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Saturday, September 18, 2010

EFF-PFF Amicus Brief in Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court Videogame Violence Case

By Berin Szoka & Adam Thierer

Yesterday, the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a joint amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to protect the free speech rights of videogame creators and users and asking the justices to uphold a ruling throwing out unconstitutional restrictions on violent videogames. At issue is a California law that bans the sale or rental of "violent" videogames to anyone under the age of 18, among other regulations. While the law was passed in 2005, it has never taken effect, as courts have repeatedly ruled it unconstitutional. California appealed its loss at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. The case is Schwarzenegger vs. EMA.

This case has profound ramifications for the future of not just videogames, but all media, and the Internet as well. Although we've had 15 years of fairly solid Supreme Court case law on new media issues, a loss in the Schwarzenegger case could reverse that tide. In the amicus brief, we explain how the current videogame content rating system empowers parents to make their own decisions without unconstitutionally restricting this new and evolving form of free speech. Our brief is focused on three major arguments:

  1. Parental Control Tools, Household Media Control Methods, Self-Regulation and Enforcement of Existing Laws Constitute Less Restrictive Means of Limiting Access to Objectionable Content than Government Regulation of Constitutionally Protected Speech

  2. Videogame Content is Constitutionally Protected Speech Deserving Strict Scrutiny

  3. The State Has Not Established a Compelling Government Interest in Restricting the Sale of Videogames to Minors

The filing can be found online here and it is embedded down below. As always, the Media Coalition has done an outstanding job summarizing the case and listing all the major briefs filed with the Court in this matter, so check out their Schwarzenegger v. EMA page for everything you need to know about this case. GamePolitics.com also offers excellent ongoing coverage of the case.

In particular, check out briefs by:

EFF - PFF Supreme Court Amicus Brief in SCHWARZENEGGER v EMA Video Game Case

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:44 PM | Free Speech , Video Games & Virtual Worlds

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The movie rating system has been in effect for YEARS. A minor doesn't have the right to enter into a contract without the approval of their guardian. Video Games are no different. If the parent buys their minor child a Mature rated videogame that is their business. Some children are more mature than others. We need that safegaurd in place to protect video game manufactures from liability. It seems like sound policy to have a rating system, and to have mandatory V-chips on televisions. Parental Controls put the parent in control instead of the government telling me (a grown Adult) you can't have this game. A minor cannot purchase tobacco or alcohol. We check ID's for that. We do at the box office. What is wrong with having this standard applied to videogames? I don't see nothing wrong with it.

Posted by: Will at October 15, 2010 9:18 PM

I believe this is for the protection of children. Manufacturer's will now thing to create so much better, and friendly video games. And this is a big help for the parents too.

Posted by: shane at October 24, 2010 4:25 AM

Great Article, thanks.

Posted by: Abbasi at November 19, 2010 4:18 AM

Thank you for working to protect free speech rights and the right to freedom of expression, fundamental freedoms people have died to defend, that some would like to take away these rights.

Posted by: Best Make Money Online at December 28, 2010 8:21 PM

I agree with the post made by 'Will' above. Censorship and protection of young people has been around for many years and has always been the subject of heated debate, as personal opinion and moral standards vary so much by individual.

I think that the argument should start from a point of protecting our young people reasonably well from extreme video etc. until they are emotionally mature enough to deal with it as fantasy not fact. There is no perfect system for this, but we shouldn't let the publishers influence this argument heavily as they are principally in this to make money and lots of it.

Posted by: Ian Anthony at January 6, 2011 9:34 AM

Amazing how the state of California used money collected from taxes to pay state employees to use their work time to try to outlaw what they decided are overly violent video games.

And how many better uses of that time and money could be made.

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