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ESA Argues Before U.S. Supreme Court Against Calif. Video Game Law

2 Nov, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Nov. 2 asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn a California law restricting the sale and rental of violent video games to minors.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 signed legislation (which took effect Jan. 1, 2006) that requires suppliers to label certain videos that qualify, under the terms of the new law, as being too violent to rent or sell to persons under the age of 18. Retailers can be liable for fines or other legal action should they be caught renting or selling these labeled games.

The ESA argued the statute violated freedom-of-speech provisions and constituted a form of censorship. It said there are less restrictive means of ensuring that computer and video games minor play are parent-approved, including the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating system.

Noteworthy to the testimony was the fact the Supreme Court has never been asked to make an exception to the First Amendment on the basis of its violent content. As such, the ESA said the limits of this new category of unprotected expression would be impossible to define, and perhaps lead to further free speech restrictions in movies, television, books, music and even in the reporting of the news.

“The California statute is unnecessary, unconstitutional and would amount to unprecedented censorship of our First Amendment-protected speech,” Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, said in a statement.

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