The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) today hailed a ruling permanently halting implementation of a Minnesota law designed to fine minors for buying video games rated "M" for mature or "AO" for adults only, making this the seventh court since 2001 to rule such laws unconstitutional. The opinion was issued by James Rosenbaum, Chief District Judge, Court of Minnesota.
"Judge Rosenbaum's ruling proves once again that banning the sale of violent video games to minors is a direct violation of Constitutional rights," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the ESA, the trade group representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. "This ruling is of particular interest because lawmakers tried to skirt the First Amendment issue by fining minors themselves for buying the games, not retailers, as they have tried in other states. We will move immediately for reimbursement of the substantial legal fees incurred in this court fight, which the state cavalierly launched knowing that every other court in America had struck down these kinds of statutes," said Lowenstein.
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."
Regarding evidence presented by the state purporting to show a link between violent games and violent behavior and thoughts, the court said, "there is a paucity of evidence linking the availability of video games with any harm to Minnesota's children at all."
"Instead of squandering taxpayers’ money on frivolous lawsuits and attempting to enact such clearly unconstitutional legislation, we encourage lawmakers to invest in what we have asked for from the beginning -- a cooperative effort on behalf of the industry, legislators, retailers, parent groups and health groups to work together to educate parents about the ESRB ratings and content descriptors, and the parental controls available in all next generation consoles to help parents make sound choices about the games their kids play," said Lowenstein.
The 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 billion in entertainment software sales in the U.S. in 2005, and billions more in export sales of entertainment software. For more information about the ESA, please visit http://www.theESA.com.