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.


Grand Theft Auto IV

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