Jenner & Block

Court Finds Louisiana Violent Video Game Act to be Unconstitutional

In another victory for Jenner & Block’s video game industry clients, a Louisiana district court today granted a permanent injunction against the enforcement of a state law that would have banned sales of violent video games to minors, finding the act to be an unconstitutional violation of the video game makers’ and retailers’ freedom of speech. 

In August, the court had granted the Firm’s motion for preliminary injunction against the law, which was set to criminalize the sale or rental of “violent” video games to minors and subject violators to prison terms and/or criminal fines of up to two thousand dollars.

Since March, Jenner & Block has successfully challenged similar laws on constitutional grounds in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Michigan.  The Firm’s team also persuaded courts in California and Illinois last year to strike down analogous laws, and successfully challenged laws in Washington State and St. Louis in 2003.

In striking down the Louisiana act, the court ruled that the law impermissibly regulated constitutionally protected free speech, and that the fact that the Statute applies to video games that “depict violence” makes no difference as a matter of First Amendment scrutiny.

The court had ruled in August that the state’s purported interests in enforcing the law were “merely conjectural.”  The court stated that the government may not limit minors’ exposure to creative works based on a general belief that they may be “psychologically harmful.” The court called the social science evidence submitted in connection with the law “sparse” and not “in any sense reliable,” and also agreed with the Firm’s argument that the statute is unconstitutionally vague.

“All video game content is entitled to the same free speech protection as movies, books and music,” said Partner Paul M. Smith, a Co-Chair of the Firm’s Media and First Amendment Practice.  Mr. Smith has led the Firm’s representation of the video game industry on these matters.

“Our clients believe that the government shouldn’t be in the business of deciding for the parents what games their kids can or cannot play,” added Partner Katherine A. Fallow, who also led the Firm’s team in this matter.

In addition to Mr. Smith and Ms. Fallow, Associates Duane Pozza, Matthew S. Hellman, and Elizabeth Valentina represented the Entertainment Software Association and Entertainment Merchants Association in the Louisiana case.

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