Minnesota Appeals "Fine the Buyer" Video Game Law Today

February 12, 2007 -
The United States 8th Circuit Court will hear arguments today in Minnesota's appeal of a District Court ruling that its 2006 "fine the buyer" video game statute was unconstitutional. 

Perhaps you remember Minnesota's unusual approach to video game legislation? It may have been bad law, but in terms of political theatrics, this one had it all.

While most video game bills propose sanctions on retailers, in June of 2006 Minnesota passed a law which would have fined underage buyers of M-rated games $25.

The measure was the brainchild of State Sen. Sandra Pappas (D, left)) and State Rep. Jeff Johnson (R). Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) signed the bill into law and then-Attorney General Mike Hatch (D) vowed to defend it against the video game industry's inevitable lawsuit.

The political backstory here is that Pawlenty and Hatch were opposing candidates in Minnesota's gubernatorial race, while Rep. Johnson was making a run for attorney general.

For her part, bill sponsor Pappas told GameSpot, ""Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional."

Despite the politicking, U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum, who checked out Jade Empire on his clerk's Xbox while evaluating the case, ruled the Minnesota law unconstitutional less than two months after Pawlenty signed it into law.

In a story broken by GamePolitics, then-Attorney General Hatch went a bit ballistic in court filings, writing that violent games were "worthless, disgusting speech" and "speech of very low societal value."

Hatch, who lost the governor's race to the incumbent Pawlenty, is now out of office. The state's new Attorney General, Lori Swanson, will carry the video game appeal forward.


this is becoming like a sports event....we should camp out and have a tail gate party :P

For her part, bill sponsor Pappas told GameSpot, “”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.”

Yeah, you and those like you have made that perfectly clear. *eyeroll*

I'm just glad that idiot Hatch is out of office. "Worthless, disgusting speech?" Give me a break.

*grabs popcorn*

Let's see if this is the state that's dumb enough to bring this to the Supreme Court. So it can be shot down once and for all, eh?

”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.”

Um. Did I miss something? Isn't this a bad thing?

”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.”

Wow. It makes you wonder why the court might have found the law unconstitutional then. *sighs* These folks should have taken the course of Utah and decided to actually do some constitutional research instead of just running off to try and pass a 'feel good' law.

Good way to start your tenure as the AG. By losing your state ......... 6 figures?

This is bordering on blatant ignorance.

Pappas: ”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.” Translation (sticks fingers in both ears and starts screaming): "I CAN'T HEAR YOU" over and over again, until the industry wins...

Wouldn't be the first time this behavior has occurred, and I don't think it will be the last.

Why??? *sigh*

When you admit your bill is unconstitutional, and you admit you don't care if it's constitutional, why appeal when a judge finds that it is... in fact... unconstitutional...

I can see the appeal court judge rolling his/her eyes over this one.

"So let me get this straight. You guys admit this is unconstitutional, yet you want me to rule on whether the judge erred in ruling it... unconstitutional???"

"Bailiff, throw these ppl in a cell. No I don't care if it's constitutional or not to do so, they clearly don't care about what's constitutional... Hell deny them their right to a lawyer, and tap their phones. And just for good measure, deport them to Syria... Now I'm sure I can argue somewhere that it's for the good of the children..."
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"Despite the politicking, U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum, who checked out Jade Empire on his clerk’s Xbox while evaluating the case"

Hatch: Why are you playing that!? Dont you know that violent games can corupt your mind and it is the most deplorable speech ever?

Judge: Shhhhh! Can't you see I'm a little busy trying to beat the final boss here. The nerve of some people, really.

And there my state goes wasting my tax dollars again...

Im ashamed to live in the state now.. wonderfull.

When a government takes one dollar more from it's taxpayers than it needs, this is theft.

I don't even want to think about what deliberately flushing 6 figures down a metaphorical toilet in a blatant vote buying scheme is.

But there should be impeachment all around.

Come on - let's get the whole comment in context;

"Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional. We just try to do what's right, and we let the courts figure that out."

I still feel she's missing the point of the constitution somewhat, but I think it's a little misleading to give just half the comment.

”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.”

What's your oath of office again?

@ Jabrwock
"When you admit your bill is unconstitutional, and you admit you don’t care if it’s constitutional, why appeal when a judge finds that it is… in fact… unconstitutional…"


I was thinking the same thing, but when I read that I distinctly heard a disembodied "biddi-biddi-biddi, what the f***?"



But when you know it's unconstitutional, why bother wasting the court's time?

If there was a question about it's constitutionality, by all means ask the court. When those *writing* the law *know* it's unconstitutional, then it's a clear case of wasted effort...

I can understand if they did it to challenge the limits of the constitution, or it's interpretation (as some others have tried by challenging what minors get for "rights"), but when you admit your law has no hope of passing, and you don't really care either way, what's the point then? A symbolic gesture?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

' violent games were “worthless, disgusting speech” and “speech of very low societal value.” '

as it is his opinion.... its still speech. and it says freedom of speech... good job smart ones but i guess they don't care since legislators don't care what that thing was... uh, help me with it. OH yea! the constitution

ok, ok, ok... sry to be a little on the shallow side. But do you have a different picture of Senator Pappas???? its kinda scary 0.o Reminds me when i was a kid and was told the story of the troll under the bridge X_X

All because someone wants to win a few votes in the upcoming election.....Sheesh. What a sorry state of MN politics.

