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.

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Comments on “Supreme Court To Hear Case About Constitutionality Of Anti-Violent Video Game Law”

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51 Comments
Hulser (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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

Hulser (profile) says:

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.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

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.

Dementia (profile) says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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….

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

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.

Stuart says:

Re: 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.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

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.

Richard (profile) says:

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

Joel (profile) says:

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.

Hulser (profile) says:

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.

P3T3R5ON (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: 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….

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: 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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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.

SPARTACUS says:

@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

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