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Minnesota Video Game Law Formally Challenged

Minnesota Video Game Law Formally Challenged

July 11, 2006 | By Jason Dobson

July 11, 2006 | By Jason Dobson
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More: Console/PC

A new report by the Associated Press reveals that the major game trade associations have formally asked a federal judge to stop the implementation of Minnesota's new video game law, on the grounds that it violates free speech.

The news follows an earlier report in June that indicated the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) intended to file suit in Minnesota Federal District Court asking that the law be overturned.

Similar laws have been struck down by six courts in five years, including the Eighth Circuit which governs Minnesota, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees. However, unlike other video game-related bills that target retailers, Minnesota's new legislation, which takes effect on August 1, instead would fine children under age seventeen $25 for buying or renting video games rated M for mature or AO for adults only. Stores would also have to post signs in large font drawing attention to the restrictions. Attempts were made, but ultimately not included in the bill, to penalize retailers who sell or rent such video games to young people.

The ESA argues that this bill is an unenforceable effort to substitute the government's judgment for parental supervision. ESA president Doug Lowenstein commented in June that the industry’s products were being unreasonably and unfairly singled out, saying that parents, not government or industry, must be the gatekeepers on what comes in the home.

While the report noted that minors still find ways to purchase these games, there have been advancements in this area. In a testimony by the Federal Trade Commission released on June 14, 2006, the organization noted that it had been monitoring the video game industry since 1999, and had since that time recorded improvements by retailers in denying the sale of inappropriate games to minors.

The latest FTC undercover shop, released March 30 of this year, saw “a substantial decrease in the number of M-rated games sold to unaccompanied children, particularly by large retailers. Forty-two percent of the secret shoppers . . . who attempted to buy an M-rated video game without a parent were able to purchase one.” Although large retailers were noted to have performed better, “there is still substantial room for improvement.”

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