Supreme Court has struck down a California law that sought to regulate the sale
of video games by imposing a labeling
requirement based on content and prohibiting the rental or sale of certain
games to minors. In its decision, the
Court found that, like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas
through literary devices such as characters, dialogue, plot and music and
through features distinctive to the games' medium, such as the player's
interaction with the virtual world. As
such, the games were entitled to First Amendment protection and the California
law, which would have prohibited the sale of "violent video games" to
minors and required such games to be specially labelled, was unconstitutional.
dismissing the State's arguments that the law was addressing a substantial need
of parents which wish to restrict their children's access to violent games but
cannot do so, the Court stated that the ratings of the Entertainment Software
Rating Board (ESRB) and video retailers' efforts in not selling games rated
"M" to minors helped ensure that children would not be able to purchase
violent video games. Thus, the
"remaining modest gap" that the California law was intended to fill
could not be deemed a "compelling state interest" that could overcome
First Amendment protection for the games.
The full decision can be found here. Hughes Hubbard &
Reed represented the Entertainment Consumers Association in filing an amicus
brief opposing the law.