Supreme Court: Kids Can Buy Violent Video Games
Video game makers, retailers and libertarians are feeling pretty good today. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that prevented retailers from renting or selling violent video games to minors that included “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”
Justices by a seven to two margin concluded that the law violated free speech protections granted under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“Like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia. “The most basic principle of First Amendment law is that government has no power to restrict expression because of its content.”
Justice Scalia added, “California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed.”
Clarence Thomas, one of the two dissenting votes, argued that First Amendment rights did not extend to minors under the Constitution.
“After today, I expect now you’re going to see more growth, more creation and more promotion of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board),” Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, told The Associated Press. “The decision today didn’t create any new rights for the industry. It simply affirmed the rights that we believed we had all along.”
“Adults are the main driving force on what kind of content is produced,” Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, told the news service. “I don’t see this in any way, shape or form making for more violent games. What this allows is for retailers to sell violent video games to children.”
- Brown V. Entertainment Merchants Assoc. – U.S. Supreme Court
- Supreme Court lifts limits on sale of violent video games to minors – Los Angeles Times
- Supreme Court ruling means ‘business as usual’ for gamemakers – The Associated Press/The Washington Post
Discussion Questions: Do you agree with the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association? Is there a legitimate case to be made for government or retailers limiting what video games or other forms of entertainment that kids can purchase?