Since the UIGEA came into effect in 2006, a number of politicians, pressure groups and trade organizations have been fighting to see it overturned. None more so than the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) who have been engaged in a long running court battle against the U.S. government since mid 2007. Most recently, the Department of Justice have submitted a 24-page brief outlining their response to iMEGA’s arguments and contesting their legal standing on the issue.
The case began in June 2007 when iMEGA filed a suit against the United States Attorney General, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission. Their aim was to force the enactment of a temporary restraining order, which would stop the government enforcing the UIGEA. As an attempt to prove the invalidity of the bill they argued, among other things, that it contravened the rights of privacy and protected commercial speech. They also pointed out that implementing the UIGEA interfered with the free trade of other nations, contravening treaties agreed with the World Trade Organization.
The government produced a retort, claiming that iMEGA lacked the legal standing to bring the case to court in the first place – as well as rubbishing the entire list of iMEGA’s complaints. The decision was left to District Judge Mary Cooper, who ruled almost completely in favor of the government, except on the issue of legal standing. She considered that iMEGA did have legal standing on the issue, presenting the window of opportunity required to appeal the verdict.
Abandoning many of its original arguments, iMEGA constructed an appeal brief that focused in on three main claims. Most importantly, they wished to show that UIGEA was “unconstitutionally vague”, in the that does not clarify key terms important to the implementation of the bill – including the hot-button “illegal Internet gambling” reference. It also defended its claim that it has the legal standing to represent the private citizen, and not just the businesses which are its members. Finally it claimed that there was, as had been disputed, a breach of the rights of those private citizens – specifically a breach of the First Amendment.
In the latest development, the Department of Justice has released its own brief in the appeal case, arguing against iMEGA’s latest claims. Key to their defense is that the issue of vagueness was not explicitly raised in the initial hearing, and so cannot be added to the debate at this stage. It also continued to contest the claim that iMEGA has standing to represent private citizens, as well as the claim that any rights of those citizens are breached by the UIGEA.
iMEGA now have until November 14th to submit a final brief, countering the claims made by the government, after which a panel of three judges will decide on a date for oral arguments to be heard. This date, after which a final decision will be reached, will almost certainly not be until 2009.