Violent Video Game Law Gets Supreme Court Hearing
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider reviving a California law prohibiting sales of violent video games to minors, agreeing to review a ruling that the ban is an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.
The nation’s highest court today accepted an appeal by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown. They argue that violent games are akin to sexual materials, which the government can restrict to protect children.
“We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra- violent actions, just as we already do with movies,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
Two industry trade groups, the Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Association, challenged the law and urged the Supreme Court not to hear the California appeal. Members of the two groups include Electronic Arts Inc., Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp. and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., the maker of “Grand Theft Auto” games.
“EMA obviously would have preferred that the Supreme Court decline review,” said Bo Andersen, the trade group’s president. “We are confident, however, that when the Supreme Court conducts its review, it will conclude that the lower court correctly analyzed the law and reached the appropriate conclusion.”
Not Enough Evidence
A San Francisco-based federal appeals court said the state hadn’t produced enough evidence that violent games cause physical and psychological harm to minors. The ruling upheld the decision of a federal trial judge.
Originally meant to take effect in 2006, the California law would require violent video games to be labeled, and it banned their sale or rental to anyone under 18.
The justices deferred taking action on the state’s appeal for seven months, while they considered a First Amendment clash over a federal law aimed at depictions of animal cruelty. The court struck down that law in an 8-1 ruling last week.
Eight other jurisdictions, including six states, have passed laws restricting sales of violent video games, according to Sean Bersell, a spokesman for the Entertainment Merchants Association. All have been struck down in court, he said.
The California case will be decided in the court’s next term, which begins in October.
The case is Schwarzenegger v. Video Software Dealers, 08- 1448.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at email@example.com.