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Bills Target Violent Content

6 May, 2002 By: Hive News

The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) has joined a number of other mainstream media associations in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new Ohio censorship statute signed today by Ohio Governor Bob Taft.

The plaintiffs contend the law, which is intended to restrict minors' access to print, video and electronic material depicting violence, glamorizing crime, or including foul language, nudity or sexual content, is unconstitutional because it criminalizes First Amendment protected speech. They also believe the law would encompass a broad spectrum of accepted literature and popular entertainment.

“As we read it, the Ohio law would criminalize the rental or sale to minors of every one of the last 10 winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as many other popular motion pictures,” said Sean Bersell, VSDA's VP, Public Affairs,. “Therefore, VSDA is again compelled to go to court to defend the rights of video retailers to provide their customers with the entertainment of their choice and for parents to decide what is appropriate for their children, free from government interference.”

Joining the VSDA in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton, Ohio, are, among others, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Ohio Newspaper Association.

A similar law passed in Missouri was struck down in 1992 by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, plaintiffs' attorneys said. Even if portions of the law dealing with violence foul language and the glamorization of crime were stricken, its application to the Internet would still be unconstitutional, the suit claims.

In a separate matter, a California lawmaker introduced a bill in Congress last week that would make it a federal crime to sell or rent violent video games to minors.

The Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act of 2002, introduced by Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., would apply to games that feature decapitation, amputation, killing of humans with lethal weapons or through hand-to-hand combat, rape, carjackings, aggravated assault and other violent felonies. Twenty-one other representatives co-sponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Violators of the act would be subject to fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000, plus 90 days in jail for multiple offenses.

“When kids play video games, they assume the identity of the characters in the game, and some of these characters are murderers, thieves, rapists, drug addicts and prostitutes," Baca said in a press release. "Do you really want your kids assuming the role of a mass murderer or a carjacker while you are away at work?"

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