Video Game Group Fights CTA Ad Ban

     CHICAGO (CN) – The Chicago Transit Authority unconstitutionally banned ads for some computer games rated as “mature” or “adults only,” the Entertainment Software Association claims in Federal Court.

     The suit challenges CTA guidelines that prohibit ads for games rated “Mature 17+” or “Adults Only 18+” by the entertainment software industry’s voluntary rating system.
     Previous CTA guidelines allowed prohibited only a few types of ads, such as those depicting sexual acts and graphic violence or ads with false or obscene content.
     The city singled out computer and video game ads for censorship in April 2008 when it removed ads for “Grand Theft Auto IV” after a TV news report questioned the CTA’s allowing M-rated video game after a spate of violent crimes. The ads depicted the characters, game information and the Entertainment Software Rating Board M-rating icon, but did not depict violence or sex.
     Grand Theft Auto IV’s publisher, Take Two Interactive Software, sued the CTA in that case, alleging breach of contract and constitutional violations. The CTA settled and allowed Take Two a replacement ad for the game, but instituted its ban on M- or AO-rated game ads two months later.
     The latest complaint claims the ordinance fails to show a compelling interest for restricting public speech under strict scrutiny, that is not the least speech-restrictive means of serving an interest, and discriminates against the Association’s members on the basis of viewpoint, by banning ads only for certain games.
     The CTA says that it does not want to advertise violent games “which may foster or encourage violent or aggressive behavior,” and that there is no compelling interest in restricting access to violent video games.
     The Association claims that courts have rejected the claim that exposure to video game violence, much less ads for the games, causes youth violence.
     It claims the CTA accepts ads on controversial topics from other media, and singles out video games for disapproval while failing to bar other, similarly rated violent or sexual media.
     The ordinance “was not designed to curb violent behavior,” the Association says, but discriminates against the viewpoint of video games and against the ads for certain games based on the CTA’s view that minors should not play, or even be solicited to play, these games due to their message.
     The Association demands declaratory judgment and an injunction. It is represented by David Sanders with Jenner & Block.

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