Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Minnesota Court Filing Shows Issues in Video Game Law Appeal

Yesterday, GamePolitics reported on Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch's plans to appeal a July federal court decision which ruled that the state's "fine the buyer" video game law was unconstitutional.

Hatch, of course, riled gamers earlier in June with language in a court filing which described some games as "worthless, disgusting speech" and "speech of very low societal value."

Hatch, a Democrat, also happens to be running for Governor and faces an uphill battle against incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty, who signed the bill into law, thus triggering the legal battle with the video game industry.

In overturning the Minnesota law, Federal Judge James Rosenbaum issued a stinging rebuke to Hatch, writing, ""The First Amendment... was certainly established to keep the government from becoming the arbiter of what constitutes 'worthless' or 'disgusting' speech. The Court declines the State's invitation to enter into an evaluation of this kind."
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Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Minnesota to Appeal Court Ruling in Video Game Case

According to the Associated Press, Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch plans to appeal last month's federal court ruling that the state's "fine the buyer" video game law is unconstitutional.

"If the parents aren't troubled by their kids playing these games, they can buy them for their children," the Attorney General said.

Hatch is running for governor in November.

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Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Sunday Editorial Roundup: Bye-bye to a "Blow-dried" Politician

Our first stop on today's journey through game-related editorials takes us to Oklahoma, where Oklahoma political blog Red State offers high-fives over the recent Congressional primary defeat of Republican Fred Morgan (left), author of the Sooner State's contested video game law:

"Gone is Fred Morgan, blow-dried blow-hard of negative campaigning and irrelevance whose lifetime goal of banning violent video games is unconstitutional..."

Next we turn to the halls of academia, where an op-ed in the University of Georgia's Red and Black declares "America is under attack..."

But author Blake Miller offers no terror warnings. Instead, he disses political correctness and advocates a "hands-off" view of censorship, including video games:
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Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Will Big MN Win Help in Louisiana? Game Industry Lawyers Hope So

In the wake of the video game industry's resounding legal victory in Minnesota, industry lawyers are seeking to file a copy of Judge James Rosenbaum's decision with the Federal District Court considering Louisiana's video game law.

On Tuesday, attorneys representing the ESA and EMA filed a motion with Judge James Brady, hoping to introduce the Minnesota decision into the record.

As of yet, Judge Brady has not ruled on the video game industry's request.

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Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Despite Judicial Rebuke, MN Bill Sponsor Wants to Try Again

Even though a Federal District Court judge trashed Minnesota's video game law in a sharply-worded ruling yesterday, one of the sponsors of the legislation is ready to try again.

As reported by the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, State Sen. Sandy Pappas (D, seen at left) may propose new video game legislation in next year's session.

"The whole ruling defied common sense. I am so disappointed," she told the Pioneer-Press.

"The federal court said we don't have a right to protect our children, but we protect our children from other things. We don't let them smoke or buy liquor. You score points (in video games) for how many women you rape, how many cops you kill. How could that not affect them psychologically?"

GP: The ruling by Judge James Rosenbaum said nothing of the sort. Sen. Pappas is clearly politicking here. And by the way, we'd like to know where she gets her information about games. Is there a game that awards points for raping women? If so, GP hasn't seen it...
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Monday, July 31st, 2006

Minnesota Game Law Tossed By Judge

It seems that gamers weren't the only ones troubled by Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch's rather bizarre take on violent video games, which he referred to as "worthless, disgusting speech" and "speech of low societal value."

Federal District Court Judge James Rosenbaum today issued a permanent injunction against Minnesota's "fine the buyer" law. The unusual statute turned traditional video game legislation on end by levying $25 fines against underage buyers of M- and AO-rated games.

As reported by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, Judge Rosenbaum ruled that Minnesota failed to prove any harm to kids caused by violent games. The Judge also ruled that the law violated the First Amendment, writing:

"The First Amendment . . . was certainly established to keep the government from becoming the arbiter of what constitutes 'worthless' or 'disgusting' speech. The Court declines the State's invitation to enter into an evaluation of this kind."
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Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Editorial Roundup: Writers Weigh in on Minnesota A.G.'s Game Slams

For today's editorial roundup we turn to a pair of articles inspired by GamePolitics' exclusive revelation of Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch's reactionary statements about video games.

