Supreme Court Enters Video Game Arena

In what will be the first such case heard by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land will address in its October term whether a California state law that bans the sale and rental of violent video games to minors runs afoul of the First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment protections. A petition for certiorari was filed by the State of California after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals nixed the law as being unconstitutional.

At issue are California Civil Code Sections 1746-1746.5, which if enacted, would have imposed restrictions and labeling requirements on the sale of “violent” video games to kids under 18. According to the statute “Violent video game” means a video game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being (subject to certain limitations). On December 21, 2005, Judge Ronald Whyte ruled the law unconstitutional, preventing it from going into effect, as scheduled, on January 1, 2006. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit also declared the law unconstitutional.

The case is Schwarzenegger v. Video Software Dealers Association (08-1448).