August 02, 2005

A recently passed Illinois law that prohibits the sale or rental of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors violates the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, according to a complaint recently filed by Jenner & Block on behalf of several associations representing the video game industry.   

The newly enacted “Safe Games Illinois Act” subjects retailers and store clerks to criminal charges and fines of $1,000 for allowing minors to buy or rent video games designated to be violent or sexually explicit under the Act, and requires video game retailers to place labels on all games containing violent or sexually explicit content.  The Firm’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleges that these provisions constitute content-based censorship, in violation of the First Amendment.  

Courts in other states have consistently rejected similar legislation as unnecessarily restrictive of free speech, Jenner & Block Partner Katherine A. Fallow told the Chicago Tribune.  “We don’t believe any of these laws can be constitutional, which is what every court that has addressed this issue has said,” she noted.  

The Safe Games Illinois Act was signed into law by Governor Rod Blagojevich on July 25, 2005, and goes into effect on January 1, 2006.  

Paul M. Smith, Managing Partner of the Firm’s D.C. office, filed the complaint along with Ms. Fallow, Partner David P. Sanders and Associates Kathleen R. Hartnett, Thomas G. Pulham, and Wade A. Thomson on behalf of plaintiffs Entertainment Software Association, Video Software Dealers Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association.  Their members include companies that create, publish, distribute, sell, rent, or make video games available to the public.  

Jenner & Block successfully represented the video game industry to defeat similar legislative attempts to censor video games in Washington and Missouri.

Please click here to view the Firm's complaint.