Louisiana's HB1381, a measure restricting the sale of some violent games to minors, was signed into law by Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco yesterday, one of the governor's staffers told GameSpot. The law went into effect immediately upon being signed.
HB1381 was authored by representative Roy Burrell (D-District 2) with the help of controversial lawyer Jack Thompson. It was approved by the state House of Representatives last month and the Senate earlier this month, passing both without a single vote against it.
According to the text of the law, it is now 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. Now that it is law, violators can be fined between $100 and $2,000, imprisoned for up to a year, or both.
[UPDATE]: As expected, a legal challenge to the bill is on the way. Entertainment Merchants Association president Bo Andersen told GameSpot that the EMA and the Entertainment Software Association would both be opposing the law in court.
"We are filing an action in federal court in Baton Rouge today, which will include an application for a temporary restraining order, and after that, a preliminary injunction," Andersen said. "But there is every reason for retailers in Louisiana to give their best effort in complying with the law until we obtain that restraining order, which we're confident will be very shortly."
While the EMA is directing its retailers to obey the law, it's leaving it up to them to decide what games are covered.
"The law gives them extremely poor guidelines, and it will be very difficult for retailers to apply the provisions of the law," Andersen said. "The effect will be that they will apply them too stringently beyond what a jury would actually find would be defined under the law, and thus their expression would be chilled."
In a press release trumpeting the bill's passage into law, Thompson explained why he believes a legal challenge here would fail.
"This law is constitutional, as it addresses all of the complaints raised by federal courts which have struck down other state video game laws," Thompson wrote. "It is unique in its approach, as it borrows a time-tested three-prong approach approved by the US Supreme Court in obscenity cases. Further, the legislative history supporting this bill includes much of the scientific evidence that has ended the debate as to whether these games are harmful to minors. The other states which have passed these laws were sloppy in not making the legislative record as complete as it could have been with this hard scientific evidence."