Supreme Court To Hear Case About Constitutionality Of Anti-Violent Video Game Law

from the can-we-settle-this-once-and-for-all? dept

Over the past few years, at least ten states (probably more, but we've lost track) have tried to pass laws banning the sales of violent video games to children. And every single one of them (yes, every last one) has been ruled unconstitutional, as a violation of the First Amendment. And yet, some states keep trying. In California, it's particularly ironic, given that the main supporter of the bill is The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who became famous starring in violent movies that are quite similar to the violent video games he now seeks to attack. As with every other state, the original law was found to be unconstitutional in both the district court, and again on appeal. Not surprisingly, The Governator has continued to waste taxpayer money on legal costs fighting for this bill (despite the state being massively cash-strapped), and now it appears that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

This could be a big deal. Since there's been near unanimous agreement among district and appeals courts that these sorts of laws are unconstitutional, the fact that the Supreme Court is taking the case, despite the lack of a circuit split, could mean that it feels that all these courts decided incorrectly. Hopefully, that's not the case, and the Supreme Court rules on this issue and finally closes the door on these questionable laws.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Joel (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:08am

    The Terminator

    @Mike: I don't think The Terminator was aimed at children when it was made.

    I understand why they are trying to do this but I just don't see it ever coming to fruition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    Re: The Terminator

    @Mike: I don't think The Terminator was aimed at children when it was made.

    No more so than violent video games rated for adults are aimed at children. You seem to be implying that just because it's a video game, that it must be "aimed" at children. It's silly to have to say this at this point in history, but "Video games aren't just for kids any more." If a parent fails to realize that games are no longer all like Pac Man and Asteroids and that many are targeted to an adult audience, then that's their fault.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    More...

    "Arnold Schwarzenegger, who became famous starring in violent movies..."

    And plunging hypodermic needles filled with steroids into his ass-cheeks. And harassing women. And saying that he admired Adolph Hitler. Seriously, my friends from California, do you realize how stupid you look with this guy running the show?

    Here's the deal. When your state decides that you would rather have your state run by a drug abusing Nazi sexual-deviant, then you don't get to be a state anymore....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: The Terminator

    by that logic, with the arrival of xxx movies the cinema wasnt for children anymore. instead of just making them stay home, a system was put in place to rate movies and keep the children from walking in without a parent or adult to accompany them. all the states are asking is for the same sort of process for video games. it seems pretty logical, no? oh yeah, the slam at arnold is typical of the masnick, knowing that the movies weren't made available to children, but still using it has a slam. not a very good example is it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:30am

    I think the US Supreme Court's recent determination that dog fighting videos are legal is a good indication of their support for the 1st amendment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    "by that logic, with the arrival of xxx movies the cinema wasnt for children anymore."

    Ah, good point! Because without the movie rating system, how is a parent to know if Anal Cum Queens With Wangs #42 is suitable for their children?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    "by that logic, with the arrival of xxx movies"

    And yet with the exception of child porn and snuff films, XXX movies are legal. So what's your point?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:32am

    Re: The Terminator

    "I don't think The Terminator was aimed at children when it was made."

    Neither are Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty or most of the other games being complained about today.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    "And yet with the exception of child porn and snuff films, XXX movies are legal. So what's your point?"

    To be fair, the Cali law isn't trying to ban the games completely. They're only trying to ban selling the to minors. Still stupid, but it sounded like you were confused....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Free speech only applies to corporations, who consist of a bunch of individuals free to poll their resources together to pay for the fixed costs of creating a political ad and then pay the variable costs for each instance that the add is broadcasted.

    Individuals who want to poll their resources together outside a corporation may have problems doing this being that their contributions might be considered campaign contributions? I suppose they can simply open up a not for profit corporation and do the same thing?

    These laws will only apply to free, GPL like or copyleft video games. Big corporations that copyright their video games or that make tons of money/monopoly rents will probably be held to a much lower standard.

    This case would show how much the supreme court truly values free speech. Do they value free speech only when it's convenient to them or do they value it all around.

