Anti-Game Legislation Blocked

A federal court issued an injunction against enforcement of the new law.

Last week, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted a request by the Entertainment Software Association and issued a temporary injunction preventing implementation of the Michigan legislation signed into law in September. The law was scheduled to take effect on December 1st, right at the peak season for retail game sales, so this ruling grants retailers a reprieve.

In his ruling, Judge George Caman Steeh found that “it is unlikely that the State can demonstrate a compelling interest in preventing a perceived ‘harm’.” He also wrote that “the Act will likely have a chilling effect on adults’ expression, as well as expression that is fully protected as to minors.” According to the ESA, Judge Steeh stated that brain imaging and social science research presented were unpersuasive and insufficient to sustain the argument that violent video games cause aggressive behavior.

In my (unscholarly) understanding of First Amendment interpretation, a state would have to prove three legal ‘pillars’ to regulate free expression: that it has a compelling interest in restricting expression, that the expression to be regulated leads directly to injurious behavior, and that the law is tailored as narrowly as possible to only prevent the particular expression. As I read quotes from the injunction, it seems that the Judge is indicating that the State of Michigan failed to prove two points and will probably fail the last as well.

I particularly liked this paragraph from the official Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association response: “We remain supportive of the industry’s self-regulatory efforts and our members are committed to partnering with and empowering parents. It is unfortunate that valuable time has been wasted with political opportunism rather than working proactively with the industry to educate consumers. Perhaps with this knowledge and foreshadowing, we will cease squandering resources and focus our collective efforts on working together.”

For those keeping score at home, anti-game legislation in the United States is currently 0-3 (losses in Indianapolis, St. Louis, and the State of Washington) and behind on points in the current match. Unfortunately, following passage of such laws in Illinois and California, as well as here in Michigan, several opportunistic politicians in other states are jumping on the bandwagon, so even more resources are being squandered pointlessly. Having seen the politics on this issue up close, I am sickened by the pretentious posturing by legislators who could not care less which side of the issue they are on, as long as they think that it will gain them votes.

Here is my completely unrelated quote of the day, courtesy of Colin McRae, 1995 World Rally Champion, on his performance in Rally Australia this past weekend: “First stage was a bit slow; I reckon a school bus would have driven through there with more commitment than I did.” Made me laugh.

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