June 10, 2003

On behalf of the Interactive Digital Software Association (ISDA), as well as retailers and associations of retailers, the Firm has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of  a Washington state law seeking to curb the sale of  "violent"  video games to minors.  The  plaintiffs, who create, publish and distribute video games, oppose the content – and viewpoint – based law, saying that it infringes on their First Amendment free speech rights as well as the rights of those who wish to play the games.  The bill, scheduled to go into effect on July 27, would fine Washington retail employees up to $500 if they sell or rent to anyone under 17 video games that depict harm to a "public law enforcement officer."

A similar law, passed in St. Louis County in 2000, was struck down by the U.S. Eighth  Circuit Court of Appeals last week.  After a similar challenge by the IDSA and others, the Eighth Circuit ruled that video games – like books, movies, and other media – are fully protected speech and that the law violated the First Amendment.  The St. Louis ordinance required children under 17 to have parental consent before they could purchase  "violent"  video games, or play such video games in an arcade.

Partners Paul M. Smith and Deanne E. Maynard filed the lawsuit challenging the Washington state statute, assisted by Associate Kathleen Hartnett and Summer Associate Micah Myers.