U.S. Supreme Court: 1st Amendment Protects Videogames

posted on by Andrew Osmond
Court decides on California law in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that videogames qualify for First Amendment protection in the case over a California law which would have banned the sale of violent videogames to minors. On a 7-2 vote, the court upheld the rejection of the law by earlier, lower court rulings in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

According to the ruling, the California law violated the First Amendment's protection of free speech. The majority wrote that "[l]ike protected books, plays, and movies, [videogames] 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."

The ruling continued, "The State [of California] wishes to create a wholly new category of content-based regulation that is permissible only for speech directed at children. That is unprecedented and mistaken. This country has no tradition of specially restricting children's access to depictions of violence. And California's claim that 'interactive' videogames present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome, is unpersuasive."

California State Senator Leland Yee introduced Assembly Bill 1179 in 2005, and then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law that same year. (The Supreme Court ruling carries the name of the current Governor of California, Jerry Brown.)

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