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ESA: California Game Law 'Clearly Unconstitutional'

Video game industry trade body the Entertainment Software Association again blasted a California law that would make it illegal to sell violent games to minors, as the Supreme Court readies to revisit the measure.
Video game industry trade body the Entertainment Software Association again blasted a California law that would make it illegal to sell violent games to minors, as the Supreme Court readies to revisit the measure. Michael Gallagher, CEO of the ESA said in a statement this week, "Computer and video games are First Amendment protected speech. There is an unbroken chain of more than a dozen previous court rulings agreeing." He vowed that the ESA would defend against the law when it heads to court for Schwarzenegger vs. EMA/Entertainment Software Association. The Supreme Court said this year it would review the law, originally introduced in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Senator Leland Yee, both of California. After strong resistance from the games industry, in 2007, the California Ninth Circuit Court found the law unconstitutional on free speech grounds. Gallagher added, "California’s law is no different than others before it. It is clearly unconstitutional under First Amendment principles. 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." Other states have tried to pass similar laws, but those laws also failed before a judge, due partly to First Amendment concerns. The California law would fine retailers who sell to minors games deemed to have violent content, and require games to have government-mandated labels indicating content ratings. The game industry is currently self-regulated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rates game content using uniform descriptors and a rating system ranging from "E" for "Everyone" to "AO" for "Adults Only" (18 and up). In December, the Federal Trade Commission conducted a secret shopper survey and found that the self-regulated video game industry did a better job than other entertainment industries in keeping inappropriate content out of the hands of underage shoppers. "Courts across the country recognize that computer and video games, like other protected expression such as movies, books, and music, have an artistic viewpoint, and use sounds and images to create an experience and immerse the player in art," Gallagher said. "That is why other courts have unanimously affirmed that video games are entitled to the same constitutional protection as movies, music, books, and other forms of art." This week, California submitted its arguments in support of the law, with Yee arguing that it's a "narrowly tailored law that simply limits sales of ultra-violent games to kids without prohibiting speech."

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