A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday stopping a Michigan law that bars retailers from selling or renting violent video games to minors from going into effect until a lawsuit filed by the gaming industry is resolved.
The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group representing U.S. computer and video game publishers, filed the suit in September, charging that the law is unconstitutionally vague and limits First Amendment rights. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the law in September, and it was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1.
The lawsuit names Granholm, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy as defendants.
In his order, U.S. District Judge George Steeh said the defendants are not likely to win the case, and that the "loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury."
A Granholm spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday night.
Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, applauded the judge's decision in a statement Wednesday, calling the state's arguments "weak and unpersuasive."
The gaming industry also has sued to block similar laws approved in California and Illinois. Federal courts have previously struck down video game restrictions approved by Washington state, Indianapolis and St. Louis County in Missouri, saying they encroached on the First Amendment.
The state laws were passed after hidden sex scenes were discovered in a popular game, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." Public complaints also spurred a Federal Trade Commission investigation and a new rating for the "San Andreas" game from "M" for mature to "AO" for adults only.
Granholm also has signed bills aimed at keeping adult-rated games with sexually explicit material away from children, but the gaming industry isn't contesting those laws.