A 2006 Minnesota law sought to fine kids - not retailers - $25 for attempting to purchase a game for which the ESRB rating deemed them too young. The law was promptly overturned by U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum, who, in a novel judicial move,
tried out several violent games on his law clerk’s Xbox.
Following Judge Rosenbaum’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional, Minnesota opted to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit. That case was argued before the Court in February of last year. Now, as reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the 8th Circuit has
upheld Judge Rosenbaum’s finding that the Minnesota law is unconstitutional.
From the newspaper report:
While the judges upheld Rosenbaum’s ruling that violent games are entitled to First Amendment protections, they did so reluctantly.
[Judge] Wollman wrote that whatever our intuitive (dare we say commonsense) feelings regarding the effect that extreme violence portrayed in the above-described video games may well have upon the psychological well-being of minors, precedent
requires incontrovertible proof of a causal relationship between exposure to the games and some psychological harm.
The state failed to meet that burden, Wollman wrote… Indeed, a good deal of the Bible portrays scenes of violence, and one would be hard-pressed to hold up as a proper role model the regicidal Macbeth, Wollman wrote.
The Massachusetts legislature will hold a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bill 1423, a video game measure introduced last year but not acted upon.
In its current form the bill closely resembles the Jack Thompson-authored Louisiana video game law, which was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge in 2006. Indeed, Thompson was involved in drafting the original version of the
Although Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has been an advocate of HB1423, the main legislative sponsor is Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry.
HB1423 is a “games-as-porn” bill which would seek to restrict minors from buying violent video games under the same 'harm' rationale used to block them from buying sexually explicit materials.
Update: Game for an Appeal
17th April 2008
The state of Minnesota has filed an appeal of a recent 8th Circuit Court decision which invalidated its 2006 “fine the buyer” video game law.
Perhaps more than any previous case, the unusual Minnesota law, which would fine underage buyers of violent games $25, has a chance to beat the video game industry’s legal challenges.
Update: Sent into Study
10th May 2008
The Massachusetts measure has been “sent into study,” which essentially means it is on life support. From the Business Journal story:
Menino’s proposal, which would make it illegal for minors to buy video games with graphic content, was sent into study in March — a big win for the state’s burgeoning video game industry…
But the mayor, seeing a link between violent content and violent behavior, still is in favor of the proposal, and plans to continue to push for it on a grass-roots level, said Larry Mayes, chief of human services for the city of Boston. To get this
through, we’re really going to have to do a statewide push. We want to go to the communities, particularly to the parents and sit with them and show them the material.
Last Month, British Parliamentarian and frequent video game industry critic Keith Vaz sparked a bit of controversy by claiming that interactive rape is depicted in video games.
A top aide to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino apparently offered similar commentary at yesterday’s hearing by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary concerning HB1423, a proposal designed to restrict the sale of violent video games
Larry Mayes, Menino’s director of Health and Human Services, urged lawmakers to view for themselves some “Mature”-rated games, many of which award players points for shooting people, raping women or setting people on fire. Mayes pointed to several
researchers who have found a correlation between such games and aggression: I’m sure you will conclude Mayor Menino is in fact right to do all he can to protect children, even if it means pushing back on a multi-billion-dollar industry.”
Game Politics said: As we asked Keith Vaz when he made similar remarks, can Larry Mayes name even a single game which features rape as a playable option?
Last Month, British Parliamentarian and frequent video game industry critic Keith Vaz sparked a bit of controversy by claiming that interactive rape is depicted in video games.
A top aide to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino apparently offered similar commentary at a hearing at the Massachusetts Legislature.
A University of Calgary professor now cites the 1982 game release Custer’s Revenge in a piece about current video game violence issues for the Calgary Herald.
Author Tom Keenan touches on U.S. Defense Department recruiting game, America’s Army . Keenan wrote: You won’t see strippers suddenly appear [in America’s Army ], or be encouraged to rape a virtual character, as happens in the hideous
Custer’s Revenge game…
But Game Politics point out: Playing Custer’s Revenge? Who can even find Custer’s Revenge , much less play it? The game was released 26 years ago by a publisher that no longer exists for an Atari 2600 console that you might be able to locate on
Ebay if you searched diligently.
