ESA Sues Chicago Transit Authority Over Videogame Ads


The Entertainment Software Association has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority, saying its ban on ads for M-rated videogames is a violation of the First Amendment.

Trouble began in April of 2008 when the CTA pulled Grand Theft Auto IV ads from its buses and buildings following a Fox News report that attempted to connect the advertisements to a weekend of particularly bad crime in the city. GTA publisher Take-Two sued in response, eventually forcing the return of the ads; presumably to avoid similar trouble in the future, the CTA enacted new regulations in January that forbids advertisements of M (Mature) and AO (Adult Only) rated videogames.

Bad move, as it turns out: Instead of defusing the issue, the CTA has just made things worse. Because the restrictions apply only to videogames, the ESA claims the game industry is being unfairly targeted and has thus filed a lawsuit against the Transit Authority. “The CTA’s ordinance constitutes a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the entertainment software industry,” ESA Chief Executive Michael Gallagher said in a statement.

“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,” he continued. “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.”

Under the terms of the CTA regulations, the lawsuit notes, advertising for the South Park videogame, which was rated M for “comic mischief” and “strong language,” would be banned, but ads for the R-rated South Park movie and TV-MA rated South Park television show would be allowed. Furthermore, the ESA said, the restrictions not only violate the First Amendment but are also unnecessary because the ESRB’s Advertising Review Council already places strict controls on videogame advertisements.

The ESA is asking the court to declare the that Transit Authority’s videogame ordinance “is void and of no force and effect,” and is also seeking legal fees and other costs. A full copy of the ESA’s lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority is available in PDF format. (via GamePolitics)

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