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The video game industry is on another legal mission to overturn several new state laws that ban the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. In the last four months, video game industry trade groups have filed lawsuits in three states � California, Michigan and Illinois � seeking to prevent the new laws from going into effect. In the last two years, federal courts have ruled against laws banning violent video games in Washington state, Indianapolis and St. Louis County in Missouri, finding that such measures violate free speech rights. On Oct. 25, a Florida state senator introduced a bill that would ban the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. And on the federal front, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is mobilizing similar legislative efforts to restrict the sale of violent video games. The video game industry believes it will prevail again. “Our strongest legal argument is that every other court that has considered similar attempts to restrict the sale or rental of violent video games has found that this violates the First Amendment,” said attorney Katherine Fallow, a partner at Chicago-based Jenner & Block’s Washington office who is representing the Entertainment Software Association, the lead plaintiff in all three cases. “Video games are played safely by millions every week,” Fallow said. “You can’t say that video [game] makers are trying to incite violence. That’s just not what’s happening. They’re trying to entertain.” The California attorney general’s office declined to comment on the specifics of the suit there, saying: “The AG’s job is to defend state laws, and we will vigorously defend against this legal attack on the [video game] statute,” said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the California attorney general’s office. Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said she could not comment much on the pending litigation in her state, beyond saying: “We need to protect our children and we feel we will prevail.” Michael Kasper of Chicago’s Hinshaw & Culbertson, who is handling the Illinois case, was unavailable for comment. But governors in all three states have publicly denounced the lawsuits, saying that they will fight vigorously to uphold their laws banning the sale or rental of violent games to minors. The California suit, which was filed on Oct. 17, seeks to stop the new law from going into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. The case is Video Software Dealers Assoc. v. Schwarzenegger, C 054188. A judge heard arguments in the Michigan case on Oct. 31, during which plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction. A ruling is pending in Entertainment Software Assoc. v. Granholm, 2:05CV 73634. That law is slated to take effect on Dec. 1. The Illinois law is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2006. The case is Entertainment Software Assoc. v. Blagojevich, 05C4265. Fallow said that three key legal arguments will be made in all three suits: [BULLET] States cannot show that video games are intended to make and cause people to act violently � a requirement set forth in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 394 U.S. 444. [BULLET] States cannot show that video games make people have bad thoughts. “They cannot show that in any of these cases,” Fallow said. [BULLET] State laws are vague. Tresa Baldas is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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