/ February 24, 2009

Video Games Are Free Speech

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that video games are free speech.  And, the government may not restrict speech without a compelling interest.  Thus, California’s ban on selling video games to minors is unconstitutional. Judge Consuelo Callahan wrote for the majority that, “The Supreme Court has carefully limited obscenity to sexual content,” and declined to apply the same rationale to violent video games.

The ban was enacted in 2005 and barred the sale of a video game to anyone under 18 if the game was violent enough to be deemed patently offensive (according to prevailing community standards for minors) and lacked any literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.  Affected video games were labeled with an “18” and the fine for selling such video games to minors is $1000.

California failed to show a compelling interest for the state to regulate the sale of video games because there is no proof of harm to children. The state argued that because youths who play violent video games are more likely to behave aggressively, the games caused psychological harm to the minors who play them.  However, the research samples were small and there was no proof that the games caused violent behavior. Senator Leland Yee, D – San Francisco, urged state officials to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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