Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco has approved a law prohibiting the rental sale of violent video and computer games to minors. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced that it will fight the law in federal court.

The law states that sales of video games are prohibited to minors if "the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the video or computer game, taken as a whole, appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence."

The law also affects games that depict violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors and that, "taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."

The law specifies that retailers found guilty of violation of the law will be subject to fines of "not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labour, for not more than one year, or both."

The Entertainment Software Association - the industry trade group that represents computer and video game developers and publishers - have filed suit in the Federal District Court of Baton Rouge, La.

The ESA claims that the new law violates constitutional protections and sends a signal to developers to stay out of Louisiana, less than a year after legislators passed a bill that offers tax credits to such companies who want to set up shop in the state.

The ESA has been successful in overturning similar legislation passed in other courts half a dozen times over the past half decade. At issue when the law comes up for review before federal courts is the First Amendment, which guarantees, among other things, that the government won't do anything to abridge freedom of speech.

While laws on the books protect minors against exposure to pornography, such laws don't extend to portrayals of violent content. Violence is afforded a level of constitutional protection not offered to obscene material.

ESA President Douglas Lowenstein said: "Both parents and industry are working together to ensure that video games are purchased responsibly. The Federal Government has found that parents are involved in game purchases more than eight out of ten times."

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