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Supreme Court To Rule On Minors And Videogames

April 26, 2010

On Monday, the Supreme Court said it would determine whether a California law banning the sale and rental of violent video games to minors violated constitutional free-speech rights.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal by the state after a U.S. appeals court based in California struck down the law.

The high court is expect to hear the case and issue its ruling during its October term.  It will be one of the most important cases for the upcoming term.

The Entertainment Software Association, as well as video game publishers, distributors and sellers, have challenged the law.  The members of this association include Disney Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts, Microsoft Corp. and Sony Computer Entertainment America.

The state, in its appeal to the Supreme Court, argued that free-speech guarantees of the First Amendment do not bar a state from prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors under 18.

The law has never taken effect because of the legal challenge.

According to prevailing community standards, the law, which was adopted in 2005, prohibits the sale of an interactive video game to anyone under 18 if the game was so violent it was “patently offensive” and lacked serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

President and chief executive of the Entertainment Software Association, Michael Gallagher, said the group looks forward to presenting its arguments and defending the industry’ works.

“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,” he told Reuters.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court cited free speech protections in overturning a law banning images of animal cruelty, which reversed a sentence against a man who sold videos of pit bull dog fights that he had not himself organized.

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