Following the January 2006 introduction
of a restrictive video game bill in the state of Maryland, and its subsequent signing this month by Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr, it might be presumed that the Entertainment Software Association will again be opposing the bill for First Amendment reasons.
However, the bill, sponsored by politicians Wade Kach and Justin Ross, has been significantly changed in its passage through to being signed - Kach's part of the bill, imposing penalties from a $5,000 fine to a year in jail for selling Adults Only-rated games to minors, is still present.
But Ross' contribution, which would impose its own content ratings over and above the Electronic Software Ratings Board marks, and penalize retailers who sold games bearing the government-created ratings to minors with a $1,000 fine, has been removed from the bill before its signing.
Thus, the ESA's Doug Lowenstein is in the happy position of being able to support the bill, which specifically references the distribution of "illicit sex"-based content to minors at a level far above the current M-rated content. He did so, commenting: "The ESA has always been supportive of the inclusion of video games to 'harmful to minor' statues that meet the Supreme Courts obscenity standards. We believe that video games should be treated in the same way that books and movies are treated under the law."
However, Lowenstein and the ESA did point out: "Where we draw the line is when the law is a violation of the First Amendment, as was Maryland's HB 75, which attempted to add violent video games to the 'harmful to minors' statue, a direct violation of citizens' constitutional rights."