The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the gaming industry today in a landmark decision revoking the proposed California law that would ban the sale of violent videogames to children without parental supervision. The case, Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, ruled the California law as unconstitutional on the basis of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The 7-2 decision was backed by a majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia that determined “speech about violence is not obscene” and to regulate it is illegal.
“The most basic principle–that government lacks the power to restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content–is subject to a few limited exceptions for historically unprotected speech, such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words. But a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test,” Scalia wrote.
Scalia went on to cite common fairy tales read by children, especially those written by the Brothers Grimm, “contain no shortage of gore” that are also prevalent in video games. The Court stated that there was no “compelling” evidence that connected violent video games and their effect on children. One medical report used declared that cartoons like Looney Tunes generate the same effects in children as games like Sonic the Hedgehog or imagery of guns.
“The First Amendment does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” Thomas wrote.
Breyer argued that “California’s law imposes no more than a modest restriction on expression.”
The ruling has been praised by both the Motion Picture Association of America and the Entertainment Merchants Association.
“EMA welcomes today’s Supreme Court ruling that let stand the Court of Appeals’ decision finding the California video game restriction law to be unconstitutional. We are gratified that our position that the law violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression has been vindicated and there now can be no argument whether video games are entitled to the same protection as books, movies, music, and other expressive entertainment,” said President and CEO of EMA Bo Anderson.
“We applaud the Supreme Court and for recognizing the far-reaching First Amendment implications posed by the California law,” said former US Senator and MPAA Chief Executive Officer Chris Dodd.
This news may not carry the same weight as the announcement of some triple-A title among gamers, but this is arguably one of the most important events ever to occur to the gaming industry. The California law proposed would regulate violent video games on the same level as pornography, making the M-Rated title a thing of the past.