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Supreme Court halts California violent games law

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 27 Jun 2011 11:25 User comments (3)

Supreme Court halts California violent games law Supreme Court sides with rulings of District Court and Appeals Court. Video games are protected speech under the First Amendment to the Unites States Constitution.
In a case that stretches back almost six years (See: Schwarzenegger signs video games restrictions), California state law that bans the sale or rental of "violent video games" to minors, and affixes age rating labels (separate from those already affixed by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board) have been dealt a final fatal blow by the United States Supreme Court.

In a 7-2 decision, the court upheld rulings of a Federal District Court (see: Link) and subsequent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that found the law to conflict with the First Amendment to the United States constitution. The ruling represents the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the protection of content in video games.

The legislation was authored by California State Senator, Leland Yee (though he was part of the State Assembly at the time before being elected to his current position in 2006), who gained a Ph.D in Child Psychology from the University of Hawaii. The legislation was signed into law by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, on October 7, 2005.

Back in 2005, the jury was still very much "out" on the short-, or long-term effects of violent video games on regular players who are minors. Simply put, the scientific data is far from conclusive and the opinions of numerous studies find results that lean toward it being harmful, and also harmless.

Now in 2011, with the benefit of an additional six years since the California law passed, the question is still considered unanswered. However, Lee's 2005 legislation asserted negative effects on minors as being factual. Here is an extract from the law itself.

SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
  • (a) Exposing minors to depictions of violence in video games, including sexual and heinous violence, makes those minors more likely to experience feelings of aggression, to experience a reduction of activity in the frontal lobes of the brain, and to exhibit violent antisocial or aggressive behavior.
  • (b) Even minors who do not commit acts of violence suffer psychological harm from prolonged exposure to violent video games.
  • (c) The state has a compelling interest in preventing violent, aggressive, and antisocial behavior, and in preventing psychological or neurological harm to minors who play violent video games.

The law outlawed the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, defining violent video games as, "a video game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being."

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) had fought the state of California since the law was signed by Schwarzenegger (filing legal paperwork just ten days later). The trade groups argued that video games should be afforded the same protections that apply to books and films under the First Amendment to the United States constitution.

Justice Anton Scalia delivered the opinion of the court, siding with the lower court decision and confirming the protection of video games under the First Amendment. Only Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Stephen G. Breyer filed dissenting opinions of the nine members of the Roberts Court.

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3 user comments

127.6.2011 15:42

that found the legislation to conflict with the First Amendment to the United States constitution.

The constitution is alive? Who would have guessed?

OS: Kubuntu 12.10/Windows 8 -- CPU: Intel Core i7 2600K -- Motherboard: MSI P67A-G45 -- Memory: 2x4GB Corsair Dominator -- Graphics Card: Sapphire 4890 Vapor-X -- Monitor: Dell 2208WFP -- Mouse: Mionix NAOS 5000 -- PSU: Corsair 520HX -- Case: Thermaltake Mozart TX -- Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Black Ultra-120 eXtreme CPU Heatsink Rev C -- Hard Drives: 1x180 GB Intel 330 SSD/1xWD 1 TB Caviar Black/1xWD 2 TB Caviar Green/2xWD 3 TB Caviar Green

227.6.2011 15:50

Good decision by the court.

328.6.2011 3:02

personally i think the movies terminator 1 and 2 are more violent and gruesome than videogames.maybe they should look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies and consider banning them.

custom built gaming pc from early 2010,ps2 with 15 games all original,ps3 500gbs with 5 games all original,yamaha amp and 5.1channel surround sound speakers,46inch sony lcd smart tv.

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