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IDSA Presents Arguments Against St. Louis Videogame Ban

Attorneys for the IDSA appeared in a federal appeals court today, arguing that a lower court ruling that
upheld St. Louis County's restrictions on game sales should be overturned as unconstitutional. The IDSA argued that game publishers have same rights to free speech as moviemakers and publishers and urged the court to overturn St. Louis County's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. One attorney for the IDSA, Deanne Maynard, said that the St. Louis ordinance said that the voluntary ratings system already in place for games was sufficient, and that the law banning the sale went too far. Video games, like movies and books, are forms of expression protected under the First Amendment because they feature art, music and performance, IDSA lawyer Deanne Maynard told the court. To support its case, the video game industry trade group submitted scripts from some games to the court to prove the artistic merits of its members' works. The associate county counsel for St. Louis, Michael Shuman, cited evidence that exposure to violent acts causes children to become violent themselves and said the county's law was intended to "protect the parents' choice of what comes into their homes." One of the three judges, Judge William Riley, asked Shuman how video games were different from typical kids' make-believe games like "cops and robbers." Shuman said the difference was that video games used graphic depictions of violence. Shuman backed up his argument with the results of a studny conducted by Craig Anderson, the chairman of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University. Anderson has linked violence in games and real-life behavior, but his results were called into question by a group of 33 other scholars, representing institutions like the MIT and London University. Those scholars filed a brief with the court last year that challenged Anderson's results. When asked by one of the judges about the validity of Anderson's work, Shuman argued that the need to protect children, even if the threat doesn't actually exist, superceded the First Amendment. "The government shouldn't have to wait to develop a record of harm," Shuman said. "While the First Amendment is important, the county can't wait for scientists to provide evidence." The court is expected to rule on the issue later this year.

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