As the Hot Coffee scandal cools, the Electronic Software Association is seeing another battle heat up. This time, the conflict is in Illinois. And it's not a rogue developer or isolated modder the trade group is taking issue with. It's the state's governor, Rod Blagojevich.
In a joint statement, ESA president Doug Lowenstein and Video Software Dealers Association president Bo Andersen said their organizations were filing a lawsuit seeking to halt the implementation of The Safe Games Illinois Act, Illinois HB 4023, a bill limiting the sale and rental of computer and video games. Today the bill was signed into law by Blagojevich.
The bill, introduced last December by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), means that Illinois will limit the sale and/or rental of games with "violent and sexually explicit" content. Retailers caught renting or selling such games to persons 18 or under can now be fined up to $1,000 for violating the statute.
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association joined the ESA and VSDA as a co-plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. It contends that "Not only does the Act directly restrict the dissemination and receipt of a considerable amount of fully protected expression, but, because of its numerous vague terms, the Act also creates a chilling effect on a great deal of speech, as game creators and retailers will respond to the Act's uncertainty by self-censoring, depriving adults and children of access to undeniably protected expression."
"This law will have a chilling effect on free speech. It will limit First Amendment rights not only for Illinois' residents, but for game developers and publishers, and for retailers who won't know what games can and cannot be sold or rented under this vague new statute," Lowenstein said in a statement.
"The governor's embrace of censorship is guaranteed to gain him wide media attention, but will do nothing to help parents make informed choices about the video games their children play," Andersen said. "Rather than imposing restrictions that cannot be understood by retailers or sustained legally, the governor should be working with retailers and the video game industry to educate parents about video game ratings and to encourage parents to utilize those ratings."