November 30, 2006 - In yet another victory for digital freedom of expression, a Louisiana district court today struck down a law targeting the sale of violent video games. The court granted a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the law which would have banned the sale of violent games to minors. The act was deemed unconstitutional and a violation of the video game makers' and retailers' rights to free speech.
This latest injunction came hot on the heels of a preliminary one this August, halting the progress of the law, which was set to criminalize the sale of violent video games to minors. Violators would have been subject to prison terms and/or fines of up to two thousand dollars.
Law firm Jenner & Block has been defended video game makers in challenging similar laws since 2003 on constitutional rights grounds. Since March, laws in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Michigan have been successfully defeated. The firm also convinced courts in California and Illinois to strike down comparable laws last year. In 2003, Jenner & Block successfully challenged laws in Washington State and St. Louis.
When striking down the act in Louisiana, the court ruled that the law regulated free speech, protected under the constitution. The fact that the Statute only applies to video games which graphically "depict violence" makes no difference as a matter of First Amendment scrutiny.
In the August injunction, the court had ruled that the state had no real right to enforce a law based merely on conjecture. The court stated that the government has no authority to limit minors' access to creative works based on the general belief that those works might be "psychologically harmful." Proponents of the law had submitted social science evidence in support of their claim, which the court deemed "sparse" and not "in any sense reliable."
"All video game content is entitled to the same free speech protection as movies, books and music," said Partner Paul M. Smith, a Co-Chair of the Firm's Media and First Amendment Practice. Mr. Smith has been in charge of representing the video game industry in these cases.
"Our clients believe that the government shouldn't be in the business of deciding for the parents what games their kids can or cannot play," added Partner Katherine A. Fallow, also in charge of Jenner & Block's role in the case.