The video game industry on Monday vowed to challenge California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in court to fight a new law banning the sale of violent video games to children.
The trade group Entertainment Software Association “intends to file a lawsuit to strike this law down and we are confident that we will prevail,” President Douglas Lowenstein said in a statement on Monday.
Schwarzenegger signed the California measure into law last week, but it faces an uncertain fate. Federal courts have ruled against similar legislation in Washington state, the city of Indianapolis and St. Louis County in Missouri, finding the laws violated free speech guarantees in the U.S. Constitution.
“The certainly of a constitutional challenge makes this a hollow gesture,” Jeff Brown, spokesman for Electronic Arts Inc., the world’s biggest video game company, said of Schwarzenegger’s move.
The legislation bars the sale and rental to minors of games that show such things as as the killing, maiming or sexual assault of a character depicted as human, and which are determined to be especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. Violators are subject to a $1,000 fine.
Passed by the California legislature last month, and due to take effect on Jan. 1, the new measure follows heated national debate after game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. pulled its blockbuster game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” from retail shelves this summer because of hidden sex scenes. A new version of the game, minus the disabled content that started the flap, is back on store shelves.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has starred in many violent movies, such as “The Terminator,” “Conan the Barbarian,” and “Collateral Damage.” He said he signed the bill to keep the games out of the wrong hands.
Several other states, including Illinois and Michigan, have passed similar laws, prompting legal fights with the $10 billion U.S. video game industry. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton is leading a similar crusade on the federal front.
The Entertainment Software Association has launched legal challenges in Illinois and Michigan and plans to file its lawsuit in California in the next week or two, a spokesman for the industry group said.
Electronic Arts’ Brown said several courts have affirmed that games enjoy the same constitutional protections as movies, books and television.
“I expect they will come to the same conclusion in California,” Brown said.