Supreme Court Agrees to Review California Game Law

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

Supreme Court Agrees to Review California Game Law

image

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided to review a controversial California law which would restrict the sale of videogames to minors, a case which could go a long way toward deciding whether videogames are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other creative works.

In 2005, the state of California enacted a law, sponsored by noted videogame critic Leland Yee, that would impose fines on retailers who sell violent games to minors. The Entertainment Software Association challenged the law on constitutional grounds and won, forcing it to be overturned and squeezing more than $280,000 in legal fees out of the state in the process. But California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - yes, that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who turned cartoon violence into an art form in movies like Commando, Predator and Total Recall, to name but a few - declared that in spite of the numerous precedents set by previous cases, the state would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court announced today that it would review the law and determine once and for all whether it violates the constitution. The decision will have wide-ranging implications: A ruling against California will essentially cement the First Amendment rights of videogames, whereas a decision in favor throws the door open to future restrictions and similar laws in other states.

"Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional. Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music," Entertainment Software Association President Michael Gallagher said in a statement.

"As the Court recognized last week in the U.S. v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few 'historic and traditional categories' that are 'well-defined and narrowly limited'," he continued. "We are hopeful that the Court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."

In the Stevens case, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal law criminalizing the creation, sale or possession of "certain depictions of animal cruelty" was "substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment." The Court noted that "the First Amendment's free speech guarantee does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits," a position which would seem to have as much relevance to videogames as it does to dogfighting videos.

"A poll recently conducted by KRC Research found that 78 percent believe video games should be afforded First Amendment protection," Gallagher said. "We look forward to presenting our arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States and vigorously defending the works of our industry's creators, storytellers and innovators."

Permalink

Well, its nice to see the people arte the top thinking down to what people want and are doing.

Although not a citizen of the states, I am sure this could be a positive step for all

I AM THAH GOVENATOR, GET IN THAH CHOPAH!!!!!

Sorry.

Hopefully the supreme court will see things our way. Games deserve the same constitutional protection as other forms of media.

Umm...
I really hope the lawyer defending the first amendment for video games will point out all of the violent movies that Arnold's been in.
Some of them are more violent than most games ever get.
I just hope the supreme court finds video games to be protected by the first ammendment...
like they did before...
(sigh)
The only reason I see why Arnold wanted this appeal in the first place was to draw attention away from all of the money he's stolen from California's education system and transfer that collective hate onto his attempt to stomp on civil liberties.

I really just think this is a way to try and ease the California debt. My keywords was "California" "Fines" and "Sales to minors". Easy picking for a hard up state.

They are not restricting the content of a game, they are just enforcing the number on the front of the box. I know the can of worms will open as soon as the courts deem it legal to restrict kids from buying adult games. Will I buy my kids adult games? Sure, but it is at my discretion.

Also, allowing kids to buy any game they want eliminates the, "The box says 17, why did you buy it for him?", argument. We all know how people love to blame their kids violent actions on adult video games that they were too young to buy in the first place.

I'm personally rather disappointed with Arnie backing this bill given the movies that made him famous.

As far as games deserving First Amendment protection, I feel that goes without saying.

This is an odd situation. On one hand, yes, video games with a mature rating should be kept out of the hands of minors, unless the Parents give the child permission. Same deal with any material that is not appropriate for children. Its totally reasonable to have sales restrictions that facilitate parents having more say over there kids entertainment, and such restrictions only serve to deflate and defeat the arguments of video game critics. And Video Games being a icon for this makes sense, because games are probably a more powerful, expressive medium then any other medium. However, the wording here says that lifting restrictions would make video games have the SAME protections as other works. Well video games certainly should enjoy the same protection. But last time I checked, you need to be accompanied by an adult to see a rated R movie, Pornography isn't sold to minors, and so on and so forth. So what rights are video games denied, compared to other mediums? Is there some sneaky bit of censorship hidden in this law that I don't know about, or are people just automatically on the side that proliferates video games, without addressing the fact that its in gamers, and our cultures, best interests to not encourage 8 year old's to play something like Doom, which is certainly legitimate expression, but not something a child is ready to encounter?

Andy Chalk:
In 2005, the state of California enacted a law, sponsored by noted videogame critic Leland Yee, that would impose fines on retailers who sell violent games to minors.