Sandra Pappas is nothing but a fool, living proof of the saying:

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it!"

It would eventually be interesting to hear Attorney General Swanson's opinion on the case after the trial ... how she would have advised the state prior to the case being filed (or not filed). Obviously, she can't comment on a pending case (some attorney's understand that). But, as the legal counsel for the state, she has to try the cases that are handed to her.

Word of advice for A.G. Swanson: Be a good steward of the taxpayers' money and "take a dive" on this case. Winning the case will be far more expensive than losing it.

Ah, that old quote again, I remember when I first posted it in a comment regarding this stupid piece of legislation many months ago, I even used it as a sig on a few message boards.. Sad to see she's still an idiot. As for the AGs, you would think that Attorney Generals would know better since I'm pretty sure a big requirement of a Attorney General would be knowledge of law and the constitution, but then again maybe not, it didn't stop Granholm from attempting and signing the Michigan bill into "law".

Okay I'm going to stop there before I go into a rant on how much I dislike that woman.....

Why doesnt this surprise me?

”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.”

How do these people keep getting elected?


SInce this is like the 3rd time i have seen "DECLARE WAR ON INCOMPETENCE"

i think i am going to take up arms and join


Even if this passes, which it won't, how do they plan to enforce it?

I think we should start taking bets on which state will appear next. Just because we can.


I think I've found a new battle cry for xbox live.

But seriously guys, they can't use their own money for this stuff. They need that money to pay for campaign funding. Best use the taxpayers money. And where would this world be if there were crazy things like accountablity and accuracy...? Dangerous thinking. Maybe I should do what millions of other people do and ignore this stuff. If I do it will all go away. Thnx Doug.

violent games were “worthless, disgusting speech”

What's ironic is that he is admitting that video games are free speech. Therefore he is also admitting that his bill restricts free speech which he should know is unconstitutional.

@ Wolf,
my money is on New York, Nebraska and Arizona. I'm too young to gamble over the internet though.

@F***ed up

Why do I feel that the War on Incompetience needs a website where people can rally and learn about what they can do to join the good fight (how to actually get involved by voting, and writing letters, and calling for impeachments, and so forth). It would be a very informative website.


Sadly, I lost all faith of getting rid of her the minute Detroit reelected Kilpatrick.


Yea, for sure the quote of the day.
trums "war on terror" any day.

Seriously, though.
I fail to see how not allowing minors to buy violent video games is "unconstitutional". If it is, then we've got a lot of other law on the books to change.

You're not allowed to buy alcohol until you're 21.
You're not allowed to drive a car if you're under a certain age, or buy porn, or vote, or buy smokes.
I mean do you guys really think that 12 year old should be playing gears of war? I, for one do not.
Having said all that, I don't think slapping a fine on the buyer is the way to go about it.... but we do it with cigaretts, and we do it with beer, there is probably some fine attached with buying porn underage, but I've never heard about it. Really, how does a 12 year old get money? from their dead beat parents... It's just sad that law makers feel the need to play parent for all these kids, because their real ones don't/can't/won't do it. But, to be honest, Its obvious that alot of these parents arn't doing their job.... so, we slap a $25 fine on the "buyer" but, lets all realize that the real "buyer" in this case usually is - the parent.
Before the flamage starts,Let me quantify that I think there is a big difference between a 8-12 year old and say a 15-17 year old buying an "M" game. So, perhapse the rating system needs to be changed... I haven't seen one "M" game out there that a 16 year old wasn't "mature" enough for.

Yup I need to get together a website. I hope to have one up sometime soon.

Hey dennis glad to see everything is going well and Hi to a lot of new people i see here now.

when is this ignorance gonna stop with these damn laws already?

i gotta bounce

sadly i only have a few bucks on this card so i'll see you guys later

@R-o-D: Alcohol is a substance - not speech - and has been proven to be harmful.
Porn: Is considered obscene and is therefore not entitled to the same protections.
Voting and driving a car: In theory one should reach some point of maturity first, though you have a case for those, I'd say.

I'm inclined to agree with some of your points and that 12 year olds shouldn't be playing Gears of War. The issue is more how the laws are worded and how inappropriate games are defined. The short version: if the law defines inappropriate games as M-rated, it's giving the ESRB (a private organization) the force of law, which is bad; if they define inappropriate games some other way, such as the Miller test, then the law tends to be an unconstitutionally vague restriction on protected speech and fails the test of strict scrutiny - it'd also have a chilling effect, because stores would be reluctant to carry games that MIGHT get them in trouble and don't know for sure which ones will since the Miller test leaves it up to 'contemporary community standards.'
So, yeah, I'm all for restricting the sale of M-rated games, but there's no good way to go about it.

"Despite the politicking"

You mean Politicking-me-off.

