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EMA's Andersen Says Oklahoma Video Game Decision Affirms Free Speech

17 Sep, 2007 By: Billy Gil

EMA's Bo Andersen

Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) president Bo Andersen issued a statement saying a Sept. 17 ruling that granted permanent injunction against enforcement of a 2006 Oklahoma video game restriction law was “a ringing affirmation of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression.”

The case, Entertainment Merchants Association v. Henry, challenged a law that would ban the dissemination — even by a parent — to minors of any computer or video game with any depiction of “inappropriate violence,” punishable by fines of up to $1,000. The law was to go into effect Nov. 1, 2006; a preliminary injunction issued Oct. 11, 2006, blocked the law until the most recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cauthron.

EMA and the Entertainment Software Association were plaintiffs in the suit. The resulting judgment found that video games are protected by the First Amendment, that violence in video games cannot be regulated in the same way as obscenity, that insufficient support was supplied to show allowing minors access to violent video games would do harm, that it violated adults' First Amendment rights and that it didn't adequately describe what games would be restricted.

“Judge Cauthron's opinion makes abundantly clear that the Oklahoma legislature overreached in attempting to restrict the distribution of video games containing fantasy violence to minors, in part because there was no evidence that the games are harmful to anyone,” Andersen said in the statement. “The judge also correctly noted that there is no way for an ordinary person to determine which games were covered by the Oklahoma law and which were not.”

Andersen's statement also suggested retailers should choose how to enforce video game ratings, and that next-generation consoles allow for parental control.

The entire opinion is available at www.entmerch.org/EMAvHenry_SJ.pdf.

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