Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case on Violent Video Games

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The Supreme Court said on April 26 that it will hear a challenge to a California state law prohibiting the rental or sale of graphically violent video games to minors.

The 2005 law prohibits the sale of violent games to minors as an extension of long-standing statutes prohibiting the sale of obscene material to children. Under the video game law, retailers who do so can be fined up to $1,000 per violation.

But a federal judge in California has blocked the law from taking effect since its enactment, according to the Sacramento Bee, saying that while studies have shown that violent youths have played violent video games, there is no proof supporting the claim that violent games make children violent.

According to the Bee, at least nine other states have passed similar laws, but they have all been struck down in court.

The California law’s author, state Sen. Leland Yee, said he was “pleased” with the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case.

“The Supreme Court has never heard a case dealing with violent video games,” Yee told the Bee, so “states are now certain to receive direction on how to proceed with this issue.”

The video-game industry released a rebuttal, urging the high court to let the decision of the lower court’s judge stand.

“In over fifty years of obscenity jurisprudence, this court has never applied the obscenity doctrine outside the context of sexual speech,” lawyers for video game producers wrote in a court brief. “What the state proposes in this case would affect a sea of change in the permissible regulation of all media—including books, movies, and television programs—that contain content and are accessible to minors.”

The video game industry said California and other states that have passed similar laws are attempting to wrongly expand a standard that has effectively worked to protect children from obscenity and sexual material.

“Sex, unlike violence, is a subject uniquely considered to be outside children’s purview,” the group also included in its brief. “Violence, on the other hand, is a regular part of a children’s literature and stories…as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales” is aware.