I actually see no problem with this...if your parents don't have a problem with the ESRB rating then they should buy it for you.

Donnyp:

Andy Chalk:
In 2005, the state of California enacted a law, sponsored by noted videogame critic Leland Yee, that would impose fines on retailers who sell violent games to minors.

I actually see no problem with this...if your parents don't have a problem with the ESRB rating then they should buy it for you.

Yeah really I see no problem with fining people for not respecting the ratings system, the problem is that a lot of these proposed laws seek to put games in the same category as pornography, as "obscene material" and that's where the problems start.

Well, maybe not "once and for all." That's not how the Supreme Court works. Future courts are allowed to overturn previous decisions. But sure, "for once" the Supreme Court will decide this.

AceDiamond:

Donnyp:

Andy Chalk:
In 2005, the state of California enacted a law, sponsored by noted videogame critic Leland Yee, that would impose fines on retailers who sell violent games to minors.

I actually see no problem with this...if your parents don't have a problem with the ESRB rating then they should buy it for you.

Yeah really I see no problem with fining people for not respecting the ratings system, the problem is that a lot of these proposed laws seek to put games in the same category as pornography, as "obscene material" and that's where the problems start.

that shouldn't happen. It should be like Cigarettes. If your under 18 or 21 or whatever the age is wherever you are and it is sold to you then the store should lose its license and you should get a huge fine....i would be able to live with that.

AceDiamond:

Donnyp:

Andy Chalk:
In 2005, the state of California enacted a law, sponsored by noted videogame critic Leland Yee, that would impose fines on retailers who sell violent games to minors.

I actually see no problem with this...if your parents don't have a problem with the ESRB rating then they should buy it for you.

Yeah really I see no problem with fining people for not respecting the ratings system, the problem is that a lot of these proposed laws seek to put games in the same category as pornography, as "obscene material" and that's where the problems start.

yeah everyones slightly sadistic so in my eyes violent videogames help me from bashing the head in of someone who goes to my school

obisean:

Also, allowing kids to buy any game they want eliminates the, "The box says 17, why did you buy it for him?", argument. We all know how people love to blame their kids violent actions on adult video games that they were too young to buy in the first place.

No, there's a difference between allowing the store to do what it sees fit, and forcing stores to sell these games to minors. Stores are still going to restrict sales, just as they have always done.

IMO, the less blanket bans on what we can and can't do, the better.

I can't believe the Governator actually allowed this to pass.

Oh wait, he's a stupid hypocrite. He lets his violent movies go to children, so of course. -_-

I do hope video games do get First amendment rights but I do hope ESRB or the gaming industry makes sure Parents understand the guidelines for the ratings.

Therumancer:
I'm personally rather disappointed with Arnie backing this bill given the movies that made him famous.

As far as games deserving First Amendment protection, I feel that goes without saying.

He's just bitter he's never been in a good game.

I predict that this will have the same outcome that it had for movies years ago.

Which means that the government cannot censor or enforce censorship (except for minors and sexually explicit content), but private companies can submit to voluntary ratings by a private ratings board.

If the Supreme Court ruled that corporate spending is protected speech, then video games had better fucking be the same as well. That's all I've got to say about this.

Xanadu84:
But last time I checked, you need to be accompanied by an adult to see a rated R movie,

The Government has absolutely nothing to do with the enforcement of the age restrictions attributed to movies. That's a decision of the businesses involved, namely the studios, theaters, and the MPAA. If a movie theater wanted to let little children see an R rated movie, then the government really can't do much about it. It is a business choice. They have to balance potential sales versus public condemnation.

In the same vein, any game seller, like Walmart or Gamesop, has the right to refuse sales of M rated games to persons under the age of 18. This is a business choice. Again, sales potential vs public sentiment.

The rating for both movies and games are not controlled by any government entity. Just as they have no voice in the settings of the ratings, they should have no voice in its enforcement.

The rallying cry of "think of the children" is NOT a valid argument against free speech.

Proteus214:
The rallying cry of "think of the children" is NOT a valid argument against free speech.

It's actualy more like "Think of covering our arses effectivly since ignorance is quite high", atleast to me.
Anyway, it's nice there atleast trying. But the thing there gonna realise, even if they put all those restrictions to stop people from freaking out over violent games, kids are still gonna get them. Friends, older brothers, other family members buying it, etc etc. It'd give them a excuse to do what they could to get it honestly. Kinda like how underage people get bear. Still illegal, but they find ways around the system. So honestly, putting all the restrictions would be pointless.

