California to Pay Game Companies $950,000 in Legal Fees Over Failed Bill

Remember that bill that California Gov. Arnold “It’s not a tumor” Schwarzenegger and state Congressman Leland Yee pushed through last year? It was the one that said games couldn’t be sold to minors in California — which is already enforced by most every retailer going — and which was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision that ruled it unconstitutional. Brown vs. EMA was the case, and it was the landmark ruling that recognized video games as art.

Now that we’re all back up to speed, we can get to the matter at hand: California has been ordered to reimburse the Entertainment Software Association, which was the plaintiff in the lawsuit to fight the law, for its legal fees for the case. And that figure stacks up to be about $950,000, billed to the California taxpayer. Thanks, Leland Yee and the goddamn Terminator.

Couple postives: first, California negotiated that number down from the originally requested $1.1 million, so that’s good. But in total with reimbursements from another case in 2008 with the same law (which have already been paid), Cali dished out $1.327 in reimbursed legal fees to the ESA. Which means we California taxpayers made some lawyers very happy.

But the other positive is that the ESA is giving some of that money away to California’s youth. The press release the ESA sent out doesn’t say how much or how it’ll work, but it does mention a new “charitable education initiative” to launch this spring, which will “harness young peoples’ natural passion for playing and making video games and connect them to the development of critical 21st Century job skills.”

I’m not going to say that this is totally a PR move to smooth over the ESA’s really rather terrible backpedal maneuver as the SOPA and PIPA bills imploded under massive Internet pressure last week, but… okay, I am going to say that. The ESA looked like jerks after backing two bills that could very seriously hamper free speech rights on the Internet, immediately after it asked gamers to support it in a court battle in which it claimed to be championing free speech rights. Damn right some of that taxpayer money better go to the taxpayers. ESA doesn’t have much good will left in the tank right now.

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