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As Court Reviews California Violent Game Law, ESA Promises To Fight

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review California's now- infamous violent game bill, and the ESA says it looks forward to "vigorously defending" the industry's First Amendment rights. [UPDATE: ECA, EA comments added.]
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review California's now-infamous violent video game bill, which would restrict the sale of games to minors. The law, authored by senator Leland Yee and supported by Governor Schwarzenegger, has more than once been ruled unconstitutional on free speech grounds, but an appeal with Yee's support has once again brought it under the Court's consideration. With the law under review by the Court, its ultimate constitutionality again becomes a possibility, and today the Entertainment Software Association, the trade body representing video game developers in the U.S., released a statement in opposition to it. "Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional," says ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher. "Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music." Gallagher points to last week's ruling in the U.S. v. Stevens case, wherein the Supreme Court ruled in an eight to one decision that the government cannot restrict video depictions of animal cruelty, despite existing laws against animal cruelty itself. This very recent precedent may signal a tough environment for Yee's law, as both cases deal with limiting First Amendement rights of expression. "As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few ‘historic and traditional categories’ that are ‘well-defined and narrowly limited'," says Gallagher. The ESA cites a recent KRC Research poll finding 78 percent of Americans support the idea of First Amendment protections for video games. "We look forward to presenting our arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States and vigorously defending the works of our industry’s creators, storytellers and innovators," says Gallagher. UPDATE: Additional industry representatives weigh in on the issue. The Entertainment Consumer Association's VP and general counsel Jennifer Mercurio commented: "The Roberts court seems to be tackling free speech head on this year. We are encouraged by the Court's decision last week in U.S. v. Stevens, which holds, among other things, that First Amendment protection is not reserved for 'serious' speech and we look forward to the oral arguments in the fall." Said Electronic Arts public affairs VP Jeff Brown: "This is another sign that gamers need to wake up and get organized to protect their rights. Censorship and content restrictions are a very real threat to videogames. Any gamer who has not registered with the ESA’s Video Game Voter Network loses the right to complain when government starts taking games off the market."

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