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St. Louis Videgame Ban Struck Down By Appeals Court

In a victory for the game industry, today a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a St. Louis County ordinance banning the sale or rental of graphically violent video games to minors is unconstitutional.

Game Developer, Staff

June 3, 2003

1 Min Read

The court reversed a lower court decision, saying that the ban violated the First Amendment. A federal district court in St. Louis had held that video games were not a protected form of speech because they did not convey ideas or expression. The ordinance, passed in 2000 but never implemented due to a legal challenge by the the IDSA, was considered a test case for the game industry with respect to the First Amendment. The court of appeals rejected the notion put forth by St. Louis County's that violent videogames were harmful to children. "Whether we believe the advent of violent video games adds anything to value of society is irrelevant," Judge Morris Arnold wrote. "Guided by the First Amendment, we are obliged to recognize that 'they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature'," The appellate court also rejected St. Louis County's argument that "graphically violent" games were obscene for minors and therefore entitled to less protection. "Simply put, depictions of violence cannot fall within the legal definition of obscenity for either minors or adults," the court said. "That there is a strong likelihood that minors who play violent video games will suffer a deleterious effect on their psychological health is simply unsupported in the record," the court stated. "The government cannot silence protected speech by wrapping itself in the cloak of parental authority." St. Louis County Counselor Patricia Redington admitted, "we're disappointed," and said she did not know whether the county would appeal.

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