    Then again, the republicans are pro gun rights (as am I) so violent video games might be acceptable to them?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:39am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    But movies are self regulated, any movie can be released without a rating. It just makes it easier to be released and shown in theaters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    E. Zachary Knight, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    RE: Anonymous Coward

    "instead of just making them stay home, a system was put in place to rate movies and keep the children from walking in without a parent or adult to accompany them."

    And that very system is completely voluntary. The MPAA rates movies at the request of movie studios not the government. The theatres don't allow under age kids into R rated movies without an adult accompanying them at the request of movie studios not the government.

    The same goes for the video game industry. The ESRB rates games at the request of game publishers not the government. The stores don't sell M rated games to minors without a parent present at the request of game publishers not the government.

    It is really sad that society trusts the movie industry to regulate itself but not the games industry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    Which would be used as a pretext to restrict many free/GPL games from being distributed. Maybe they'll have to click on an agreement saying, "I'm over 13 years of age." Yes, that would solve everything being that those under 13 are always honest enough to never click the agreement

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    sam, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:45am

    i have no problem with a game rating system which keeps mature games from minors. i do however have a problem with banning games.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    Re: The Terminator

    "I don't think The Terminator was aimed at children when it was made."

    Yes it was - it was meant to kill John Connor - a child...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    "Video games aren't just for kids any more."

    by that logic, with the arrival of xxx movies the cinema wasnt for children anymore.


    Notice a little difference here - it's only one word but it makes a world of difference

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    Can we also have a "anti-violent" government law?

    Why not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    OTOH

    "Since there's been near unanimous agreement among district and appeals courts that these sorts of laws are unconstitutional, the fact that the Supreme Court is taking the case, despite the lack of a circuit split, could mean that it feels that all these courts decided incorrectly."

    It could also mean that it feels it needs to make the definitive ruling, on account of all the time being wasted in lower courts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    Violence in Games is no realistic

    It's worth mentioning that the violence depicted in almost all of these games is not realistic. It does not dull the sensibilities (of players) towards real violence.

    I do know of one "game" that has truly realistic violence. It certainly does dull the sensibilities - and someday you just might be grateful for that.
    It is a training game for medical personnel - after all you don't want the paramedic who attends you after a serious accident having to break off to be sick in the ditch. Some people need to have their sensitivities to violent scenes numbed a bit.

    see http://www.trusim.com/?page=Demonstrations

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Lee Weaver, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    Ah but the MPAA ratings are voluntary, not government mandated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Joel (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: The Terminator

    Come on dude, read this sentence it's the first one.

    "Over the past few years, at least ten states (probably more, but we've lost track) have tried to pass laws banning the sales of violent video games to children."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Joel (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    READ FIRST!

    People please read before you post, you are fighting something that does not merit it...

    Mike wrote this >>>"Over the past few years, at least ten states (probably more, but we've lost track) have tried to pass laws banning the sales of violent video games to children."

    He then goes to talk about Arnold and a movie that made him famous; what I'm saying is that The Terminator was not aimed at children just like violent video games are not. Video games and movies have an audience to reach and each marketing company knows who they are targeting... Remember Camel Cigarettes targeting children?? That was done on purpose, I don't see how GTA is being marketed to children.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    The Infamous Joe (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Re: More...

    ..and seriously, WTF?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: The Terminator

    LOL!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    OK, I've read it (again). Now what? If you have a point, why not explain it rather than leaving it to others to try and decipher your intent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    by that logic, with the arrival of xxx movies the cinema wasnt for children anymore. instead of just making them stay home, a system was put in place to rate movies and keep the children from walking in without a parent or adult to accompany them. all the states are asking is for the same sort of process for video games. it seems pretty logical, no?

    IANAL so I don't know all of the legal impications, but because both the MPAA and the ESRB ratings systems are voluntary, it looks to me that they already have the same sort of process.

    oh yeah, the slam at arnold is typical of the masnick, knowing that the movies weren't made available to children, but still using it has a slam. not a very good example is it?

    I think most people would see at least a bit of irony in someone who starred in violent movies campaining against violent video games regardless of the technical details.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 10:13am

    Re: OTOH

    "It could also mean that it feels it needs to make the definitive ruling, on account of all the time being wasted in lower courts."

