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Judge holds up Washington vidgame law

$500 fine on sellers of anti-cop games to minors halted

A federal judge has blocked enforcement of a new Washington state law that would ban the sale to minors of vidgames depicting violence against law enforcement officers.

State legislators approved the law earlier this year, and it was to take effect later this month, but trade groups repping the vidgame and video retailer industries filed suit almost immediately on constitutional grounds. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik issued an injunction preventing the law from taking effect.

“Plaintiffs have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of House Bill 1009, and the balance of hardships tips in their favor,” Lasnik wrote.

The law would have imposed a $500 fine on sellers of anti-cop vidgames to children under 17.

Decision was the latest in a series of rulings that have treated videogames as constitutionally protected speech, similar to books, movies and music.

“The court made very clear the very high burden governments face when they try to regulate such protected speech,” said Doug Lowenstein, who heads plaintiff vidgame trade group the Interactive Digital Software Assn.

Video Software Dealers Assn. prexy Bo Andersen said the better course was to continue educating parents on the vidgame industry’s rating system and ensure they know what they or their children are buying. The Washington law, Andersen said, took the wrong approach.

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