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ESA Sues Chicago Transit Authority Over M-Rated Game Ad Ban

The Chicago Transit Authority won't run ads for M-rated video games on its bus billboards and station posters -- and today, the Entertainment Software Association filed suit, claiming the prohibition violates free speech.
The Chicago Transit Authority won't run ads for M-rated video games on its bus billboards and station posters. Today, the Entertainment Software Association filed suit, claiming the prohibition violates free speech. As the CTA runs advertisements for similarly-mature content in other entertainment media, like R-rated films, the ESA claims its ordinance against video game ads "unfairly [targets] the entertainment software industry." "The CTA’s ordinance constitutes a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the entertainment software industry," says ESA CEO Michael Gallagher. "Courts across the United States, including those in the CTA’s own backyard, have ruled consistently that video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of entertainment," Gallagher's statement continues. "The CTA appears unwilling to recognize this established fact, and has shown a remarkable ignorance of the dynamism, creativity and expressive nature of computer and video games." Last year, a particularly high-crime weekend in Chicago coincided with an advertising campaign for Grand Theft Auto IV. When speculative news reports correlated the timing of the violence with the launch of the video game, the CTA pulled the GTA ads. This prompted a lawsuit from Take-Two, and the ads returned to bus stations for a brief period late in 2008 as part of the publisher's settlement with the CTA. But in January of this year, the CTA passed an ordinance official,prohibiting advertising that "markets or identifies a video or computer game rated 'Mature 17+' (M) or 'Adults Only 18+' (AO)." The ESA alleges the ordinance is unconstitutional, as it "restricts speech in a public forum that is otherwise open to all speakers without a compelling interest for doing so." It also claims the CTA "impermissibly discriminates on the basis of viewpoint and ignores less restrictive means of achieving the supposed ends of the ordinance." Says Gallagher, "The ESA will not sit idly by when the creative freedoms of our industry are threatened."

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