Writing for the Globe and Mail, Scott Colbourne said:

"Nothing makes me happier to be Canadian than a sustained dose of U.S. politics. Somewhere along the line... the practice of throwing out enormous falsehoods to begin a debate became standard operating procedure...

Each month seems to bring new laws... often quickly overturned by courts because they contravene the U.S. Constitution's free-speech clause. Minnesota is one of the latest jurisdictions to go down this path..."

"As usual, there are no titles - or any factual substantiation - to go along with (Hatch's) list of virtual horrors. And I have seen the same list, almost word for word, repeated time and again. I can only assume there is a memo of talking points making the rounds."

"It is true that a portion of video games... do trade in violence... It can be disturbing and it should be taken seriously, but that brand of scare tactic - slaughtering babies? rape? - does not invite thoughtful conversation. In fact, it begins the debate at such a remove from the actual issues in play that most sensible people, gamers or not, will be turned off."
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Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Minnesota A.G. Admits Games are Speech ...Vile, Disgusting Speech

Even though he is currently embroiled in a First Amendment battle with the video game industry, Minnesota's Attorney General Mike Hatch - unlike some other high profile critics we could mention - is a big enough man to admit that games are speech. Just one problem, though - he finds them to be a "worthless, disgusting" variety of speech.

Hatch filed a memorandum earlier this week with the Federal District Court in Minneapolis, There, the video game industry is seeking to have Minnesota's "fine the buyer" law overturned on constitutional grounds. In his memorandum, Attorney General Hatch is unsparing in expressing his revulsion toward violent video games. Hatch's wording is so over-the-top, in fact, that you can almost hear him retching in the background. Check out this purple prose:

"In balancing the applicable interests in this case, the court should err on the side of protecting minors rather than protecting their limited right of access to such low value speech..."

"...the Court here must ultimately balance the State's compelling interests in protecting the psychological well-being and ethical and moral development of minors against the limited First Amendment right of minors to access speech of very low societal value..."

"...there may be few, if any, other forms of speech, even though protected, that are of any lesser societal value than repulsive video games depicting the bloody slaughter of babies and animals, urination and defecation, rape, decapitation, dismemberment and disembowlment."

"...the Court should consider and weigh the societal value of the worthless, disgusting speech at issue..."

After reading Hatch's memorandum I feel so... unclean. I also confess that, even though I have written about games for more than a decade and played them for longer, I am at a loss to understand some of his points. Slaughter of babies and animals? Defecation? Rape? When? Where?

Download Attorney General Hatch's memorandum here.

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Sunday, July 16th, 2006

Sunday Editorial Roundup: Hillary's Other Bill & Minnesota Fine-the-Buyer Law

This Sunday's editorial roundup focuses on legislative happenings in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

In the Gopher State, the video game industry has filed suit to block implementation of a new state law that would fine underage game buyers $25. On Capitol Hill, the Senate is considering Hillary Clinton's Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA).

Let's start with the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, where columnist John Reinan writes, "The Legislature wanted to protect Minnesota kids from violent, sex-filled video games. So it went after the kids... Even the law's chief sponsor thinks it won't be enforced. But... the game business fought back with the fury of a mutant zombie in Resident Evil... Video games are as much a part of today's childhood as hi-fis and comic books were in previous generations, and it's doubtful that kids are being warped by them, said several metro teens."

The Mankato Free Press was critical of the Minnesota statute, saying "The law is almost certain to be overturned. It should be... Game makers and retailers... argue the law is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech and that video games are as much an artistic expression as film, music and literature. It's a good argument, and one that is presiding in court cases across the country.
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Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

Judge Fires Up the Xbox in Minnesota Video Game Court Case

There's no word on how well Federal District Court Judge James Rosenbaum did at Jade Empire or whether he preferred Full Spectrum Warrior to Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3.

Nonetheless, GamePolitics finds it noteworthy that Judge Rosenbaum, hearing arguments in the video game industry's constitutional battle against Minnesota's "fine the buyer" video game law, took the time and trouble to have one of his clerks bring an Xbox into chambers for a little hands-on jurisprudence.
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