ESA Suffers First Amendment Amnesia, Gets Legalistic on Game Blogs

Get over yourself, ESA. Grow a sense of humor, ESRB.

It’s only a t-shirt.

If the ESA believes that a novelty shirt which lampoons the ESRB rating system somehow infringes upon their brand, they should pursue whatever legal action they deem necessary against T-shirt Hell, the company selling the parody item.

Respected video game blog Kotaku, however, isn’t peddling the shirt. They simply wrote about it – as in free speech…

Why menace a video game news site for reporting the news about this shirt? Kotaku regularly dishes not only on games, but gamer culture, including its more offbeat aspects. This t-shirt certainly qualifies. That the ESA, an organization which is continually waging court battles over First Amendment rights, would take this ham-handed action is an extremely troubling development.

Apparently the website that broke the story on the offending T-shirt, Bits, Bytes, Pixels & Sprites, bowed to the ESA’s pressure tactics. BBPS is a one-man blog, operating without a safety net. GP’s been there, we understand perfectly. Kotaku, on the other hand, as part of the Gawker network, is in a better position to stand up to the ESA’s bully tactics.

What’s makes this situation even more distasteful is that the ESA’s game publisher members are perfectly happy to have Kotaku mention their video game products day after day after day after day.

In fact, ESA member companies like Electronic Arts, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Activision and others  – who, through their sponsorship of the ESA, are ultimately responsible for this attack on free speech – certainly enjoy and benefit from publicity generated at big blog sites like Kotaku and Joystiq as well as a host of smaller ones.

Beyond that, GamePolitics finds it quite amazing that the ESA does nothing when a certain individual regularly likens its president, Doug Lowenstein, to all manner of vile historical figures. Yet the game publisher’s trade group goes to the legal equivalent of Defcon 4 with Kotaku over this nonsense?

The ESA should do the right thing and back off.

UPDATE: Chris Bennett writes about the legalities of this case on the excellent Video Game Law Blog.

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