9th Circuit Gives California Violent Video Games Bill the Beat Down

February 24, 2009 | | Comments Off on 9th Circuit Gives California Violent Video Games Bill the Beat Down

Last week, in Video Dealers Software v. Schwarzenegger (pdf), the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed a District Court decision for summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff’s constitutional challenge that a California act banning the sale of games classified as “violent” to minors violated the first amendment right to free speech. The Court held that the act constituted a “presumptively invalid content-based restriction on speech” and was subject to strict scrutiny. The Court felt that the State had failed to present a compelling interest and failed to show there were not less-restrictive means of reaching the same end. The Court decided the case on the narrow first amendment grounds and unfortunately (for us conlaw nerds) didn’t get around to the claims that the law was void for vagueness (one of the standards in used in defining violent games in the act was that: “A reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors.” Seems a little VforV to me.)

The Court held that violent content is distinguishable from sexual obscenity under Ginsburg v. New York (1968 SCOTUS case) because the Supreme Court in that case was very explicit that the decision applied only to sexual material, thus disregarding the state’s contention that the same standard should be used for the two. The court continued on to decide the case based on the old standby first amendment litmus of courts everywhere, the Miller test. Because the State failed to prove any harm as a result of these violent games, the State never had a chance.

Many question the need for the statute in the first place because–as anyone who has set foot in a viedo game store in the last decade already knows–the game companies have taken it upon themselves to provide ratings that are largely followed by game-store clerks. Those in favor of the statute argue that banning the sale of violent games to minors is the only way to assure that children will not be exposed to violence because of the relative ease kids can get around this by purchasing games on the internet.

Many proponents of the ban are pressuring the state to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, however, many also point out that the state is one of the hardest hit by the recent budget crisis and perhaps tax dollars could-be better spent. As a gaming CEO said, “The state has already wasted too many tax dollars, at least $283,000 at last count, on this ill-advised, and ultimately doomed, attempt at state-sponsored nannyism.” As a California resident, I certainly feel my tax dollars could be better spent in other ways.

Ultimately, the ruling was a win for California high schoolers and free speech nerds across the country.

These writemypaper4me.org companies know there are definite skills involved in writing effective sales copy and they are willing to pay writers well for these skills.


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