So Hatch got the boot, eh? Guess he can go hang out with David Hogue, I'm sure he's not too busy either.

The state of Minnesota has no right to pass this bill and has no right to fine people for buying Mature rated games. This is a travesty and I hate politicians for this. They have no right to attack violent video games in any way, shape, or form and no right to stop anybody from buying violent video games. The people, that are in favor of this, also call violent video games anti-social. That's not true and I'm tired of people saying that. These games are not anti-social and they don't hurt people and they don't inspire people to hurt people and their arguments piss me off.

There needs to be a new amendment to the Constitution that stops people from attacking violent media. It should never be attacked and these people are jerks. They should go put their heads in the sand because that could make them smarter. When a person is stupid enough to introduce game legislation, anything will make that person smarter. No state should be allowed to introduce game legislation and all forms of game legislation should be banned.


We have one. It is called the 1st amendment.

Pols just tend to ignore it.

@ Brokenscope

There has to be an amendment that states straighforward in black and white with no room for discussion, that violent media can't be attacked through legislation ever. It has to leave no room for legal loopholes, so anti-game activists will have to find something else to do.

There is no legal loophole in the 1st amendment. As with any other amendment it gets ignored when pols find it to be inconvenient.

Also, why does violent media warrant explicit protection more than other types.

Actually that would open up a whole new can of worms. Anyone with actual legal knowledge please make point of correcting me here, but wouldn't that create a loophole in the miller test, I think thats the three prong thingy, making it impossible to declare violent pornography obscene. I may be wrong but doesn't the invalidation of one prong mean the work cannot be considered obscene?

I think.

Someone with better legal knowledge please correct me if I used that wrong, I have a very very very very tiny tiny limited knowledge of law, and most of it is in criminal law.

@ Brokenscope

Violent media deserves more protection because it needs more protection and is being attacked more than any other form of media. I don't think that would open a can of worms.


Actually Daniel that would be sexual media which is attacked more then any other media.

As for Brokenscope's question. It's not that violent media has more protection then any other media it's that sexual media has less protection then any other media. The reason for this is most likely because sexual media, for the most part, is meant for sole propose of causing sexual arousal (i.e. - the arousal to have sex) in the viewer/player/reader/listener/ect (i.e. - (I say "for the most" because sexual media that is not for the sole porpose of causing sexual arousal would not be considered legally obscene as it has serious artisitic, literary, scientific, and/or political merit to it.).
On the other hand, depictions of violent media are not meant for the sole porpose of causing violent arousal (an arousal to commit violence) in the viewer/player/reader/listener/ect. nor is their any proof that they cause an arousal to commit violence in the average (read: not mentally unstable or deranged) individual out there where as sexual media does.

Correcting an error in my previous post:

"nor is their any proof that they cause an arousal to commit violence in the average (read: not mentally unstable or deranged) individual out there where as sexual media does."

Sorry, what i meant to say by that was sexual media causes sexual arousal in the average person, not violence.
Seriously, I really wish we could edit our posts here on Gamepolitics.

Third post. Last Post.

I should also mention that trying to define violence within a law restricting or censoring Free Speech is incredibly vague whereas defining sexual content is, for the most part, relatively easy.

Thanks for clearing that up.


I don't think Brokenscope was talking about Pornagraphy when he mentioned sexual media. I'm guessing he was refering to sexual media as in any media containing any amount of sex, particualy media that contains sex but would not be classified as obscene pornagraphy, and isn't meant for sole purpose of arousal. Which is very true...

Think about it. GTA was controversal as it was, but throw in hot coffee and all of a sudden its a black mark on the industry. And then there's Bully, where JT though he was gonna get a major upset with the revealing of gay kissing. Hell, games can contain tons a gore and maintain an M rating, but the moment you throw in some sexual stuff and you come dangerously to an AO rating. When it comes to our society, we are FAR more harsh when it comes to dealing with anything sexual.

probably should have read all the comments before posting... meh...

I think this "Fine the Buyer" video game law is an insult and silences freedom of speech. And I am glad that Hatch guy is out of office. And they should know that they are just behaving like Hitler who restricts and disrespect free speech.


"I should also mention that trying to define violence within a law restricting or censoring Free Speech is incredibly vague whereas defining sexual content is, for the most part, relatively easy."

Actually, defining violence is quite simple; Knowingly executing a plan to cause physical harm to a living entity. The only problem is that banning this would also ban Citizen Kane, Tom and Jerry, Mario, The Simpsons, and of course, The Bible.

The problem comes in to syphoning out what's made for entertainment and what's made for pure titilation. About the only thing I can think of that could possibly warrant being classified as 'Made for getting off on violence' would be the Faces Of Death videos. Yet with games, due to their interactive elements, it's impossible to tell in advanced whether or not a person will only be interested in the violent elements or if they'll be interested in just playing the game as entertainment.

If there was a game out there that featured gratuitous violence and required absolutely no skill ("Press A to disembowel your paralyzed opponent"), then yes, it could possibly be classified as having no social value. Yet as it is, *all* violent games require at least a base level of skill, which means that theres more to them than mere violence.
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