    That is the same thing I was thinking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 10:20am

    Re: READ FIRST!

    what I'm saying is that The Terminator was not aimed at children just like violent video games are not.

    Maybe that's what you meant to say, but what you appeared to be saying to me was that Terminator was not aimed at children, but violent video games are. In reference to your insulting "READ FIRST!", maybe you should take your own advice and read your posts before submitting them to ensure they clearly say what you really mean.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    P3T3R5ON (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Violent games don't kill people...

    ...People kill people

    Why are they still trying? Why are they still wasting tax payers dollars across the board, not just in California?

    1) If you don't like your kids playing violent video games... BE A BETTER PARENT AND WATCH WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE PLAYING/BUYING/DOING!!!

    2) If you sell games you better be carding people, just like bartenders have to. ESRB ratings were not made to look pretty.

    3) Stop buying games for your 10yr old nephew when its rated T for TEEN!!!!

    4) Violent games do not make people violent. Violent movies do not make people violent. Violent music does not make people violent. Violence is a response to unstable emotions which a person is responsible to themselves to control. This is a personal issue NOT a government law issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    MRK, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    Re: The Terminator

    "@Mike: I don't think The Terminator was aimed at children when it was made."

    My Terminator action figures from the early 90s says otherwise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    bob, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    Again to many re:'s, so which production house made the Anal Cum Queens With Wangs series? BangBros, White Gheto?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    Miramax....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:40am

    1. Just b/c dear Arnold happened to star in very violent movies doesn't mean he supports children watching those movies.
    2. Jumping to the statement that it's ironic that Arnold wants to stop kids from buying violent video games b/c he was in violent movies during his acting days is a smokescreen argument with no basis in logic.
    3. If the people of California feel that this is an issue and would like this law, then as a public servant it's up to Arnold to fight for it.

    As you haven't shown any proof that the people of the state don't want this, only citing that the state is strapped for cash, this post is little more than grandstanding.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Joel (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: READ FIRST!

    It was very clear to me, I'll get my editor to make sure more people can understand what is being said in my comments. Maybe you understood what you wanted to understand?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:47am

    Re: Violent games don't kill people...

    I don't think that's the argument here.

    There are age limits on buying plenty of goods right now, all of which children shouldn't be buying, and their parents should know if they are or not.

    Alcohol, smokes, porn, even lotto tickets are all regulated by a magical age limit. This age limit also varies from state to state and country to country.

    Now, a child going to the movies by themselves can't see a rated R movie. The theater stops them. I'm not sure if this is a law or just the theaters following common logic. But, if a child is stopped from viewing a rated R movie why should that same child be able to buy a rated R game?

    Consistency is what this is about. Not that video games kill people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:49am

    Re:

    "3. If the people of California feel that this is an issue and would like this law, then as a public servant it's up to Arnold to fight for it."

    Er, the entire Civil War would like a word with you please. States cannot enact a law that overrides federal mandate, which the US Constitution specifically does. As an officer of the government, Ah-Nuld ought to know better....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re:

    2. Jumping to the statement that it's ironic that Arnold wants to stop kids from buying violent video games b/c he was in violent movies during his acting days is a smokescreen argument with no basis in logic.

    Assuming that you're replying to me, if you read my comment carefully, you'll notice that I didn't make an argument that the situation was ironic, just that many people would see it as ironic.

    If the people of California feel that this is an issue and would like this law, then as a public servant it's up to Arnold to fight for it.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that politicians shouldn't fight for the causes which are important to their constituents, but there are broader principles at play. While many Californians may thinks think that this is a good idea, it doesn't mean that the majority do or, even if there is a majority, that it wouldn't be an unconstitutional encroachment of civil liberties.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    "but because both the MPAA and the ESRB ratings systems are voluntary, it looks to me that they already have the same sort of process."

    Just want to point something out since it may not be clear to AC (AKA: TAM):

    The enforcement of the MPAA rating is by theater only. A theater cannot get into trouble from the government because they let a 7 year old into a rated R movie. All theaters I've seen do this self enforcement because the corporate office (still a private group and not the government) will start firing people.

