Back in April 2008 there was a rash of shootings in the greater Chicago area, and the local Fox news station (why am I not surprised?) ended up linking those shootings to the Grand Theft Auto IV ads that were plastered across city buses and buildings. This, in turn, caused the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) to take down the ads. In fact, the CTA went so far as to eventually ban all ads for “Mature”-rated video games.
Of course, the ESA didn’t take too kindly to that. They filed suit against the CTA, asserting their First Amendment rights. They challenged the CTA’s prohibition on ads for more mature titles.
To explain further, I’ll take a snipet out of the press release we just got today:
ESA argued that CTA’s Ordinance 008-147, which took effect in January 2009, unfairly targeted the entertainment software industry by prohibiting any advertisement that “markets or identifies a video or computer game rated ‘Mature 17+’ (M) or ‘Adults Only 18+’ (AO).” The ESA further contended the ordinance unconstitutionally “restricts speech in a public forum that is otherwise open to all speakers without a compelling interest for doing so.” In addition, the ESA’s complaint stated that the ordinance impermissibly discriminates on the basis of viewpoint and ignores less restrictive means of achieving the supposed ends of the ordinance.
The ESA also contended that the CTA’s ordinance is unnecessary because game-related marketing is already subject to the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s Advertising Review Council, which strictly regulates computer and video game advertisements that are seen by the general public. The Entertainment Software Rating Board assigns computer and video games ratings and content descriptors, which are both displayed on advertisements for those games.
Needless to say, after going all the way to the United States District Court for Northern Illinois, the court granted the ESA a temporary injunction. Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer stated, after making the initial ruling, “…the advertisements the CTA wishes to ban promote expression that has constitutional value and implicates core First Amendment concerns.”
So, win one for the good guys, right? As stated, this is only a temporary injunction. However, courts have ruled in favor of our First Amendment rights in similar situations before, so I don’t really see this going anywhere. Now the ball is in the CTA’s court – will they continue to pursue this course of action, which will cost taxpayers quite a lot of cash, or will they cut and run when they realize they’re likely facing a lost cause? Only time will tell.