The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the video games industry this morning in a case that called for the ban of violent games to children in the state of California.
In a 7-2 decision, the court stuck down the proposed law, saying video games fall under First Amendment protection.
“Like protected books, plays, and movies, [video games] communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And ‘the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary’ with a new and different communication medium,” said the court.
“This country has no tradition of specially restricting chil- dren’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that ‘interactive’ video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its out- come, is unpersuasive.”
A PDF version of the court’s full decision can be found here.
The proposed law was first signed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It opposed the sale of violent games to minors and could fine retailers up to $1,000 for each violation. A federal appeals court, however, blocked the law before it could pass, deeming it unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme decided in April 2010 to give the law a second look, making its decision this morning.
“This is a historic and complete win for the First Amendment and the creative freedom of artists and storytellers everywhere. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have always known – that free speech protections apply every bit as much to video games as they do to other forms of creative expression like books, movies and music,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, which represents the U.S. computer and video game industry.
“The Court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children.”
“We are thrilled by today’s news,” added Jennifer Mercurio, VP & General Counsel of the Entertainment Consumers Association.
“We had hoped that we would see this decision, and it’s been a long time coming. That being said, there will probably be one or two legislators who attempt to test these new parameters, and the ECA will continue to fight for the rights of entertainment consumers.”