U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law, which was set to take effect from July 27 and would have imposed a $500 fine on anyone who sold a video game depicting violence against “law enforcement officers” to minors under age 17.
“Plaintiffs have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of House Bill 1009 and the balance of hardships tips in their favor,” Lasnik wrote in his order from the court in Seattle.
In a statement, Doug Lowenstein, president of plaintiff the Interactive Digital Software Association, praised the judge’s finding that games are a form of protected speech like music and movies.
“In so doing, the Court made clear the very high burden that governments face when they try to regulate such protected speech,” Lowenstein said.
Washington state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, the Democrat who wrote the law, had said recently that any injunction would only be preliminary and that she expected the case to go to trial.
“It has very little bearing on the final outcome of the case,” Dickerson said.
A federal appellate court in St. Louis recently struck down a St. Louis County law that would have fined retailers who sold or rented violent video games to minors. In that case, in which the IDSA was also a plaintiff, the court held that games were protected speech under the Constitution.
The Washington law was criticized from the start by game industry groups who said it was too vague and unconstitutionally restricted the free expression of game publishers. A bill is also pending in the US House of Representatives that would make it a federal crime to sell or rent violent games to minors. Industry executives have said they thought the bill had no chance of passing.