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ESA: Supreme Court Ruling Could Bring 'Finality, Clarity' To Game Legislation

In a Gamasutra-attended teleconference, attorney Paul Smith said that the U.S. Supreme Court's review of California's violent game law may be a way to "shut down" similar litigation in other states.
Game industry top brass were cautiously optimistic in a Gamasutra-attended Tuesday afternoon teleconference following oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court over a California law that would place government restrictions on the sale of violent video games to minors. ESA general counsel Ken Doroshow said, "It was gratifying to hear all the themes that we expressed in our papers to be echoed by the justices during the day." But he added, "there's still no way to know for sure how this will come out." Both the game industry and the justices questioned the state of California on why games should be singled out and regulated by the government, unlike other forms of media like books, film and music. Possible self-censorship of games, vagueness of the bill's language and a trickle-down effect leading to similar legislation in other media were also recurring themes addressed by the Court. Counsel of record Paul Smith, who argued on behalf of the game industry, explained why he thought the bill was going before the Supreme Court for review in the first place -- the measure had already been struck down by two lower courts and several similar laws had been ruled unconstitutional by other states. He speculated that the Court "saw that there were nine cases in a row in which state laws have been held unconstitutional by federal courts, [and] no one had asked for [the Supreme Court] to review these in the past, except for the very first case." "I think they basically said this is an area where we have to come in and see if there's a problem with the way the federal courts are behaving, and see if we can maybe shut down all this litigation by providing some finality and clarity," he added. "And maybe they just thought it was pretty interesting, too." The ruling is expected to arrive by the end of June 2011. (You can read the full transcript of this morning's arguments on the Supreme Court's website [PDF].)

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