Supreme Court Rejects Violent Videogames Law

BY Andrew Miesner / June 27, 2011

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a proposed California law that was aiming to ban the sale of violent videogames to minors. The law, which was ruled unconstitutional, would have banned the sale or rental of violent videogames to anyone under the age of 18 in California. Anyone who violated the proposed law would have been fined upwards of $1,000.

The Supreme Court voted 7-2 in favor of rejecting the proposed law. Only Justices Breyer and Thomas thought the law was constitutional.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who filed the court’s opinion, said “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.”

Justice Scalia added “Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.”

Justice Thomas defended his position by stating “The majority strikes down, as facially unconstitutional, a state law that prohibits the direct sale or rental of certain video games to minors because the law ‘abridges the freedom of speech.’ But I do not think the First Amendment stretches that far. The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that ‘the freedom of speech,’ as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians.”

Obviously the videogame industry is pleased with this ruling. Vice President and General Counsel of the Entertainment Consumers Association Jennifer Mercurio commented, “We are thrilled by today’s news. We had hoped that we would see this decision, and it’s been a long time coming.”