When the governor of Louisiana signed a bill to prohibit the sale of some violent games to minors last Thursday, it went into immediate effect. However, it didn't stay in effect very long.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) filed suit Friday to overturn the law. According to court filings, later that day a federal judge, James J. Brady, granted the trade groups' request for a temporary restraining order preventing the law from being enforced.
According to the text of the law, it is illegal to sell, rent, or lease a game to a minor if it meets the following three conditions:
(1) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the video or computer game, taken as a whole, appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence.
(2) The game depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors.
(3) The game, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
The bill was based on obscenity laws that have previously withstood legal challenges. Violators could be fined between $100 and $2,000, imprisoned for up to a year, or both.
In the lawsuit, the ESA and EMA argue that the law is a violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.
"Not only does the Act directly restrict the dissemination and receipt of a considerable amount of fully protected expression," the suit claims, "but, because of its numerous vague terms, the Act also creates a chilling effect on a great deal of speech, as video game creators, publishers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers will respond to the Act's uncertainty by self-censoring, depriving both adults and children of access to undeniably protected expression."
The suit also says the law creates an unfair burden on those who disseminate games, requiring them to play through every possible part of a game and see if it falls in line with the law's vague guidelines before distributing them. It goes on to say that such vagueness would lead to enforcement by authorities "on an unfair, subjective, and ad hoc basis."
A hearing for a preliminary injunction on the law is set for June 30.