A) Games deserve the same protection like what everything else has in this "free" country.
B) You'd have a better impact if you teach parents to actualy BE parents, and show them to not get M rated games for there bloody 9 year old kids, and actualy know what the heck your kids are doing. >_<
(Probably was all over the place, I apologize for that)

DrunkWithPower:
I really just think this is a way to try and ease the California debt. My keywords was "California" "Fines" and "Sales to minors". Easy picking for a hard up state.

they could just sell the southern part of California to Mexico or Nevada, that could ease their debt a little.

Ne1butme:

Xanadu84:
But last time I checked, you need to be accompanied by an adult to see a rated R movie,

The Government has absolutely nothing to do with the enforcement of the age restrictions attributed to movies. That's a decision of the businesses involved, namely the studios, theaters, and the MPAA. If a movie theater wanted to let little children see an R rated movie, then the government really can't do much about it. It is a business choice. They have to balance potential sales versus public condemnation.

In the same vein, any game seller, like Walmart or Gamesop, has the right to refuse sales of M rated games to persons under the age of 18. This is a business choice. Again, sales potential vs public sentiment.

The rating for both movies and games are not controlled by any government entity. Just as they have no voice in the settings of the ratings, they should have no voice in its enforcement.

I had guessed that was the issue, but wasn't sure. Thank you for clearing that up.

My question is, why did I have to come into this forum to get an actual, clear description of the issue? Why wasn't the actual controversy laid out in the article? I've read another article from the Escapist on this matter, and it didn't explain it either. And also, what's with the focal point of Arnold Schwarzenegger? I can't believe anything that goes on the record as the actions of an entire state government is decided by one man. Admit it, it was just so you could make some inflammatory rebuttal about all the violent movies he's been in. This sort of manufactured indignance is the domain of attention seekers trying to get posts in their thread or comments on their blog.

Xanadu84:
But last time I checked, you need to be accompanied by an adult to see a rated R movie, Pornography isn't sold to minors, and so on and so forth. So what rights are video games denied, compared to other mediums?

Movie ratings are entirely voluntary. So are ratings on music. Pornography, as "obscenity," is one of the few narrowly-defined exceptions to the First Amendment. A disturbing number of people don't realize this, but there is absolutely no law that says an eight-year-old can't enter a movie theater to watch Saw.

This case is important not so much because it's about videogames but because it's about the First Amendment. How much protection of your free speech rights are you prepared to surrender?

Andy Chalk:

Xanadu84:
But last time I checked, you need to be accompanied by an adult to see a rated R movie, Pornography isn't sold to minors, and so on and so forth. So what rights are video games denied, compared to other mediums?

Movie ratings are entirely voluntary. So are ratings on music. Pornography, as "obscenity," is one of the few narrowly-defined exceptions to the First Amendment. A disturbing number of people don't realize this, but there is absolutely no law that says an eight-year-old can't enter a movie theater to watch Saw.

This case is important not so much because it's about videogames but because it's about the First Amendment. How much protection of your free speech rights are you prepared to surrender?

Though a legit question, its also a bit of a loaded one: No one wants to be the asshole who says he is willing to give up freedoms. And certainly I agree that anything that limits a game developers capacity to make a game, and distribute it to adults and Children whose parents approve, is ludicrous and inappropriate. But we need to remember that we aren't talking about adults. We arn't even talking about children broadly. We are talking specifically about children who are getting the most violent of games without there parents knowing. If a child wants a game, there parents can decide that they choose to buy the game for their child. As long as this is possible, I don't think freedom of speech is being compromised. And most importantly, there's the practical side: Unless there is some hidden censorship that I'm not seeing (Which is entirely possible), the real life effect of this law seems to be that minors can't trick there parents as easily, and parents don't have a legitimate scapegoat in video games. What specific, real life ramification of this is negative, because Im not seeing any.

Honestly, I'm still on the fence about this law, simply because even symbolic victories can be incredibly powerful, and it's likely that video game stores will continue to enforce ratings. But the concrete reality of giving parents useful tools to make informed choices regarding there childrens video game consumption, thereby helping video games be accepted and understood by the public, seem to outweigh the abstract ideology of "Freedom" without any concrete examples.

