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U.S. District Court Issues Injunction Against Chicago Transit Authority
Posted by Christophor Rick,

3 days ago Jan 9, 2010 05:58

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) had banned advertisements for certain computer and video games on its trains, buses, and stations based on violence (M and AO rated games). Now, thanks to the U.S. District Court injunction, the CTA must stop enforcing its ban until the case is finally resolved.

The case has been going on since July when the Entertainment Software Association filed suit against the CTA over their banning of said ads. The CTA said that the games have no business near their customers. Now that’s about the most laughable excuse I’ve ever heard. Video games and gamers are everywhere, does the CTA truly believe that they have no gamers that right their system? Perhaps we all just steal cars instead? I’m sure whoever made that statement will probably lose their job over it because it’s ridiculous and if they don’t, they should.

The honorable Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, cited the constitution and stated that video games are constitutionally protected forms of free speech (citing a precedent from a prior case):

A preliminary injunction is intended to prevent irreparable injury so as to preserve the court’s ability to render a meaningful judgment on the merits. To win a preliminary injunction a party must show that it has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, lacks an adequate remedy at law, and will suffer irreparable harm.

She believes that it would have been a loss of First Amendment rights on the part of the video game companies and that money would not be enough reparation for that. She also said:

Specifically, Plaintiff is likely to succeed in establishing that the CTA advertising system retains its character as a public forum for expression and that the CTA’s ordinance will not survive strict scrutiny.  The court also finds that Plaintiff is likely to prevail, even under the intermediate standards applied to restrictions on commercial speech, and that the balance of equities and the public interest favors the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

It’s a very lengthy court document, but I think I found the meat of it in this paragraph:

There also seems to be an imperfect fit between the CTA’s stated interest in restricting expression that indirectly encourages violence and the actual impact of Ordinance 008-147.  In one sense, the ordinance is too broad, and in another it is too narrow.  It is too broad because, according to the ESRB, video games may be rated “mature” or “adult only” for a variety of reasons.  For instance, a mature-rated video game may earn its rating for containing “mature themes” or “strong language” even if it contains no violence at all.  The CTA does not dispute that, though many mature-rated video games contain violence, some at least do not.  The CTA’s reliance on the ESRB rating system as the measure of what may be advertised, then, appears to sweep too broadly for the CTA’s stated interest.  Because it captures at least some advertisements for games that have no violent content at all, the ordinance is overbroad and not narrowly tailored. 

What does it mean? It means that the CTA will probably lose this round. But it also means that they could further refine the Ordinance in question (008-147) to eventually pass the scrutiny of the court system. However, it is certainly a win for the industry in the state that once tried to ban the sale of mature games to children by passing a law which was later struck down as unconstitutional as it infringed upon the Constitutional rights of children. In this case it looks like the CTA will have to allow the advertisements until a future time when they find a better way to decide or go to court again over it.

GDN of course does not believe that children should be allowed to play many M or AO games based on their content. However, we also do not believe that the government should be making the choice in the matter and that it is the responsibility of the parent and child to decide and the retailer to be aware of who they are selling these games to. Every person is different and many will not be negatively affected by the content of these games. Those that are should simply not play them.

The whole court document:

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