ESA sues Chicago Transit Authority over game ads

Gaming trade group claims policy to not allow AO-, M-rated games to be advertised on buses, trains an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

The Entertainment Software Association is taking the Chicago Transit Authority to court. Earlier today, the gaming publisher trade group announced the filing of a lawsuit to overturn a CTA policy prohibiting ads for games rated M for Mature or AO for Adults Only on its buses, trains, and buildings.

CTA guidelines ensure the city's buses advertise only healthy influences on children...like Oreos!

The suit--and the CTA policy that spawned it--have their roots in another legal dust-up. In the lead-up to Grand Theft Auto IV's April 2008 debut on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, a Chicago news channel reported on a series of ads for the open-world action game appearing on public transit buildings and buses. The CTA pulled the ads, fearful of public outcry, and in response, GTAIV publisher Take-Two Interactive sued the transit authority. The suit was eventually settled with an agreement for the CTA to rerun the ads later that year.

However, after the settlement, the CTA updated its advertising guidelines with the ratings prohibition and set the policy to take effect January 1, 2009. The amended guidelines do not prevent advertising for R-rated films or TV-MA-rated television shows. The ESA alleges that this is an unconstitutional abridgement of its members' free speech rights because the policy now "restricts speech in a public forum that is otherwise open to all speakers without a compelling interest for doing so."

The compelling interest stated by the CTA in enacting the policy was a correlation between youth aggression and violent games. That's the same justification used by states like California, Illinois, and Louisiana in their heretofore unsuccessful bids to establish state laws to keep violent games out of children's hands.

The CTA had not returned a request for comment as of press time.

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Discussion

90 comments
Valas_Azuviir
Valas_Azuviir

@ottumatic Nevertheless, CTA isn't allowed to discriminate when it comes to which free speech they allow and which they don't, when the speech in question is equivalent. A private company can dictate, which free speech they allow within their workspace, CTA isn't a private company though, it's a governmental agency, so it lacks that protection. The fact that they're citing a justification, which has been ruled unconstitutional before, really isn't doing them any favours either. Simplest solution for them would be to bar advertising for R-rated films and TV-MA tv shows as well. Thus eliminating the discrimination factor and not playing favourites what so ever.

ottumatic
ottumatic

@VineeleeniV Your example raised is inappropriate. If my company is in the fashion industry, would I hire big fat woman as models just to appease the society? No. As much as the CTA would love earn an extra penny for the adverts, they are more likely to face boycotts and protest from various conservatives groups and such against it, which will have an adverse effect on their commuters.

DrKill09
DrKill09

Hey ESA, please tell Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo it's OK to make AO rated games. No point in allowing advertisements for AO games when they aren't allowed to exist. I can buy unrated movies, so why not AO rated games? Really.

VineeleeniV
VineeleeniV

For all those who say the CTA has the right to choose what it wants to put up for advertising, while that is true, the ESA's argument (and pretty compelling one, in my opinion) is that game manufacturers are being discriminated against. After all, imagine you own your own business. It's up to you who you hire, right? But what if you specifically didn't hire (and had an explicit policy stating so, nonetheless!) blacks/gays/jews/etc. Is that okay just because it's your business? (Hint, the answer, morally and legally, is no) If the CTA banned all violent material, it wouldn't be discrimination. The fact that they target only games, whether that's discrimination or not, well I guess the courts will determine...

Gruug
Gruug

Ok, there is a lot of bad information going on here. First, the CTA is an independent GOVERMENTAL agency. It's board memebers are appointed by both the Mayor of Chicago AND the Governor of Illinois. Funding is provided by the city of Chicago, Illinois state and the U.S. government along with money collected as fares and revenue from advertising sold. (Source: http://www.transitchicago.com/overv.aspx). Now, as a governmental agency, the CTA is actually MORE inclined to have to follow the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as it is a taxpayer funded agency. Does not matter that it is a city agency or not...it gets funds from all three government bodies. That means that they can not enfringe upon the free speech rights (or any other rights for that matter) of any company. They can not show favoritism to any company wishing to advertise nor can they deny advertising that follows the guidelines offered to all companies by the CTA. In other words, they can not censor one company and let others go. This is why this will be and should be over turned in a court of law. The ESA is doing the right thing.

geedotherodian
geedotherodian

Im almost to where this stuff wont affect me only one month to 17! I wont have to strong arm my brother into coming to the store now :)

Arab-man666
Arab-man666

Mayor Daley has enough on his hands... And it's not exactly like Chicago had no idea GTA was coming out. Took me an hour of store hopping to find a copy when it came out.