If anything, in a video game forum, someone needs to play devils advocate, and I like taking up that mantle.

What really bothers me is that the Supreme Court has decided this is a topic worth investigating. To me, the arguments against the ratings law are very simple to understand and correspond well with precedent. Open and Shut case. Somehow the Supreme court doesn't necessary believe this and wants its own say. I really worry that they'll side with the state of California.

Some will say that they believe the Court will affirm the ruling of the ninth district court and continue to an the ratings law because of their stand on 'money as free speech' in recent cases.

However, that case (like nearly all others) was 5 to 4. Kennedy has all the power and can swing it either way. They might see 'corruption of the innocent' as a strong enough reason to invalidate the 1st amendment for this instance.

EDIT - I had forgotten about the Crush video case. That's a step towards free speech.

The Supreme Court recent struck down a law that attempted to ban the sale of videos where women in high heeled shoes stomp small furry creatures to death. The decision wasn't even close, it was 8-1 with Alito being the dissenter.

If the Supreme Court is willing to strike down that law, it's going to strike down one aimed at video games.

Xanadu84:

Andy Chalk:

Xanadu84:
But last time I checked, you need to be accompanied by an adult to see a rated R movie, Pornography isn't sold to minors, and so on and so forth. So what rights are video games denied, compared to other mediums?

Movie ratings are entirely voluntary. So are ratings on music. Pornography, as "obscenity," is one of the few narrowly-defined exceptions to the First Amendment. A disturbing number of people don't realize this, but there is absolutely no law that says an eight-year-old can't enter a movie theater to watch Saw.

This case is important not so much because it's about videogames but because it's about the First Amendment. How much protection of your free speech rights are you prepared to surrender?

Though a legit question, its also a bit of a loaded one: No one wants to be the asshole who says he is willing to give up freedoms. And certainly I agree that anything that limits a game developers capacity to make a game, and distribute it to adults and Children whose parents approve, is ludicrous and inappropriate. But we need to remember that we aren't talking about adults. We arn't even talking about children broadly. We are talking specifically about children who are getting the most violent of games without there parents knowing. If a child wants a game, there parents can decide that they choose to buy the game for their child. As long as this is possible, I don't think freedom of speech is being compromised. And most importantly, there's the practical side: Unless there is some hidden censorship that I'm not seeing (Which is entirely possible), the real life effect of this law seems to be that minors can't trick there parents as easily, and parents don't have a legitimate scapegoat in video games. What specific, real life ramification of this is negative, because Im not seeing any.

Honestly, I'm still on the fence about this law, simply because even symbolic victories can be incredibly powerful, and it's likely that video game stores will continue to enforce ratings. But the concrete reality of giving parents useful tools to make informed choices regarding there childrens video game consumption, thereby helping video games be accepted and understood by the public, seem to outweigh the abstract ideology of "Freedom" without any concrete examples.

If anything, in a video game forum, someone needs to play devils advocate, and I like taking up that mantle.

If the state wins the right to prevent minors from buying these games, then they win the right to say what kind of material might purchased by anyone in their state. They would win to decide that the MSRB is not doing a good enough job and to take over the ratings system within their territory. The state gets to decide what is considered too violent. Then other states will do the same and institute fracturing 'community standards'. Soon developers will have to worry about meeting the individual standards of each market. We already see this on the global stage when developers are required to create a separate version for Germany or Australia. This is a slippery slope.

Andy Chalk:
Movie ratings are entirely voluntary. So are ratings on music. Pornography, as "obscenity," is one of the few narrowly-defined exceptions to the First Amendment. A disturbing number of people don't realize this, but there is absolutely no law that says an eight-year-old can't enter a movie theater to watch Saw.

Because all hell would break loose every time some kid sneaks into an R rated movie.

And trying to somehow enforce it would be a joke. Buy a ticket to the next Pixar movie, then just "sneak" (as in walk into) an adult film.

Videogames are different in that the stores do actually have control over who gets what game. (not counting online purchases that is)

Ne1butme:

If the state wins the right to prevent minors from buying these games, then they win the right to say what kind of material might purchased by anyone in their state. They would win to decide that the MSRB is not doing a good enough job and to take over the ratings system within their territory. The state gets to decide what is considered too violent. Then other states will do the same and institute fracturing 'community standards'. Soon developers will have to worry about meeting the individual standards of each market. We already see this on the global stage when developers are required to create a separate version for Germany or Australia. This is a slippery slope.