New York Governor, David Paterson, has signed video game legislation passed by the Senate and Assembly into law.
The Video Game Bill establishes an advisory council to conduct a study on the connection between interactive media and real-life violence in minors exposed to such media.
This bill will also require new video game consoles to have parental lockout features by 2010, and mandate that games sold at retail disclose the ratings obtained from the gaming industry's voluntary rating system.
Will there be a court challenge? Game Politics put this question to the trade association ESA, who said that they are reviewing their options. For a variety of reasons, the main one being that the bill has no real teeth, it's entirely possible
that the industry will just live with it.
Senator Roger Wicker has introduced a bill in the United States Senate which would:
prohibit the distribution or sale of video games that do not have age-based content rating labels
prohibit the sale or rental of video games with adult content ratings to minors...
The full text of the bill, S.3315 is not yet available on the Senate's legislative website. Thus far the bill has no co-sponsers. The measure has been referred to the Senate's Committe on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
GamePolitics has received unconfirmed word that Wicker's bill is the Senate version of the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act introduced in the House by Reps. Jim Matheson and Lee Terry earlier this year.
A California federal appeals court has ruled that a state law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to children is a
violation of the right to free speech.
The law was first penned by Democrat senator Leland Yee and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. But shortly thereafter, it was soon blocked by a federal judge, and it never took affect.
It sought to prohibit the sale or rental of video games depicting serious injury to humans in a manner especially heinous, cruel or depraved.
Any game judged patently offensive to children based on the prevailing standards in the community sold in California would require a 2- by 2-inch solid white '18' displayed on the front of the case. Store owners caught selling violent games
to underage tykes would face a fine up to $1,000.
The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco today upheld the lower court's decision declaring the ban unconstitutional.
In a 3-0 ruling, Judge Consuelo Callahan said California could only justify the ban if the state could not only prove violent video games caused actual psychological harm, but that the best way to prevent it was through criminalization. The court also
shot down the act's labeling provision because it doesn't require the disclosure of purely factual information but compels carrying the legislature's controversial opinion.
A fair few US states have tried to laws to prohibit computer games sellers from retailing Mature rated games to under 17 year olds. Such
laws have been found to be unconstitutional.
But Utah have come up with a new angle. They are targeting shops that advertise themselves as family friendly etc. (And American stores do like to emphasise this). If the shops then go on to sell Mature games to youngsters then law HB353 enables parents
to sue such shops for false advertising of their family friendly credentials.
Following a lively debate, the Utah State Senate have now passed HB 353 by an overwhelming 25-4 margin.
Utah Governor, Jon Huntsman, has vetoed HB 353, the video game/movie bill passed overwhelmingly by the Utah House and Senate.
Saintless has Gov. Huntsman's explanation of his veto:
After careful consideration and study, I have decided to veto HB 353...
While protecting children from inappropriate materials is a laudable goal, the language of this bill is so broad that it likely will be struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause and/or the First Amendment.
The industries most affected by this new requirement indicated that rather than risk being held liable under this bill, they would likely choose to no longer issue age appropriate labels on goods and services.
Therefore, the unintended consequence of the bill would be that parents and children would have no labels to guide them in determining the age appropriateness of the goods or service, thereby increasing children's potential exposure to something they or
their parents would have otherwise determined was inappropriate under the voluntary labeling system now being recognized and embraced by a significant majority of vendors.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown has announced that the state will appeal the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding an injunction allowing violent video games to be sold to minors to the US Supreme Court.
The California Civil Code Sec. 1746.1(a) prohibits anyone from selling or renting a violent video game" – that is, a "game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an
image of a human being – to a minor, under penalty of a $1,000 fine for each such sale or rental.
This unconstitutionally vague piece of legalese was the brainchild of San Francisco State Sen. Leland Yee, but practically from the moment it was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Oct. 7, 2005, the ban was challenged by the Video Software
Dealers Association (VSDA), which has since become the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA).
On Aug. 6, 2007, U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte issued a permanent injunction against the application of the law; an injunction that was upheld in February of this year by the Ninth Circuit.
EMA Vice-President of Public Affairs Sean Bersell noted that within the past ten years, eight similar laws have been enacted in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and the cities of St. Louis and Indianapolis, all of which have been
ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.
