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IDSA, IGDA Join Washington Retailers To Fight New Videogame Legislation

The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) and International Game Developers Association (IGDA) joined leading retail and game development groups in filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Seattle,
challenging the constitutionality of a recently enacted Washington state statute that seeks to ban the sale to minors of certain video games. The Videogame Violence Bill, as it is called, is scheduled to go into effect starting July 27. Under its provisions, retail employees in Washington would be fined $500 if they sold games that depicted the killing of a police officer to anyone under 17. The suit argues that the Washington statute is a content-based restriction on the dissemination of fully protected expression. The lawsuit also claims that the legislation's guidelines are unclear -- that depictions of violence to "public law enforcement officer(s)" is not adequately defined and could lead to enforcement problems. "Does it cover plain clothes police, does it cover corrupt police, does it cover a Gestapo agent, a futuristic policeman, or even a game where police cars crash when players throw bananas at them? The law's definitions and terms are unconstitutionally vague, making it impossible for developers and publishers to know what depictions will run afoul of it, and for retailers to know what games they can and cannot sell," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the IDSA. The IDSA and IGDA joined the lawsuit with co-plaintiffs the Washington Retail Association, the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA), the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and Hollywood Video. "Game developers take their creative responsibilities very seriously," stated Jason Della Rocca, program director of the IGDA. "As video games emerge as the art form of the 21st century, developers need the freedom to explore and express all aspects of the human condition. Having state-enforced regulation would stifle creativity -- and consumer choice -- to a point that would simply not be accepted in other forms of art and entertainment." "While we share the state's objective to restrict the ability of children to purchase games that might not be appropriate for them, we passionately oppose efforts to achieve this goal by running roughshod over the constitutional rights of video game publishers, developers and retailers to make and sell games that depict images some find objectionable," said Lowenstein. "We believe a combination of voluntary enforcement at retail and consumer education about video game ratings is vastly preferable."

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