Illinois Loses Video Game Law Appeal – Read the Ruling Here

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a 2005 ruling that a video game law passed by the state of Illinois is unconstitutional.

As originally reported by GamePolitics, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly threw out the entire “Safe Games Illinois Act” late last year.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich (left) ordered an appeal on portions of the legislation regarding sexually explicit games as well as a requirment that retailers label such games with a four-inch square sticker displaying the number “18”. The court found the labeling requirment objectionable:

Indeed, at four square inches, the “18” sticker literally fails to be narrowly tailored — the sticker covers a substantial portion of the box.The State has failed to even explain why a smaller sticker would not suffice. Certainly we would not condone a health department’s requirement that half of the space on a restaurant menu be consumed by the raw shellfish warning. Nor will we condone the State’s unjustified requirement of the four square-inch “18” sticker.

The Illinois law’s concept of what makes for a sexually explicit game was also dismissed by the court, which gave much consideration to Sony’s PS2 epic God of War:

The game God of War… is illustrative of this point. Because the (Illinois law) potentially criminalizes the sale of any game that features exposed breasts, without concern for the game considered in its entirety or for the game’s social value for minors, distribution of God of War is potentially illegal, in spite of the fact that the game tracks the Homeric epics in content and theme. As we have suggested in the past, there is serious reason to believe that a statute sweeps too broadly when it prohibits a game that is essentially an interactive, digital version of the Odyssey.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that a statute is narrowly tailored to achieving the stated compelling interest when it potentially criminalizes distribution of works featuring only brief flashes of nudity.

Illinois did not appeal a portion of the 2005 decision which held restrictions on violent video games unconstitutional. Read the 7th Circuit’s ruling here.

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