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Judge extends suspension of Louisiana games law

A Louisiana federal judge has extended the temporary injunction against a new law which would prevent the sale of videogames with violent content to minors in the state.

A Louisiana federal judge has extended the temporary injunction against a new law which would prevent the sale of videogames with violent content to minors in the state.

Last month, Judge James Brady ruled that the law should be suspended from coming into effect until the Entertainment Software Association's case against it could be heard.

According to local newspaper the Shreveport Times, the ESA contends that the law violates First Amendment legislation because games feature characters and plotlines, and should therefore be subject to the same rules as books and films.

Proponents of the law argue that the state should protect minors by restricting the sale of games with violent content - just as it restricts the sale of other harmful things such as alcohol, tobacco and pornography.

But according to Judge Brady, "That's not speech" - and while he described the content of some games as "horrible", he questioned whether the First Amendment is relevant to this issue, asking: "Where is violence not protected?"

Assistant attorney General Burton Guidry stated: "This is more than speech. This is truly training for violence. You assume the character of a mass murderer. You go out and kill people as violently as you can because you score more points."

He added that game publishers "cloak themselves in free speech but under that cloak is murder, simulated murder."

ESA lawyer Paul Smith argued that "There is no violence exception in the First Amendment," and that therefore the law is unconstitutional.

"It doesnât even come close to justifying censorship. You canât censor speech because itâs going to lead people to do bad things. Videogames are played every day by millions of people [who] don't go out and commit crimes," he added.

The law is sponsored by Representative Ray Burrell and was drafted with the help of notorious anti-videogames campaigner Jack Thompson. It would allow judges to order games to be removed from sale if they are found to be inappropriate for minors, and anyone caught violating the law could be fined up to US$2000 and receive a maximum 12-month prison sentence.

Judge Brady has said he sees no difference between the Louisiana law and six others which have been ruled unconstitutional. He is set to issue a ruling on whether the law should be enforced later this week.

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Ellie Gibson: Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.