Posted by patrickklepek (3389 posts) -

In a 7-2 decision announced early today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to defend the Constitutional rights of games.

The court struck down the California law from 2005 that would have made selling violent video games to minors illegal, essentially placing the medium into the same category as pornography.

The court opinion was written by Justice Scalia. Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Roberts and Kagan agreed. Justices Thomas and Bryer filed dissenting opinions.

"The Act does not comport with the First Amendment," reads the decision. "Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And the basic principles of freedom of speech...do not vary with a new and different communication medium."

Given that the courts have not blocked violent content in other mediums, California was unable prove why the interactive nature of video games was different than music and movies. The court was also not persuaded by the evidence provided regarding the psychological impact of games. In fact, the court found it curious California would not include other kinds of media under this law.

"Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively," said the court. "Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media."

The court agreed with the video game industry that the existing self regulatory board, the Entertainment Software Rattings Board, was doing its job--the government wasn't needed.

"Banning violent games would have necessitated bans elsewhere," argued the court. "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."

As for the interactive nature of the medium, the court (rather hilariously) pointed to choose-your-own adventure books as evidence that such entertainment already exists.

At points, the court--Scalia, specifically--seems to mock the California law. If video games are such a harm, why would California not go further in preventing society from engaging with them?

== TEASER ==
The interactive nature of games was not a compelling argument for most of the court.

"The Act is also seriously underinclusive in another respect--and a respect that renders irrelevant the contentions of the concurrence and the dissents that video games are qualitatively different from other portrayals of violence. The California Legislature is perfectly willing to leave this dangerous, mind-altering material in the hands of children so long as one parent (or even an aunt or uncle) says it’s OK. And there are not even any requirements as to how this parental or avuncular relationship is to be verified; apparently the child’s or putative parent’s, aunt’s, or uncle’s say-so suffices. That is not how one addresses a serious social problem."

That ultimately became one half of the court's real problem with California's proposal. If this is a serious social harm, the law doesn't go far enough, as it doesn't restrict other mediums. Combined with the potential infringements on First Amendment rights, it had to be struck down.

"The overbreadth in achieving one goal is not cured by the underbreadth in achieving the other," the court concluded. "Legislation such as this, which is neither fish nor fowl, cannot survive strict scrutiny."

In Justice Alito's concurrence, however, he voiced some disagreement, wondering why the court would be so quick to believe a new medium deserves the same protections as the old ones.

"We should make every effort to understand the new technology," said Alito. We should take into account the possibility that developing technology may have important societal implications that will become apparent only with time. We should not jump to the conclusion that new technology is fundamentally the same as some older thing with which we are familiar. [...] There are reasons to suspect that the experience of playing violent video games just might be very different from reading a book, listening to the radio, or watching a movie or a television show."

The ESRB is enough of a self-regulatory body, argued the majority's opinion.

In fact, Alito left the door wide open for another challenge.

"I would hold only that the particular law at issue here fails to provide the clear notice that the Constitution requires," said Alito. "I would not squelch legislative efforts to deal with what is perceived by some to be a significant and developing social problem. If differently framed statutes are enacted by the States or by the Federal Government, we can consider the constitutionality of those laws when cases challenging them are presented to us."

While Alito sided with the majority (with a critique), Justice Thomas and Justice Breyer were the two dissenting votes. Thomas argued that, back to the founders, children require special treatment. For several pages, Thomas performs a history lesson of the country's prior views of raising children. Thomas believed the California law hardly infringed upon First Amendment rights.

"All that the law does is prohibit the direct sale or rental of a violent video game to a minor by someone other than the minor’s parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or legal guardian," said Thomas. "Where a minor has a parent or guardian, as is usually true, the law does not prevent that minor from obtaining a violent video game with his parent’s or guardian’s help. In the typical case, the only speech affected is speech that bypasses a minor’s parent or guardian. Because such speech does not fall within 'the freedom of speech' as originally understood, California’s law does not ordinarily implicate the First Amendment and is not facially unconstitutional."

Breyer's dissent cites numerous psychological studies favoring that games cause more harm than other media. In the majority opinion, the court rejected California's claims to this.

"This case is ultimately less about censorship than it is about education," wrote Breyer. "Our Constitution cannot succeed in securing the liberties it seeks to protect unless we can raise future generations committed cooperatively to mak­ing our system of government work. Education, however, is about choices. Sometimes, children need to learn by making choices for themselves. Other times, choices are made for children--by their parents, by their teachers, and by the people acting democratically through their governments. In my view, the First Amendment does not disable government from helping parents make such a choice here--a choice not to have their children buy ex­tremely violent, interactive video games, which they more than reasonably fear pose only the risk of harm to those children."

For now, however, games are protected speech, an important victory for the medium.

"Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat," reads one of the footnotes in the majority opinion. "But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones. Crudely violent video games, tawdry TV shows, and cheap novels and magazines are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy, and restrictions upon them must survive strict scrutiny."

