The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents the interests of video game publishers in the United States, has issued a press release announcing that the state of Minnesota will reimburse the industry to the tune of $65,000.
The figure represents legal fees incurred by the video game industry in its court challenge to Minnesota’s unusual 2006 "fine-the-buyer" law.
As passed by the Minnesota legislature and signed into law by Governor (and potential Republican VP candidate) Tim Pawlenty (left) in 2006, the law would have turned traditional video game legislation on its head by fining underage buyers of M-rated games $25. Virtually all other video game content bills have sought penalties against retailers.
There were some other noteworthy aspects to the Minnesota situation:
U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum, who ruled the law unconstitutional, borrowed his law clerk’s Xbox to check out some violent games while considering his ruling.
Former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch (D), who defended against the industry’s constitutional challenge in its early days, described violent video games in a court filing as "worthless, disgusting speech" and "speech of very low societal value."
Minnesota appealed Judge Rosenbaum’s decision’s to the 8th Circuit Court, but lost. A request for a review by the entire 8th Circuit was also turned down.
The state’s only remaining recourse was the U.S. Supreme Court. Judging from the settlement with the game biz, Minnesota A.G. Lori Swanson has apparently decided not to pursue a Supreme Court decision, but we’ve got a call into Swanson’s office to confirm that.
The ESA originally sought $73,332 in fees in a motion filed in August, 2006. The $65,000 figure indicates that a little bit of negotiating went on.
ESA CEO Michael Gallagher weighed in on the $65,000 payment:
Minnesota’s citizens should be outraged at paying the bill for this flawed plan. Minnesota’s public officials ignored legal precedent and instead pursued a political agenda that ultimately cost taxpayers money. Courts across the United States have ruled consistently that video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of art, such as music and literature…
Politicians need to realize that the key to protecting our children from inappropriate media content is not haphazard legislation, but rather parental education. Video games have a first class ratings system supported by retailers, opinion leaders and parents. It would be a far better use of public funds to help support this system, rather than continue to pursue unconstitutional legislation that works against it.
GP: In a way, it would have been fascinating to see the Supreme Court make a ruling on this issue.