Wednesday, October 29, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Video Game Censorship Heading to Supreme Court?

Supreme reports that there are strong signs the protracted legal battle over video game regulation in California might soon be headed to the Supreme Court. The ongoing battle deals with a California law passed in October 2005 (A.B.1179), which would have blocked the sale of "violent" video games to those under 18 and required labels on all games. Offending retailers could have been fined for failure to comply with the law.

The law was immediately challenged by the Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association. In August of last year, a district court decision in the case of Video Software Dealers Association v. Schwarzenegger [decision here] enforced a permanent injunction against the law. And today in Sacramento, a 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing in to hear additional arguments about the law. The San Jose Mercury News reports that judges seemed skeptical about the State's effort to overturn the lower court ruling and get the law enforced:

While the 9th Circuit judges did lend some support to the state, they were generally skeptical the law can survive. "What you are asking us to do is go where no one has gone before,'' Judge Consuelo Callahan said to the state's lawyer. "Admittedly, they are disgusting. But aren't you just trying to be the thought police?''

The judges also realize that every other state or circuit court that has considered the constitutionality of similar video games laws has found them unconstitutional. As I noted in my piece last year on the California law, the current legal score is "Gamers 11, Censors 0." If the Ninth Circuit does keep the injunction in place and California appeals the law up to the Supreme Court as some predict, we could be in for a historic First Amendemt case, and the first to deal with video game speech. Stay tuned!

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:09 PM | Free Speech , Online Safety & Parental Controls