Amen.

You can read the entire court opinion, including dissents, right over here.

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3389 posts) -

In a 7-2 decision announced early today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to defend the Constitutional rights of games.

The court struck down the California law from 2005 that would have made selling violent video games to minors illegal, essentially placing the medium into the same category as pornography.

The court opinion was written by Justice Scalia. Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Roberts and Kagan agreed. Justices Thomas and Bryer filed dissenting opinions.

"The Act does not comport with the First Amendment," reads the decision. "Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And the basic principles of freedom of speech...do not vary with a new and different communication medium."

Given that the courts have not blocked violent content in other mediums, California was unable prove why the interactive nature of video games was different than music and movies. The court was also not persuaded by the evidence provided regarding the psychological impact of games. In fact, the court found it curious California would not include other kinds of media under this law.

"Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively," said the court. "Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media."

The court agreed with the video game industry that the existing self regulatory board, the Entertainment Software Rattings Board, was doing its job--the government wasn't needed.

"Banning violent games would have necessitated bans elsewhere," argued the court. "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."

As for the interactive nature of the medium, the court (rather hilariously) pointed to choose-your-own adventure books as evidence that such entertainment already exists.

At points, the court--Scalia, specifically--seems to mock the California law. If video games are such a harm, why would California not go further in preventing society from engaging with them?

== TEASER ==
The interactive nature of games was not a compelling argument for most of the court.

"The Act is also seriously underinclusive in another respect--and a respect that renders irrelevant the contentions of the concurrence and the dissents that video games are qualitatively different from other portrayals of violence. The California Legislature is perfectly willing to leave this dangerous, mind-altering material in the hands of children so long as one parent (or even an aunt or uncle) says it’s OK. And there are not even any requirements as to how this parental or avuncular relationship is to be verified; apparently the child’s or putative parent’s, aunt’s, or uncle’s say-so suffices. That is not how one addresses a serious social problem."

That ultimately became one half of the court's real problem with California's proposal. If this is a serious social harm, the law doesn't go far enough, as it doesn't restrict other mediums. Combined with the potential infringements on First Amendment rights, it had to be struck down.

"The overbreadth in achieving one goal is not cured by the underbreadth in achieving the other," the court concluded. "Legislation such as this, which is neither fish nor fowl, cannot survive strict scrutiny."

In Justice Alito's concurrence, however, he voiced some disagreement, wondering why the court would be so quick to believe a new medium deserves the same protections as the old ones.

"We should make every effort to understand the new technology," said Alito. We should take into account the possibility that developing technology may have important societal implications that will become apparent only with time. We should not jump to the conclusion that new technology is fundamentally the same as some older thing with which we are familiar. [...] There are reasons to suspect that the experience of playing violent video games just might be very different from reading a book, listening to the radio, or watching a movie or a television show."

The ESRB is enough of a self-regulatory body, argued the majority's opinion.

In fact, Alito left the door wide open for another challenge.

"I would hold only that the particular law at issue here fails to provide the clear notice that the Constitution requires," said Alito. "I would not squelch legislative efforts to deal with what is perceived by some to be a significant and developing social problem. If differently framed statutes are enacted by the States or by the Federal Government, we can consider the constitutionality of those laws when cases challenging them are presented to us."

While Alito sided with the majority (with a critique), Justice Thomas and Justice Breyer were the two dissenting votes. Thomas argued that, back to the founders, children require special treatment. For several pages, Thomas performs a history lesson of the country's prior views of raising children. Thomas believed the California law hardly infringed upon First Amendment rights.

"All that the law does is prohibit the direct sale or rental of a violent video game to a minor by someone other than the minor’s parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or legal guardian," said Thomas. "Where a minor has a parent or guardian, as is usually true, the law does not prevent that minor from obtaining a violent video game with his parent’s or guardian’s help. In the typical case, the only speech affected is speech that bypasses a minor’s parent or guardian. Because such speech does not fall within 'the freedom of speech' as originally understood, California’s law does not ordinarily implicate the First Amendment and is not facially unconstitutional."

Breyer's dissent cites numerous psychological studies favoring that games cause more harm than other media. In the majority opinion, the court rejected California's claims to this.

"This case is ultimately less about censorship than it is about education," wrote Breyer. "Our Constitution cannot succeed in securing the liberties it seeks to protect unless we can raise future generations committed cooperatively to mak­ing our system of government work. Education, however, is about choices. Sometimes, children need to learn by making choices for themselves. Other times, choices are made for children--by their parents, by their teachers, and by the people acting democratically through their governments. In my view, the First Amendment does not disable government from helping parents make such a choice here--a choice not to have their children buy ex­tremely violent, interactive video games, which they more than reasonably fear pose only the risk of harm to those children."

For now, however, games are protected speech, an important victory for the medium.

"Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat," reads one of the footnotes in the majority opinion. "But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones. Crudely violent video games, tawdry TV shows, and cheap novels and magazines are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy, and restrictions upon them must survive strict scrutiny."

