In a relatively bold new move, the game industry trade association the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has filed a petition in the United States District Court, asking it to order the State of Illinois to pay $644,545 in legal fees, for its unsuccessful effort to enact a law banning the sale of violent video games in the state.
This follows the previous ruling
in December, 2005, in which the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois handed down a permanent injunction halting the implementation of the new state law that would restrict video game sales
In his decision declaring the law unconstitutional, the Judge Matthew S. Kennelly commented of the bill, which was promoted and signed by Illinois Governor Rod. R. Blagojevich: "If controlling access to allegedly 'dangerous' speech is important in promoting the positive psychological development of children, in our society that role is properly accorded to parents and families, not the State."
The Safe Games Illinois Act would have required retailers to use warning labels in addition to the existing ESRB labels, as well as post signs within stores explaining the ESRB rating system. Sale of offending games to minors will earn stores a $1,000 fine on a petty offense, while failure to post explanatory signage will draw a $500 fine for the first three violations and $1,000 for each subsequent count.
"From the day Governor Blagojevich announced that he would seek anti-video game legislation, it was clear to everyone that the proposal would be found unconstitutional and would waste taxpayers dollars in a protracted legal fight that would leave parents no better off," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA. "That is precisely what happened. As we said from the outset, we would have preferred to spend our resources on cooperative programs to help parents ensure their kids play appropriate games, rather than divert money to respond to politically motivated attacks on video games. But the State has left little choice, and this petition is consistent with the rules of the federal courts regarding award of attorney's fees to prevailing parties."
Lowenstein continued: "We had hoped to reach a settlement without the need to file this petition because we believe it is important to move on, both so Illinois taxpayers know the full cost of this litigation and so we can focus on programs that actually help parents raise their kids safely." The head of the ESA also referenced that the organization had been negotiating privately with the State over this, but that Illinois had made "other demands which we could not accept" in order for there to be a settlement, hence this new lawsuit.