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ESA challenges new game law on violence

A new Illinois bill imposing heavy fines on retailers that sell violent or sexually explicit games to minors has been opposed by several associations in the games industry.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), Video Software Dealers Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association have filed suit to stop the Illinois HB 4023 bill which was signed by Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich on June 25th. The legislation deems that any individuals or retailers who sell mature-themed games to minors will be fined $1,000, also providing separate definitions of "violent" and "sexually explicit" to the ESRB ratings standards already adopted in the U.S.

The ESA states that such a law is a threat to First Amendment rights. "This law will have a chilling effect on free speech," says ESA president Douglas Lowenstein. "It will limit First Amendment rights not only for Illinois residents, but for game developers and publishers, and for retailers who won't know what games can and cannot be sold or rented under this vague new statute." Similar laws to the Illinois bill were rejected in St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Washington State.

The ESA also states that gaming should not be treated any differently from other entertainment media, with the average game buyer and player being adult and only 16% of games sold in 2004 were rated Mature.

This is not the first time videogames have been pulled up for legislation, with the state Senate of North Carolina considering a bill on the subject of violence and most recently, furore over the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Hot Coffee scandal which has also seen more questions raised over the effectiveness of videogame rating standards, leading to a fresh legal action being filed this week.

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