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Florida court refuses to block violent video game release

[JURIST] A judge in Florida refused Friday to block the sale of the controversial video game Bully [game website], ruling that it does not qualify as a "public nuisance" under state law. The suit, brought by long-time video games foe Jack Thompson [Wikipedia profile], named Wal-Mart andGamestop, two video game retailers, and Take-Two Interactive, parent company of publisher Rockstar Games, as defendants. Thompson wanted the court to issue an injunction against the October 17 release date for the game.

The suit was filed last month and was unusual for several reasons. First, the Florida public nuisance laws are most often used to target polluters [BBC News report]. Second, the game itself is actually far less controversial than many activists originally assumed. While Rockstar Games has published the popular Grand Theft Auto series, all rated "M" (for ages 17 and up) by the ESRB [official website], Bully is rated "T" (for ages 13 and up) and unlike GTA, has no guns, no blood, and no deaths. As the truth about the game was revealed, the "Columbine simulator" tag that many activists, including Thompson himself, attached to the game seemed less and less appropriate [AP report].

Judge Ronald Friedman did order Take Two to produce a copy of the as-yet-unreleased game for review [Washington Post report], a partial victory itself for Thompson. An employee from Take Two played the game for the judge in chambers on Thursday afternoon. While not issuing a formal opinion, he said in court [Miami Herald report]: "There’s a lot of violence. A whole lot. Less than we see on television every night. Does that mean I would want my children to view it? No. But does it rise to a point that its a nuisance? The answer is no from what I saw." Thompson then objected, claiming that Friedman didn't see enough of the game, and filed a writ of mandamus [.DOC full text] to the Florida Court of Appeal, along with a motion to compel Take Two to turn over a copy of the game to him. The writ was denied, and the motion to compel production was granted, but only upon the retail release of the game (Thompson sought a copy immediately). Finally, Thompson released a caustic open letter to Judge Friedman [DOC], writing that "The Republicans in the Congress of the United States apparently can’t protect pages, and the Miami-Dade judicial system can’t even protect children, let alone its own reputation. . . You, through judicial arrogance, have hung countless kids out to dry in school that will now be meaner and more dangerous."

The ruling in favor of the video game industry came just a day after a federal judge in Oklahoma granted a preliminary injunction [PDF] against the state's violent video game law, which would have gone into effect November 1. The decision is the latest in the long line of victories for the industry [JURIST news archive] in its battle against such laws. GamePolitics.com has more.

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