The taxpayers of California should demand that their elected officials stop wasting precious tax dollars on this quixotic quest, Bersell declared.
By a 35-0 vote, the Louisiana Senate passed SB 152, a bill which would make a pattern of distributing sexually explicit
material to children a deceptive trade practice under state law.
SB 152 was drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson as a back-door means of enforcing ESRB content ratings. The original SB 152 mirrored Thompson's Utah bill, which was vetoed by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in March. However, bill
sponsor Senator A.G. Crowe subsequently gutted Thompson's focus on age ratings from the bill, amending it instead to its new focus on the distribution of sexually explicit material to minors.
Unlike the Utah bill, SB 152 doesn't make reference to video games, advertising, age ratings or any specific product, for that matter.
The basic idea is that any retailer that sell prohibited material to minors aren't allowed to describe themselves as family friendly or similar.
Now that it has been passed by the Senate, the next stop for SB 152 is the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Louisiana Senate Bill 152 began life as a clone of Jack Thompson's failed Utah legislation and died quietly this week in the Commerce Committee of the Louisiana House, according to The Old River Road, a blog which tracks Louisiana politics.
Although Crowe's Senate colleagues passed the bill overwhelmingly, House members seemed less impressed. At a hearing earlier this week the bill was diverted to the Commerce Committee.
A free speech dispute over a California law banning sale of violent video games to children will go to the Supreme Court
The justices accepted the state's appeal and will decide whether the law is too restrictive in denying access by minors to often-graphic material. Video-game makers say the ban goes too far. They say the existing nationwide, industry-imposed,
voluntary ratings system is an adequate screen for parents to judge the appropriateness of computer games.
The state says it has a legal obligation to protect children when the industry has failed to do so.
At issue is how far constitutional protections of free speech and expression, as well as due process, can be applied to youngsters. Critics of the law say the government would in effect be engaged in the censorship business, using community
standards to evaluate artistic and commercial content.
Oral arguments will be held in the fall.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco, California, tossed out the law before it took effect, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it in 2005. He applauded the high court's decision to intervene. We have a responsibility to our kids and
our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultraviolent actions, just as we already do with movies, the governor said.
The legislation would have placed an outright ban on the sale or rental to those under 18 of games deemed excessively violent. As defined by California, such interactive games are those in which the player is given the choice of killing,
maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being in offensive ways. Retailers could be fined up to $1,000 for any violation.
The gaming industry sued in federal court and won an injunction halting enforcement of the law until the courts sort out the constitutional questions.
A law that threatens to classify adult video games as X-rated entertainment in the US has been slammed
by bosses of major games publishers.
The US Supreme Court agreed in April to review a motion prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.
The law would allow individual states to impose sales restrictions on violent games - effectively putting them into the same category as pornography, and restricting their sale to adult citizens.
The Supreme Court is reviewing a federal court's decision to throw out California's ban - which was originally signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It's very, very surprising that the Supreme Court is hearing the case, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Rockstar parent Take Two told CNBC: I'm worried about it, and I think everybody in our business should be really worried about it.
Graham Hopper, EVP and general manager of Disney Interactive added: It's not about having a dramatic impact on our bottom line. It's going to make our retailing abilities a nightmare.
Other games industry figures spoke of their fear that other states would push through their own version of the bill - meaning developers would have to create multiple version of games to suit each territory's individual criteria: One of
America's great exports is entertainment, commented John Riccitiello, CEO of EA. The implication of Schwarzenegger v. ESA (the case before the Court) is we could end up with state level bureaucracies that define what's marketable in 50
different jurisdictions across the U.S.
Sony's Jack Tretton was more positive about the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case. We believe as an industry that the primary reason the Supreme Court is hearing it is despite the fact that this law has been struck down, [the issue] has
come up 12 times [previously] . I think the Supreme Court is looking at it to potentially see if there's something to it or to put an end to it once and for all.
The court will hear arguments in this case in the autumn.
Retailers who sell the latest Halo or Call of Duty video games to children would face big fines under
a law being reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Despite receiving sympathy from some justices, the California law that aims to keep kids from buying ultraviolent video games faces a steep constitutional hurdle.
