A U.S. District Court has granted the Entertainment Software Association a preliminary injunction against the Chicago Transit Authority in an ongoing dispute over video game subway and bus ads.
The ESA filed suit against the CTA in July of this year, claiming the CTA's refusal to run ads for M-rated video games violates free speech and "unfairly [targets] the entertainment software industry" -- since the CTA runs ads for similarly-mature content in other entertainment media, like R-rated films.
According to a statement from the ESA, the judge in the case, Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, agreed, stating: "...the advertisements the CTA wishes to ban promote expression that has constitutional value and implicates core First Amendment concerns.”
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
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 official ordinance, prohibiting advertising that "markets or identifies a video or computer game rated 'Mature 17+' (M) or 'Adults Only 18+' (AO)." This preliminary injunction marks a key step toward reversing the ordinance.
"This ruling is a win for Chicago's citizens, the video game industry and, above all, the First Amendment," says ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher.
The case may set a precedent that can help support future free speech litigation for video game advertising. "It is our hope that the CTA sees the futility of pursuing this case further," says Gallagher. "To do so will waste taxpayer money and government resources. Chicago deserves better and we look forward to bringing this matter to an end."