited the sale of any video game to a minor that "the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find...appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence," "depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors," or "lacks serious literacy, artistic, political or scientific value for minors." Any retailer caught violating the bill's broad criteria would have been punished by a fine of $100-$2000, a year in jail, or a combination of both.

"This Court is dumbfounded that the Attorney General and the State are in the position of having to pay taxpayer money as attorney's fees and costs in this lawsuit," wrote Judge James J. Brady in his ruling of the reimbursement. "The Court wonders why nobody objected to the enactment of this statute. In this court's view, the taxpayers deserve more from their elected officials."

The bill, which appears to be modeled on similar bills proposed in Utah and Oklahoma, makes no mention whatsoever of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board's game rating scale. This contrasts with Michigan Rep. Fred Upton's (R) Video Game Decency Act, which focuses entirely on enforcing established ratings systems such as the ESRB.

"It's unfortunate the [sic] some officials continue to believe that unconstitutional laws are the answer, when time and time again courts have thrown out these bills and proven them to be a waste of taxpayers' dollars," said ESA senior VP and general counsel Gail Markels. "It couldn't be clearer that the real answer is not regulation, but education of parents to empower them to use the video game rating system, parental controls in game consoles, and other available tools. We look forward to working with any elected official to help educate parents about making appropriate video games choices for their unique families."

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission declared the ESRB's ratings more effective than ever, with 87% of parents aware of the system and 70% using it regularly.

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