Alex Goldman is a producer for On the Media. One time he got run over by a car.
Supreme Court Strikes Down California Violent Video Game Law
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 12:30 PM
This week, we're rebroadcasting our special hour on video games. In celebration of the occasion, the Supreme Court (huge OTM fans), struck down a California law that would have levied a $1,000 fine to against retailers who sold violent games to minors on Monday.
"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," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the court's opinion in Brown v. The Entertainment Merchants Association. "The basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary' with a new and different communication medium.
"California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence," Justice Scalia wrote, "but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed."
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion that stated the existing California statute was simply too broad as currently written, skirting the First Amendment argument altogether. Dissenting Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer both wrote their own dissenting opinions. Stephen Totilo of the video game blog Kotaku has posted a concise summary of the key points of each of the opinions.
Bo Anderson, CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association, said in a press release on their website "We are gratified that our position that the law violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression has been vindicated and there now can be no argument whether video games are entitled to the same protection as books, movies, music, and other expressive entertainment." Other video game trade associations have made similar statements in support of the ruling.
Leland Yee, the California state Senator that authored the law, also posted a response to the ruling on his website, saying "As a result of [the Supreme Court's] decision, Wal-Mart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids’ mental health and the safety of our community. It is simply wrong that the video game industry can be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children."