The high court has been reluctant to carve out exceptions to the First Amendment, striking down a ban earlier this year on so-called crush videos that showed actual deaths of animals.
California officials argue they should be allowed to limit minors' ability to buy violent video games because of the potential damage. The games are especially harmful to minors, said Zackery Morazzini, a California deputy attorney
The law would bar anyone under 18 from buying or renting games that give players the option of killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.
Parents would be able to buy the games for their children, but retailers who sell directly to minors would face fines of up to $1,000 for each game sold.
Some justices wondered where the regulation would stop. What about films? asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What about comic books? added Justice Antonin Scalia, wondering if movies showing drinking and smoking might be next.
Lower courts have said the law violates minors' constitutional rights, and courts in six other states struck down similar bans.
The Supreme Court's decision is expected next year.
In November, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Schwarzenegger vs. Entertainment
Merchants Association. Seven months later, the Justices have yet to decide whether or not California can regulate the sale of violent video games, but with the court now in the last two weeks of its term, a ruling is imminent. The case is now
known as Brown vs. EMA.
In 2005, the California legislature passed AB 1179, a law that would punish retailers who sold or rented violent, mature-rated videogames to anyone under 18 years old. The lower court quickly struck down the law on free-speech grounds, as did
lower courts in a dozen other states over the years that attempted to enact similar pieces of legislation.
The Supreme Court agreed to consider California's case in April 2010. During the hearing, California attorney Zackery Morazzini argued that states should be able to ban the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18 just as they can restrict
the sale of pornography.
Due to the end of court session, the judgement is due in the next week. The court could also extend the current session into July if it is unable to make a decision on the matter, though such extensions are rare.
The US Supreme Court has struck down a Californian law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to those
aged under 18.
The court voted 7-2 to uphold an appeals court ruling that declared the law contrary to free speech rights enshrined in the US Constitution.
Speaking at the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia said: Our cases hold that minors are entitled to a significant degree of First Amendment protection. Government has no free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which they may be exposed.
The 2005 California law prohibited the sale of violent video games to children where a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors, is patently offensive to prevailing community
standards as to what is suitable for minors, and causes the game as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors . Under the law retailers caught selling the titles to minors could face a fine of up to
$1,000 for each game.
US lawmakers have proposed a bill that would label most video games with the warning:
Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.
Joe Baca and Frank Wolf have introduced the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act citing the supposed negative effects that video games have on people's health, despite increased findings that suggests otherwise.
The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers, to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products, They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility.
If the bill passes, the only games that would be exempt would be those with an ESRB rating of Early Childhood (EC). All others would require the warning on the game box, regardless of whether the game actually featured violent content.
Previous attempts to pass the bill occurred in 2009 and 2011. The Entertainment Software Association, which represents video game publishers in the US, called the bill unconstitutional. In a statement made to Game Informer, the trade group said:
We would commend Representatives Baca and Wolf to the reams of bourgeoning academic research demonstrating that video games can be innovative learning and assessment tools in engaging and educating America's youth, especially in core subjects such as
science, technology, engineering and math.
Senator Jay Rockefeller has introduced one of Congress' first pieces of legislation related to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut: a bill to study the
impact of violent video games on children. He said:
This week, we are all focused on protecting our children. At times like this, we need to take a comprehensive look at all the ways we can keep our kids safe. I have long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content our kids see and interact
with every day.
Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it. They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know
better. These court decisions show we need to do more and explore ways Congress can lay additional groundwork on this issue. This report will be a critical resource in this process.
Rockefeller's bill would direct the National Academy of Sciences to lead the investigation on video games' impact and submit a report on its findings within 18 months.
The legislation comes after reports suggested that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza may have played video games like Call of Duty and Starcraft .
Connecticut State Senator Toni Nathaniel Harp has introduced a bill, SB No. 328, An Act Concerning Minors and Violent Point-and-shoot video Games .
The proposed bill aims to prevent minors (under 18s) from using violent point-and-shoot video games in public arcades. The bill does not address what ratings these games might have (would it prohibit the use of games by minor even if they are
rated Teen by the ESRB) or what the penalty for operators or businesses that violate the statue.