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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Violent Video Games Are Protected Free Speech Says SCOTUS

On the final day of the 2010 term, as their long summer break beckoned, SCOTUS issued a notable decision involving the regulation of video game content.   Brown v Entertainment Merchants Association is a 7-2 decision invalidating California's ban of violent video game sales to minors on the grounds that such regulation is an unconstitutional restriction on protected free speech.

So now, when California's pre-teens are committing untold violent capital felonies in Grand Theft Auto, at least they will not be breaking the law in the real world.

Under the First Amendment, SCOTUS held that such speech is protected, even if expressed in the format of a violent video game available to minors.  Therefore, the state regulation of such speech would be subjected to a reviewing court's "strict scrutiny".

Under such a standard, California's video game regulation did not survive.  The SCOTUS decision affirms the 9th Circuit's opinion, reaching a similar conclusion that, like books and plays before them, video games are a valid and recognized form of free expression in our society, cloaked with all the protections of the First Amendment.  Such free speech protections do not vary with a new and different medium of communication.

The High Court was unpersuaded by California's rationale that interactive video games posed a special problem by the child's participation in the outcome of the violence depicted on the screen, and therefore required content-based restrictions.

This is one of those "in your face" moments of Americana.  It seems that, if left to our own devices, our multi-faceted talents and diverse commerce-based culture will unerringly produce this stuff for mass public consumption.

Some of the legistlators on the left coast tried to regulate the content of such expression, at least where minors were concerned.  Well, our babies gotta grow-up sometime; why not inject them at an early age with a serious dose of interactive urban crime or intergalactic slaughter. 

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