ZombieKingX
ZombieKingX

Well, there's more and even better places to advertise than on trains. Really it's the CTA's loss especially in today's economy. Seems they'd want the revenue from the advertisements.

sammoth
sammoth

@sentencer Yet you go about it being owned by the Federal Government. CTA is not owned by them. CTA is owned by Chicago. The City taxes are paid for by the people of Chicago. All I was saying but, apperntly nobody seems to understand that the Federal Government only has so much say over what a city does. The CTA tooks the ads of the buses/ trains not the White House. Also if you read some of the comments earlier you would understand what and who I was talking to and about.

Cobra5
Cobra5

Did you even read the story? ESA is saving the day here...

sun_rider95
sun_rider95

f|_/ck esa they eant to ruin everything I think that they don't like games

sentencer
sentencer

@sammoth Government is the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc. (Dictionary.com) By that definition the city government, which funds and has control over the CTA, causes the CTA to be an entity of the local government. A good rule of thumb is if you have to pay taxes for something, that "something" was government created and maintained. Not to be rude, but no city or state has power or the authority to revoke rights offered in the U.S. Constitution. So, the CTA should have to face the consequences of their poor decisions.

Mr_arizona
Mr_arizona

To allow R rated movies and TV-MA shows but ban M rated games is just hypocritical to me. This reminds of when Fox went on a anti-Mass Effect rant about the large amount of nudity in its game yet turns a blind eye to Peter Griffin towel snapping Tom Brady in the shower.

leeduncan
leeduncan

@Cowboy-Bebop I agree with your point that a company can choose to do business with or without whoever it chooses. However, I believe the issue at hand is that the transit authority is a public entity and barring free speech in a public place, ie city bus, is unconstitutional. If I'm incorrent in that CTA isn't a public entity then nvrmnd.

Cowboy-Bebop
Cowboy-Bebop

A company should be aloud to chose who they want to do business with and who they don't want to do business with. While I agree that if you advertise an R rated movie you should advertise an M rated game. I don't believe there should be a lawsuit over this simply because money is changing hands and if you don't want to advertise a product you shouldn't be FORCED to advertise a product. Of course if I were CTA I would just charge and absurd price to advertise things I didn't want to advertise in the first place. Freedom of speech and all of these lawsuits are getting out of hand. It gets ridiculous, you get your feelings hurt and instead of being an adult about things you sue. It's almost every week now Gamespot posts about someone suing someone else. Very little ethics around anymore.

thejuice85
thejuice85

Im from chicago and cta is the most greedest transit company in the this country possibly the world they always hike there bus fares always needing money they put R rated movies on their buses but games don't be advertised for long

Gadeos
Gadeos

This CTA policy is really stupid and by far an agression of free speech rights, also a discriminatory treatment. If not, ask yourselves why allowing R-rated films and TV-MA-rated tv shows but not games that are in the same level??? That's outrageous

phudabulah
phudabulah

Sounds like discrimination - film and TV shows are allowed to advertise adult ratings but not video games?

MarcusMaximus04
MarcusMaximus04

I hate to say it but I don't think the CTA has a case. They aren't preventing them from advertising M or AO games at all, just saying that they don't want to sell the advertisement rights to their own busses.It seems a bit tricky cause it's public property but since the rights are sold and not just freely given out to everyone else discretion should be up to the city for what they do and don't want to advertise.

WardCleaver02
WardCleaver02

@kneppy18 CTA is a municipal corporation and not a private entity like Disney; therefore, this is a free speech issue.

rohr2
rohr2

This is another stupid lawsuit. DAMN i love america. But i'm hoping CTA gets hammered. It's wrong to advertise for R-rated and TV-MA rated movies and shows while not advertising for m-rated video games. And LOL at the photo

kneppy18
kneppy18

I think the major thing to remember here is that this is not a free speech issue. It doesn't matter if you believe m or ao games should be advertised by CTA, the point is that CTA can choose what they want on their buses and trains, just like the Disney Channel or the Nick Toons channel probably will never sell their advertising time/space to Leisure Suit Larry. I have a feeling they wouldn't advertise for S&W handguns either, but that doesn't mean they are violating S&W's right to free speech.