    This is the same exact thing with video games. The ESRB rating is enforced by the store only. The government cannot and should not be able to fine or arrest anyone for selling a game to a minor.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Re:

    "1. Just b/c dear Arnold happened to star in very violent movies doesn't mean he supports children watching those movies."

    So? I'm sure that Infinity Ward don't intend their games to be played by children either (they're the developers of most of the Call of Duty series that's partly triggered this controversy and headquartered in CA). Why should one standard apply to Arnie and another to them?

    "2. Jumping to the statement that it's ironic that Arnold wants to stop kids from buying violent video games b/c he was in violent movies during his acting days is a smokescreen argument with no basis in logic. "

    Why? There's no basis in the wish to ban/restrict any of these games other than the violent content. Arnie starred in a number of movies with equally violent content. What's the difference, other than the medium?

    "3. If the people of California feel that this is an issue and would like this law, then as a public servant it's up to Arnold to fight for it. "

    What about all of the people in California whose livelihoods depend on the videogame industry? Aren't their views meant to be represented as well?

    "As you haven't shown any proof that the people of the state don't want this"

    I'm fairly sure that we haven't been shown that they do, either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    I do have a problem with the government hiring more people and spending more money and making new laws to make up for the lack of the type of parenting that the state thinks the parents should provide. Bad parents are bad parents. Bummer for those children. The government as a parent is sure to be bad for all and therefore bummer to us all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    Tom Landry (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 4:34pm

    Can you imagine the GLOATING that would ensue from Jack Thompson should the Court decide in his favor?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 7:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    See: comic book hysteria back in the day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    SPARTACUS, Apr 27th, 2010 @ 8:33pm

    @42

    that was when the govt forced the comic book industries to NOT show violence and for decades they were forced. NOW that that was loosened you saw more violence
    does that correlate to all these 40-50 year olds form the 70's beng crazy homicidal maniacs ...NOPE
    in fact until goerge bush
    it avgs about 13-18K gun deaths in the USA alone
    and rises until 2006 or so when he left office to a stagaring 32000 GUN related deaths in the USA

    so before and after bush you have a rise in violence and is this because people are becoming more and mroe frustrated with not having civil rights
    me thinks a lil more of this civil rights removing and there will be a real revolution in the USA.
    AND this time its gonna be real bloody as all manner a morons will go "hunting" rivals and revenge, and what can they really do with the bulk of that army overseas?
    yea
    SPARTACUS WAS HERE

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    First, the rating system for movies suck. I'm saying that as a parent and a consumer.

    Second, there is a voluntary rating system for games, just like for movies.

    Third, the states asking for a government rating system for video games can't be asking for the same thing, because the government has nothing to do with the voluntary ratings system for movies.

    Last, you do know that producers aren't required to submit their movies for a rating, right? Many movies are never, ever rated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:27pm

    Re: OTOH

    God, I hope so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Violent games don't kill people...

    Age limits on movie entries are a voluntary policy, and have nothing to do with the government.

    So if the government doesn't stop children from seeing adult content in the theaters, there's no reason that they should stop them from seeing it in a video game.

    Consistency is important.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 27th, 2010 @ 11:31pm

    Re: @42

    Sources, please. Thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:43am

    Re: Re: Re: The Terminator

    Hmmm, I seem to remember walking in to rated R movies at the age of 13 without an adult. Just for clarification, no, I didn't sneak in. Walked up to the ticket booth, payed my money and walked in. Now, since the subject of movies has been brought up.....the ratings system is not a law. The movie theater has the right to deny entry to anyone, but there is no law that prevents anyone under the age of 17 from seeing a rated R movie. Pornography may be a little different as in numerous places its considered lewd and indecent, but the violent movies, like the video games, are not, and should not be, legally regulated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: The Terminator

    as are the GI Joe figures from as far back as what, the early 60's?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:49am

    Re: Violence in Games is no realistic

    I got news for you. A lot of professional rescue personnel do exactly that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 5:56am

    Re: @42

    I'l second Rose's request for sources. While you're at it, how about seeing how many auto related deaths there were too? I mean, all those people could go hunting for their rivals and run them over too, couldn't they?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This