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Court to decide if Calif. can regulate video games

April 26, 2010 6:58:59 PM PDT
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a California law designed to keep violent video games away from children violates their constitutional rights. The law never went into effect, and now both sides hope the court will side with them.

The legal question before the U.S. Supreme Court is a tough one -- are the free speech rights of children more important than helping parents keep violent video games away from them?

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who is also a child psychologist, is excited the justices could reinstate the law he championed.

"With the ultra violent video game law, we say, 'Kids, these are harmful to you and we have a state interest in protecting you," Yee said. "These games really teach our children how to kill, maim and hurt individuals."

The 2005 California law prohibiting the sale or rental of such games to minors never took effect because the industry immediately challenged its constitutionality.

After winning two rounds in the lower courts, the Entertainment Software Association is confident the high court will side with them too.

"It should be treated just like movies, music, books and other forms of media, that there's a First Amendment constitutional protection to the great games that are made by our industry," spokesperson Michael Gallagher said.

The gaming industry already labels the covers, from E-Everyone to M-Mature Audiences.

Still, parents ABC7 spoke with liked the ban because it means their kids will have to ask them to buy it.

"The parents should be responsible for what their kids have, especially when it's violent or anything other than PG-13," Savannah Sewell said.

But the Supreme Court lately has favored free speech, which does not bode well for supporters of the video game ban.

Just last week, the justices struck down a federal law banning videos showing animal cruelty.

"We do have a court that seems inclined to interpret the First Amendment to protect free speech rights," University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law professor Leslie Gielow Jacobs said. "All the courts that have considered it have said that video games are speech."


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