Bo Andersen, President of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by Federal District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in Chicago that the state of Illinois’ recently enacted video game restriction law is unconstitutional:
Today’s ruling that the Illinois video game law is unconstitutional is as gratifying as it was predictable. Judge Kennelly’s decision clearly and effectively enumerates the numerous defects of the law. It is unfortunate that Governor Blagojevich and Illinois legislators, in their rush to enact this law, ignored the legal experts who pointed out these defects and warned that the law would be overturned as a violation of the First Amendment.
VSDA has long suggested that, rather than utilizing limited government resources to pursue anti-video game legislation that is bound to be overturned, states could provide real assistance to parents by working with video game retailers and the video game industry to help educate parents about the existing video game rating system and to encourage parents to use those ratings to make informed decisions about which video games to allow in their homes. Now that a federal court has, for the second time in as many months and for the fifth time in four years, prevented a law that attempts to restrict video games from going into effect, we again invite the state of Illinois to work cooperatively with us to help parents chose the right video games for their families.
The law that was overturned, Public Act 94-315, was championed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. It would have prohibited the sale or rental to persons under age 18 of computer and video games that include depictions or simulations of “human-on-human violence in which the player kills, seriously injures, or otherwise causes serious physical harm to another human.”
Under the law, covered games would have been labeled as restricted to persons age 18 or older, retailer POS scanner systems would have been required to prompt clerks to check the ID of the purchaser or renter of such games, and the use of self-service checkout mechanisms for the purchase or rental of the games would have been prohibited. The law also directed every Illinois video game retailer to post in its store signs informing customers that the video game rating system of the ESRB is available to aid in the selection of a game. The signs would have to be posted prominently where video games are displayed, at points of sale, and at any “information desk,” or within five feet of such areas. The law dictated the minimum dimensions of the signs and the type size and color. Violations of the act would have been classified as criminal offenses. The law was slated to go into effect on January 1, 2006.
On July 25, 2005, the Entertainment Software Association, the Video Software Dealers Association, and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit challenging the law. The lawsuit alleged that the law violated the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and that the language of the law was impermissibly vague. Federal district court judge Matthew F. Kennelly today agreed with the plaintiffs that the law is unconstitutional and issued an order permanently enjoining the law’s enforcement.
The judge’s opinion is available at http://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/RACER2/recent_opinions.cfm?judge=Kennelly
Established in 1981, the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) is the not-for-profit international trade association for the $24 billion home entertainment industry. VSDA represents more than 1,000 companies throughout the United States, Canada, and other nations. Its members operate more than 11,500 retail outlets in the U.S. that sell and/or rent DVDs, VHS cassettes, and console video games. Membership comprises the full spectrum of video retailers (from single-store operators to large chains), video distributors, the home video divisions of major and independent motion picture studios, and other related businesses that constitute and support the home video entertainment industry.