I'm Skeptical of most slippery slope arguments, because it generally requires the assumption that a long series of events will happen, when you can't be sure they will. I am not bothered by a legal backing behind prohibiting sale of adult material to minors, and think that the same should be done with all media. That position generally doesn't come up, though, because in these sort of debates, it's usually the people touting, "Family values" who are by far the greater of the evils. So really, if the law only has ramifications for sale of adult material to minors, then I'm not bothered by it. If this is a foot in the door to something that is actually damaging, then I am against it. And I would need a far more nuanced understanding of this bill to discriminate between the 2 possibilities. All I would like to add is to everyone is that little kids playing at adult hobbies without there parents knowing is bad. It will only reflect poorly on us. So even if you do see the law as dangerous, remember that there is legitimate, beneficial intent behind the law, and it should be considered before dismissed.

Xanadu84:

Ne1butme:

If the state wins the right to prevent minors from buying these games, then they win the right to say what kind of material might purchased by anyone in their state. They would win to decide that the MSRB is not doing a good enough job and to take over the ratings system within their territory. The state gets to decide what is considered too violent. Then other states will do the same and institute fracturing 'community standards'. Soon developers will have to worry about meeting the individual standards of each market. We already see this on the global stage when developers are required to create a separate version for Germany or Australia. This is a slippery slope.

I'm Skeptical of most slippery slope arguments, because it generally requires the assumption that a long series of events will happen, when you can't be sure they will. I am not bothered by a legal backing behind prohibiting sale of adult material to minors, and think that the same should be done with all media. That position generally doesn't come up, though, because in these sort of debates, it's usually the people touting, "Family values" who are by far the greater of the evils. So really, if the law only has ramifications for sale of adult material to minors, then I'm not bothered by it. If this is a foot in the door to something that is actually damaging, then I am against it. And I would need a far more nuanced understanding of this bill to discriminate between the 2 possibilities. All I would like to add is to everyone is that little kids playing at adult hobbies without there parents knowing is bad. It will only reflect poorly on us. So even if you do see the law as dangerous, remember that there is legitimate, beneficial intent behind the law, and it should be considered before dismissed.

Define 'adult material'. That could be pornography. That could be any type of violence. That could be anything to do with smoking. Since children are not allowed to purchase cigarettes, then perhaps a movie which depicts people smoking can be defined as adult material. What about games where the characters smoke?

Don't forget, nearly all bad decisions and laws in human history had a 'beneficial intent', at least to someone. If we limit this discussion to just "How do we prevent children from playing games with violence?" then there are better (and more legal) methods than banning it at the local, state, or federal level.

To the slippery slope issue, unless the court words its decision very very carefully, then this could set a precedent that the lower courts would follow. A bunch of states will immediately try to pass game restriction bills. If they differ from the California law in any way, then they can be sued. But the precedent has been set and states will more likely win in court. Opening the door is a slippery slope.

hansari:

Andy Chalk:
Movie ratings are entirely voluntary. So are ratings on music. Pornography, as "obscenity," is one of the few narrowly-defined exceptions to the First Amendment. A disturbing number of people don't realize this, but there is absolutely no law that says an eight-year-old can't enter a movie theater to watch Saw.

Because all hell would break loose every time some kid sneaks into an R rated movie.

And trying to somehow enforce it would be a joke. Buy a ticket to the next Pixar movie, then just "sneak" (as in walk into) an adult film.

Videogames are different in that the stores do actually have control over who gets what game. (not counting online purchases that is)

Why is it different? Because movie theaters have a certain general architectural layout? Ok, how about movie rentals instead? Should there be a law that requires Blockbuster to enforce film ratings? They currently do it for political and social reasons, but there's no law. And Blockbuster has as much control over who gets the material as any game shop.

So why is Blockbuster different than Gamestop when it comes to this particular issue?

AHHH CRAP I ACTUALLY LIVE THERE. It's not like australia where I don't live there

The law could be applied to games like Super Mario Bros. where you violently jump or fire a fireball to kill or incapacitate an enemy.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here