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Supreme Court Decides Video Games Case

by Matthew Kato on Jun 27, 2011 at 04:20 AM

The Supreme Court has finally ruled on the constitutionality of the California law (Brown v. EMA) that would have banned the sale of violent video games to minors.

The court struck down the law 7-2 using the First Amendment as the reasoning. Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion, with Justices Thomas and Breyer in dissent.

"The act does not comport with the First Amendment," opens the opinion's syllabus. "Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they 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."

In 2005, the state of California passed a law that banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18, and required a warning sticker on the package beyond the normal ESRB rating. The law stipulated a maximum fine of $1,000 for each infraction. Then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law. The case previously bore his name because he represented the state of California, which is why current governor Jerry Brown's name is now on the case.

Proponents of the law claim that violent video games can be harmful to minors and should be specially treated as such, while opponents rally under the First Amendment banner and that the ESRB's ratings are sufficient.

What's next? Nothing for this particular law says Tom Goldstein, publisher of the court analysis SCOTUS blog. "For those waiting on the video games case, if your side loses, you cannot just hit restart, respawn, and try again."

Still, that doesn't mean that other states could try and pass similar, but differently worded laws to try and re-state their case. However, by the Supreme Court ruling on it, it wouldn't seem to give future laws a lot of wiggle room.

We'll have more info and analysis as we get it, so stay tuned!

To read the full opinions, head over to the Supreme Court's webpage (check on the right-hand site).