Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Supreme Court Strikes Down California Violent Video Game Ban

The First Amendment of the US Constitution is an amazing little piece of law.  It now covers (or always covered, but now covers by ruling) video games.  I'd hate have seen Dragon Age or Fallout or even Fable restricted by some NC-17 rating, because in many ways they are just as violent as Call of Duty and GTA.  RPGs, by their roots and nature, are violent little beasts ;)

From the majority opinion:

Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.” 


  1. Hooray for Corporations free speech rights to sell adult content directly to kids instead of needing their parents to buy it for them. I guess.

  2. I can'y wait to waste me some peeps on GTA! Just kidding. . . . however, Borderlands is another story.

  3. @Stuart - Your kids access to "R" movies isnt restricted by law, but by an association created and run by - corporations - it's self policed, effectively.

    The moment you allow the curtailing of some rights, the slope is created to curtail other rights.

  4. Like children's access to beer. It's all been downhill ever since.

  5. Why stop there? It's time anti-cigarette laws where re-examined as well. Free cigarettes for elementary school kids, I say ... and cigarette ads on school buses.

  6. beer (booze), cigarettes, a license to drive are not guaranteed by the US Constitution.

    The drinking age of 21 in the US is set by the states, not the federal government (the feds do blackmail the states, by withholding federal highway funds to states that set their drinking age below 21).

    If you want restrictions placed on the freedom of speech that aren't already there (there are a few), you would need a supreme court ruling in the favor (at 7-2 this court won't be ruling such) or an amendment to the Constitution.

    as for cigarette ads - look up the flintstones ad for cigarettes on youtube ;)

  7. cigarette restrictions are based on FEMA aid:

    Each state and many localities have different smoking laws, which makes the age of smoking difficult to understand, but it is commonly at 18 years of age. Any state may set the purchasing age limit lower than 18 years—but at the loss of grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that otherwise would be given for a natural disaster in the state.

    When a customer appears to be under a specific age, state and local laws may require retailers to verify age from official documentation. The tobacco purchase age has been raised to 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, Utah, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Onondaga counties in New York.

  8. A Corporations "freedom of speech" to sell products directly to children without needing to go through their parents.

    Really not seeing how that's about freedom of speech... but but three cheers for freedom! :D

  9. I'm seeing this as a commercial activity as well.

    Interestingly, the US Con first amendment gives Americans freedom OF speech, but imposes no responsibility FOR speech.

  10. Corporations are generally treated as "people" by the laws of the US.

    If you want to restrict what corporations can sell to your kids, get it restricted in the manner of booze or cigs (penalizing states by withholding fed dollars) or like movies and comics (the industry restricts access to pg-13, R, NC-17 movies and it is enforce fairly well - the CCA had a real strangle hold on comics for decades).

    It can be done. The right law(s) have to be written. This was a poorly written law (and you can be damn sure many that voted for it in the Cali State assembly knew it wouldn't pass constitutional muster - but wanted their name on a popular bill)

  11. Hmm. Corporations are people, except when it comes to taxes. Then they shouldn't be taxed, because they will just pass the cost of the tax along to the consumers.

    Interesting note about the dissenting opinions:

    Justice Clarence Thomas, who dissented from the decision along with Justice Stephen Breyer, said the majority read something into the First Amendment that isn't there.

    "The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that "the freedom of speech," as originally understood, 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.

  12. I find the following to be particularly disturbing:

    On a 7-2 vote, the high court upheld a federal appeals court decision to throw out the state's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento had ruled that the law violated minors' rights under the First Amendment, and the high court agreed.

    "No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm," said Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion. "But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."

    Minor's rights?

  13. by Thomas' reasoning, federal law should be governing the movie industry and it's rating system and access to movies - it doesn't, as the supreme court removed government oversite of movies back in 1965.

    Eh, there's a reason I am not a lawyer... this shit is confusing as all hell

  14. It's interesting to see the differences between Canadian and American views of freedom of speech. In Canada, "freedom of expression is not absolute and can be limited under certain situations."

    Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms "guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it [such as freedom of expression] subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

    This informs the Canadian view that freedom OF speech must be balanced with responsibility FOR speech.

    However, I think we can all agree that freedom is good. Game on!



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