Amen.

You can read the entire court opinion, including dissents, right over here.

Staff
#2 Posted by therealminime (232 posts) -

Thank god.

#3 Posted by _Horde (837 posts) -

Good stuff.

#4 Posted by BulletproofMonk (2717 posts) -

Video games!

#5 Posted by Simplexity (1382 posts) -

Well, great I guess, wouldn't have really mattered if it passed though.

#6 Posted by RE_Player1 (7544 posts) -
USA USA USA USA USA USA USA (I'm Canadian)
#7 Posted by Quantical (324 posts) -

Sanity prevails then, thankfully.

#8 Posted by Sliced_Bread (147 posts) -

2 people played Duke.

#9 Posted by Kyreo (4600 posts) -

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

#10 Posted by Icicle7x3 (1169 posts) -

FREEEEEEEEEEEEDOM!!!

#11 Posted by DeeGee (2113 posts) -

Now those pornography games are justified.

wait

#12 Posted by horseman6 (360 posts) -

I though it was going to be a 5-4 decision and would be struck down. The 7-2 is surprising and heartening.

#13 Posted by Animasta (14633 posts) -

big fuckin deal

#14 Posted by Shisnopi (78 posts) -

and that's how the cookie crumbles.

#15 Posted by Blair (2497 posts) -

SUPREME VICTORY!

#16 Posted by cooljammer00 (1492 posts) -

Superman Lives!

#17 Posted by LongMasterWolf (171 posts) -

I'm in history class, my prof just checked the comp and started talking about this. feelsgoodman.gif

#18 Posted by Winternet (8000 posts) -

No Supreme Court should have all that POWER!

#19 Posted by dungbootle (2454 posts) -

The good guys win!

#20 Posted by Raye (44 posts) -

Great news!

#21 Posted by ChrisTaran (1553 posts) -

What a relief! Glad there is some sanity in the Supreme Court.

#22 Posted by Colonel_Fury (453 posts) -

Hurray! Although, I'm an adult and live in Canada and could have bought them regardlessly!!

#23 Posted by MonkfishEsq (240 posts) -

I thought it was already illegal to sell games to children that are under the certificate rating?

#24 Posted by kibbs (19 posts) -

Video games! Fuck yeah!

#25 Posted by EpicBenjamin (623 posts) -

Guys, I love videogames.

#26 Posted by Marz (5641 posts) -

:)

#27 Posted by Metal_Mills (2980 posts) -

I don't see why wanting to regulate violent games is bad. In Australia kids can't buy MA15+ games and the R18+ we all want will force that even more. There's never been a big problem with it. Or in fact any problem at all.

#28 Posted by MrMazz (905 posts) -

YEEEEEEEAAAAAH

#29 Posted by Matoya (416 posts) -

There's already ratings on games. 
 
this is stupid

#30 Posted by Skywarpgold (153 posts) -

Good to know not everyone's crazy!

#31 Posted by kollay (1926 posts) -

I love the smell of LAW in the morning.

#32 Posted by Overwatch (267 posts) -

Yes!

#33 Posted by Moody_yeti (369 posts) -

/fist bump

#34 Posted by Vigilance (270 posts) -

Maybe Leland Yee will GTF away now.

Online
#35 Posted by mosespippy (3975 posts) -
@Prodstep said:

Well, great I guess, wouldn't have really mattered if it passed though.

If it had passed other states would have made similar laws and then developers would self censor their games before release to make them all T rated. It matters more than you realize. 
#36 Posted by PhatSeeJay (3322 posts) -

Good show.

#37 Posted by MACog (51 posts) -

Excellent

#38 Posted by Jeffsekai (7025 posts) -

yay

#39 Posted by pepper (304 posts) -

'MERICA!
#40 Posted by Nate_is_my_fake_name (133 posts) -

Nice...and I am surprised it was not more like a 5-4 decision.

#41 Posted by dirkdiggy (14 posts) -

that's my Summer Jam

#42 Posted by Max_Hydrogen (818 posts) -

Can we FINALLY put this shit behind us...?

#43 Posted by CitizenKane (10501 posts) -

Do you know what this calls for? A sexy party!

#44 Posted by Brake (1087 posts) -

Let the word ring out from this day:

Video games - better than pornography

Fuck yeah!

Online
#45 Posted by Nocall (353 posts) -

7-2! The system works!

#46 Posted by Twisted_Scot (1174 posts) -

Wonder how much in pay-offs the industry went through in the last few days? :)

#47 Posted by Video_Game_King (35800 posts) -
#48 Posted by Emmzyne (22 posts) -

YEY. 
 
Will this be the last we hear of it, though? Ho hum.

#49 Posted by MachoFantastico (4475 posts) -

Woo! Even though I'm not an American stuff like this as the tendency to travel overseas so glad it's been shot down.

#50 Posted by bricewgilbert (179 posts) -

Love to see who the 2 who voted to uphold the law were.