Autolycus
Autolycus

Yawn, your children are doing drugs, swearing, and most likely having sex by 12.... i think they can handle a few ads for "violent" video games. While you are at it, you might as well sue pack man for making your children eat marbles.

sammoth
sammoth

@sentencer Um thats not government that is a city law. This is just not pointed at you but, a few others here there are 2 different things CTA is not Government owned it is city owned funded by city taxpayers. Either way CTA is wrong for this.

residentzombie2
residentzombie2

Does the CTA also ban R rated movies from advertise, I bet you they don't. How is a M rated video game any different than a R rated movie?

superjon6
superjon6

How come video games always get blamed and not tv or even the news. The news goes and explains murders sometimes, but no it's all the video games fault.

bschroth
bschroth

What a load. Why would they want to eliminate potential customers with such a policy. In these economic times shouldn't they try to increase the number of customers?

spyduhmahn
spyduhmahn

I live in chicago and I think it's pretty neat to see those tv like ads on the side of buses, there's already ads for R rated movies why not m rated games too

icym
icym

Bah. Why waste money this way? Just contribute to Grand Mega Overlord Daley's funds and you're set. Hell, you could probably get a Senate seat without controversy...yes, Daley rules them all and in the darkness corrupts them.

phillipdudeman
phillipdudeman

it isnt censorship, its a company making a choice. would you still put up ads for gay porn on your bus even though people sued you to take them down?

Houghbot
Houghbot

@sentencer it's Chicago land of corrupt democrats what else would you expect? maybe Take Two should have paid more money for that Senate seat, GTA for the senate! :P

sentencer
sentencer

Just another attempt by the government to take away our rights. I sure hope the CTA loses big time in this suit.

GaM3Pr0
GaM3Pr0

Does the term, freedom of speech and freedom of the press mean anything anymore? As long as it isn't profane to anyone and restricts people from doing what they are rightfully able to do, banning M rated ads is against the law.

Caer_Death
Caer_Death

ClaTheNinja It's not a private business owner owning a private business that we're talking about, though. Transits in the US are heavily subsidized, so by not accepting this ad, it's government money that's censoring free speech, not a private business. It may be privately owned, but if it's anything like what we have here, paying a 1% sales tax on everything in this county to pay for our buses, then it is not a sovereign company by any means, and thus, just like the post office, they can't discriminate in such a way. If it's government subsidized, it's not longer a free, private enterprise, but rather a government funded monopoly. If we must accept these monopolies, then can't we at least force them to abide by free speech, since we pay the bill for the buses regardless of whether or not we use them?

shkar
shkar

lols...........Imagine a regular school bus carrying the picture of KRATOS tearing a beast a part with his blades.........

ClaTheNinja
ClaTheNinja

I hate censorship, but people and companies should have a right to choose what they do and don't want advertised on thier ad space. If I owned a TV channel, and someone wanted to put up a commerical that spoke heavily against violence in games, I would want the right to deny it without fear of a lawsuit. If CTA took money Rockstar for the GTA ads then pulled the ads off early... then yes, Rockstar is definitely owed a lot of money there. If the new CTA policy bans violent games but not violent movies and TV shows, that is retarded. But I still think business owners should have the right to choose what happens with their stuff.

55592
55592

The CTA made a mistake with their first, cowardly, I-don't-want-no-trouble approach. It would've saved them alot of trouble to take the constitutionally protected approach of Liberty! ..As long as Liberty doesn't involve boobs, however.

famguyfan2685
famguyfan2685

@ jazilla - It may not be that people are originally learning about the game from the bus ads.. It's far more probable that the ads will simply continue to build the accumulating hype of the game. Its just a little reminder. I don't know about you, but after a crummy day at a boring office job, seeing a sweet banner ad for GTA IV on my bike home is definitely a pick-me-up. Even though if I had already known about the game..

admiral_picard
admiral_picard

lol @ picture of bus with Oreo ad. "Hey kids, don't kill those people in the fake game world but be sure to stuff your gourd with tons of Oreos so you can be obese in real life!"

ryden14
ryden14

but jazilla youd be surprised at how many casual gamers buy games based off of an ad

ReaperV7
ReaperV7

I rarely look at those bus advertisements when im in downtown chicago.

korko3
korko3

gotta love take-two fighting the good fight at every turn. this censorship crap is getting really old.

jazilla
jazilla

i think public adverts of questionable material is really lame. we are all gamers and KNOW when these games are coming out. none of us finds out about a game from an ad in public LOL. if you do find out about a game in a public ad, you aren't a real gamer.

vietboi89
vietboi89

mmhmm i get it so i can see a movie or tv show that depicts everything i see in a M rated video game but of course tv shows u really dont need to purchase and movies are like wat 10 dollars, but video games on the other hand are so easy to get because u can get them everywhere because every corner has a game store or that estranged hooded man with violent video games hiding in his coat and 60$ is soooooo easy to get u just gotta blink and WHAM theres the cash, and by no means do these movies and tv shows affect the increasing rate of sex and violence among our young, naive, and apparently hopelessly stupid children. If ur kid wants a violent game then give them some "angry parent." the rules are simple, see how much whining it takes to give them a good whacking, of course the other alternative is to give in and purchase that violent game for ur annoying prick of a child and watch him grow into, well just some kid with a cooler game than his friends